Against a Nicholls State side that offered a small lineup and an unimpressive record of 3-8, head coach Trent Johnson’s side struggled mightily.
Despite shooting 50-percent (11-of-22) from the field in the first half, LSU turned the ball over 11 times, and only one Tiger – Tasmin Mitchell – was into double-digit scoring.
By game’s end, the turnover number had risen to 17.
“This is a game we were very lucky to win,” Johnson said. “We didn’t play well.”
Once more, it was the start-to-finish performance of Mitchell - who has scored over 24 points in four straight games - which the Tigers relied upon when the team hit a rut.
And once more, Mitchell put the team on his back and carried them to victory.
“He’s our best player,” Johnson said. “On any regular call he has the green light to break away. Tonight he was in rhythm.”
For the second outing in a row, Mitchell spent a good amount of the game at power forward instead of small forward, the position he returned for his senior season to grow at.
“He was going in and out,” Johnson said. “He was at the four, then we pushed him back to the three. He put us on his back and made every crucial play throughout the game.”
The fact of the matter, no play was bigger than Mitchell’s final shot of the night.
After an Anatoly Bose two-point jumper put the Colonels ahead 60-59 with 48 seconds left to play, the senior came out of the timeout and knocked down one of the biggest shots in his time with the Tigers, a three-point bucket that gave LSU a 62-60 lead with 36 seconds to go.
“It was designed for me or Bo [Spencer] to get the shot,” Mitchell said. “They doubled [Spencer], so Zach [Kinsley] dished it back to me, and I had to let it go.”
Down two points, Nicholls guard Chris Iles missed a 3-pointer with 13 seconds left.
Storm Warren, who recorded his seventh double-double of the season with 13 points and 11 rebounds, grabbed the miss before being fouled.
Warren hit one of two free throws, putting LSU out front 63-60.
“Those were bigger than my three,” Mitchell said. “It clinched it.”
The Colonels had a chance to tie, but a stingy Tiger defense forced Nicholls to settle for a long-distance three-point shot that didn’t even draw iron.
Just like that, in a game that saw nine lead changes and the game tied up on 10 occasions, LSU moved to 7-2.
Bose, who scored 12 points and recorded four steals in helping lead the Colonels to the locker room with a 31-27 halftime lead, finished 9-of-18 from the field for 24 points, a team-high.
For LSU, it was all Mitchell.
The senior forward shot 11-of-14 from the field, 3-of-3 from three point range and 2-of-3 from the charity stripe, finishing the night with a season-high 27 points and six rebounds, all defensive.
“I think it is the most complete game he has played since he’s been here,” Johnson said.
LSU worked without injured forward Dennis Harris, who managed only five minutes before finding himself back on the bench, for the third game in a row.
While guard Bo Spencer’s 12 points were much needed, his eight turnovers highlighted a looming problem for the 2009 Tiger team.
“Our inability to pass and catch is glaring,” Johnson said. “You are playing with fire.”