Tigers squeeze past South Carolina 61-52

While the Lady Tigers were pulling off a win against Tennessee in the Southeastern Conference Tournament in Duluth, Georgia, the men's basketball team was hoping for a win itself for many reasons.

For one, the Tigers needed to end their season and their SEC schedule on a positive note considering they are last in the West with a 4-11 record.


After upsetting Florida the Saturday before, LSU is still riding its hopes high of dominating in the SEC tournament to possibly silence the naysayers and get to the NCAA Tournament. At worst, there is still chance of a high seed in the NIT tournament later this month.


On a more personal level, a Tiger win would send lone senior Darnell Lazare off with a win on his last performance in front of the home crowd.


And then there is the simple thrill of victory and when the game opened the Tigers seemed to be looking for that thrill among the other reasons with a full force of momentum that helped them squeeze past South Carolina 61-52.


After a quick recognition of Lazare at half court the sentiment side of the event to a back seat to the competition. Lazare came out separately from his teammates to present his mother with a bouquet of long stemmed flowers following an embrace from each of his family members along with coach John Brady.


Brady presented Lazare with a framed picture of Lazare's playing days at LSU along with a basketball signed by the staff and players.


"[We just said] how I appreciate him and everything he's done for me and he appreciates the way I carried myself over the past four years," Lazare said. "There was just a lot of love and respect on the court."


Tip off was equally matched by height but sophomore forward Magnum Rolle got the tip but sent it into the arms of South Carolina who took it to the hoop with a jumper by freshman guard Brandis Raley-Ross to put the Gamecocks ahead 2-0.


From there, LSU scored the next seven points led by Lazare who scored the first basket for the Tigers with a jumper. The foul called on senior forward Brandon Wallace sent Lazare to the line where he sank his one free throw to put the Tigers up 3-2.


"We turned to him the first play of the game," said coach John Brady. "We called his number the first play of the game and went to him and he scored a basket for us to start out. I have a lot of respect for Darnell and how he's been brought up and how he's been raised."


The Tigers spent the rest of the first half never looking back going into the locker room 33-27.


Lazare accounted for eight of those points just below sophomore forward Tasmin Mitchell who led the first half in scoring with 11 points.


 "I wasn't worried about coming out with a bang," Mitchell said. "I was worried about our team coming out with a victory and for Darnell Lazare. It's good that I came out and performed like I did but it's great we won the game and gave Darnell Lazare a win to end the season."


The Tiger defense had a huge part in the lead with the highlight of the first half coming from Rolle who denied the Gamecocks a basket with a block heard around the arena followed by a roar from the crowd.


"We did a nice job on all of their players defensively especially [senior guard] Tre Kelly," Brady said.  "They scored 90 points in their last game against Vanderbilt and we were able to hold to a low point score and rebound the ball."


Glen Davis made a reemergence to the home crowd after a quadriceps injury kept him off the court. Brady put Davis in with 13:43 left in the half.


In the 12 minutes he was on the court in the first half, Davis accumulated two points along with two rebounds.


 The second half proved to be more of a challenge for the Tigers after they lost the lead to South Carolina 41- 42 with a little over 10 minutes to go.


Junior guard Dameon Mason did not let the Gamecocks enjoy the lead for long. On LSU's next position with an assist from Mitchell, Mason scored two on a lay up to put the Tigers up for good 43-42.


Davis also came out more composed in the second half with a better performance than the two points he mustered up in the first.


Mitchell still led in points in the second half adding 10 more to end his night at 21. Davis, however, added 9 to his totals in the second half to give the Tigers a larger margin on the scoreboard and ending Davis' night with 11 total points.


"I was just getting out there and trying to adjust to what [coach] wanted me to do," Davis said. "A friend of mine told me yesterday that sometimes I didn't come through in the clutch and I just thought about that and I was just trying to come through for my team."


Lazare came out of the game with a couple of minutes left to play which gave the crowd just enough time for a standing ovation followed by an embrace from each of his teammates and coaches.


"There are so many things I am going to miss," Lazare said. "The fans are great. They showed me so much support tonight. There are so many memories."


While the team was focusing on ending the regular season with a win for the team and for Lazare, Brady also hopes the win will help his team gain momentum going into the SEC tournament which begins Thursday, March 8.


"It was great to win that game," Brady said. "It was great for our team to be able to do that. To win this game was a good thing for our team to do at least from a conference standpoint. I'm not going to give a rah rah talk [about the tournament]. I'm not going to sit up here. I believe myself if we play together and we play as a team and we execute just a little bit better."


"If we play well together as a team we can win the tournament. The only thing that concerns me is four consecutive games in three and a half games and we're playing two late games. That would be a concern. I think our team is good enough to beat anyone in the league."

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