What a night

Wednesday night's game against Mississippi State will not soon be forgotten by the LSU Tiger basketball faithful. On a night when everything seemed stacked against them, the Cardiac Cats were able to put the pieces together to get the 97-94 double overtime win in Starkville.


In just short of 50 minutes of action, junior forward Tasmin Mitchell ran off a career high scoring night, recording 41 points and 11 rebounds on 12-of-15 shooting.


The Denham Springs-native, who is just two weeks removed from earning Southeastern Conference Player of the Week honors, was the first Tiger to go for over 40 points since Ronnie Henderson did it in 1995.


"Tasmin, my goodness, he was just unbelievable down the stretch," LSU head coach Trent Johnson said. "He was his typical workhorse self. What I really liked, though, was that other guys like Marcus [Thornton] knew how to get him the ball in space."


LSU (20-4, 8-1 SEC) extended their lead over the rest of the SEC with the win, now holding a two game lead over the Bulldogs as well as the subsequent tiebreaker, which the Tigers own after sweeping Mississippi State on the year.


LSU shot 44.3 percent (30-of-68) while holding the Bulldogs, one of the conference's most efficient three-point shooting teams, to only 20.8 percent from behind the arc (5 of 24) and 31.5 percent from the field (24 of 77). Despite a big game for State in the paint by Jarvis Varnado, who finished with 31 points, five rebounds and six blocks before fouling out in the first overtime, the Tigers out-rebounded the Bulldogs 46-43.


"I want to give LSU and Trent Johnson a lot of credit because they showed why they were the best team in the league and that is what they are," MSU head coach Rick Stansbury said. "He has done a great job with that team this year. I told our guys to make sure we walked off the floor with our heads hanging high, knowing we gave everything we had."


Johnson echoed the Bulldog's head man's sentiments.


"You hate to have to see either of these teams lose tonight, but I couldn't be more proud of the LSU Tigers from the standpoint of so many downfalls and still coming back to get the win," he said. "We really showed our mental toughness. I told the guys that they had built it all up for something like this, and it was nice to see it play out.


"Obviously the guys didn't want to lose. We had opportunities at crucial times. With 21 turnovers and still beating them speaks volumes."


LSU scored the game's first five points, but State took the lead back at the 15:09 mark on a three from Dee Bost. State immediately fell behind once more after the bucket, entering the break down 26-31.


The Tigers let the Bulldogs back into the mix at the 11:30 mark of the second half, seeing the teams tied at 48-apiece on two made free throws from Phil Turner. The game remained tight throughout; as Mississippi State forced the first extra period by making 3-of-4 free throws in the final 24 seconds of regulation to erase a 73-70 LSU lead.


The Bulldogs squandered a final attempt at the win after Turner grabbed a rebound from a missed Garrett Temple layup, giving it up to Varnado who missed the final three as time expired.


The Tigers never let the Bulldogs take the lead in the first overtime, yet were never able to pull away in front of a hostile Starkville crowd.


With the game forcing each coach deep into his lineup, freshman Storm Warren became a fixture in the Tiger rotation for much of the back end of the contest.


It was an up and down affair for the Monroe-native, who came up with a pair of big overtime blocks as well as a string of fouls that kept the Bulldogs in the game from the charity stripe.


Terry Martin was sent to the line with 1:04 remaining and gave LSU the advantage at 81-80 with the opportunity to extend the game to three points.


After making the first, a lane violation was called against Warren, and Barry Stewart then drove to the basket for a layup to tie the game at 82. Warren was called for traveling on the final Tiger possession, seeing the Bulldogs miss their buzzer beating attempt.


Entering the second overtime period, both Chris Johnson and Quinton Thornton had fouled out for the Bayou Bengals, and sophomore Bo Spencer was sidelined with an ankle sprain.


Yet, once more, the Tigers were able to step up to the plate when their backs were pushed against the wall.


Behind the play of Mitchell and the rookie Warren, who redeemed his poor performance in the first overtime with a game changing three point play after a bucket and foul, the Tigers grabbed the lead back at 87-85.


Mitchell added a pair of free throws, then grabbing an offensive rebound off a missed free throw which allowed Thornton to increase the lead to 91-85 with 1:43 left.


Yet, Stansbury and his Bulldogs clawed back into the thick of things once more, tying the game at 93.


And, no surprise to those who witnessed the punches traded between the heavyweights all night, it was Mitchell who came with one last effort to push the Tigers to the win, converting a three-point play the old fashioned way to close out his scoring night at 41, a career high.


After the Tigers hit on 1-of-2 free throws from the line, the Bulldogs put up one last effort, missing the attempted three, seeing the Tigers hang on to the 97-94 win.


For the Tigers, Thornton went minute for minute alongside Mitchell en route to a double-double, recording 19 points and 10 rebounds.


Spencer, who went down with an ankle injury after seeing 30 minutes of action on the floor, finished with 15 points and three assists.


Senior Terry Martin had his best game on the season, coming off the bench to record 11 points and five rebounds.


Bost finished with 20 points for the Bulldogs, with Stewart pulling in ten points despite 1-of-13 shooting from the field.


The win marked the third for LSU at Humphrey Coliseum in 10 years, and stands as the eighth-straight SEC victory for the Tigers.


LSU returns to action on Saturday when Ole Miss travels to Baton Rouge for a 7 p.m. tip.

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