Second half knockout

For the LSU Tigers, it was just another night at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. That's the impression when one looks at the final score, a 73-66 win over the Ole Miss Rebels.


But that tells so little of a game in which LSU had to rally from an eight-point second half deficit at a time when it looked like no answer was coming.


“We defended and rebounded,” LSU Head Coach Trent Johnson said. “Scoring is never going to be a problem for us, but today was one of the days we took care of the ball. We went in there at halftime and it was 25-23 on the glass. They were getting possession after possession so it was all about defending and rebounding.”


In the end, the Tigers won for the 21st time in 25 games and ran their overall SEC leading record to 9-1. The Tigers lead the Western Division by three full games over Mississippi State as the Bulldogs lost at Auburn to fall to 6-4. Kentucky, Tennessee and South Carolina remain two games behind LSU in the overall race at 7-3 after winning today.


“It shows how far we have come since past years,” said Terry Martin, who started for an injured Bo Spencer. “On this stretch right here, it’s going to be tough every night and every time we play somebody, so we just have to keep showing our maturity and how much we’ve grown from the past years and try to keep this up because it’s going to get tougher and tougher.”


LSU was down five at the half as the Rebels were able to get the lead in the first half on 15 second chance points and LSU’s 5-of-11 first half free throw shooting. In the second half, the problems continued for LSU as Ole Miss traded buckets with the Tigers and would lead 62-54 with 9:13 to play on a Terrance Henry layup.


But the Rebels would score just four points the rest of the way. Marcus Thornton hit a three at the 7:06 mark to make it 62-57 and then a steal by Garrett Temple led to a Thornton bucket that forced Ole Miss’ Andy Kennedy to call timeout.


Both teams missed shots on four combined possessions before Chris Johnson drained a jumper to cut the lead to just 62-61 with 4:52 to play and the crowd was on its feet.


Ole Miss missed again and would come down and foul Tasmin Mitchell who made both free throws to put LSU up for good at 63-62. The Rebels missed a three-pointer and at the other end Thornton hit a layup to make the lead 65-62 and eventually 67-62 with 2:15 to play as LSU scored 13 straight points before Murphy Holloway countered with a score to make it 67-64 with two minutes to play.


Johnson would score to make it 69-64 at the one minute mark and Ole Miss could not make up the difference in the final minute.


“It was gut-check time for us, and we just prospered at the end,” Mitchell said. “The team that wanted it the most in the end got it. We give credit to Ole Miss. They came out and played ball and did what they had to do, but we came out with the victory in the end.”


Thornton led LSU with 22 points, while Mitchell followed up his 41-point night with 20 points and just missed a third straight double-double with nine boards. Chris Johnson had 12 points and six blocks and Martin in his first start of the year had 11 points. Temple’s return to the point guard spot was successful with nine assists.


Ole Miss (13-11, 4-6) was led by David Huertas’ 15 points. Terrico White and Holloway had 13 each and Malcolm White added 10.


“Again, I thought we showed some mental toughness,” said Trent Johnson. “I don’t want to take anything away from Ole Miss, but obviously we weren’t at our best. I thought we were struggling a little bit but when you lose your point guard it takes away your continuity and rhythm. It’s not to say anything about the guys that were out there playing, but you are so used to playing with your set five and I though Garrett did a good job. Terry did a good job offensively too.”


This was the first game this year LSU played without Spencer, who sprained his left ankle in the Mississippi State game Wednesday.


The Tigers travel to Fayetteville, Ark., on Wednesday to take on the Arkansas Razorbacks at 7 p.m. Spencer is still listed as day-to-day.

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