Without any postseason plans of their own, the LSU basketball team (10-19, 1-14) has resorted to the role of spoilers.
However, their chance to knock the Rebels out of the tournament picture fell short on Thursday night in Oxford. Behind a 22-point scoring performance from Chris Warren, Ole Miss swept LSU for the first time since 1999.
“As long as there’s games, there’s hope,” said Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy.
Hope, no matter how much LSU head coach Trent Johnson and his players try to deny, has to be running low around the Tiger camp these days. Like many of their conference losses over the past two months, LSU kept close until deep in the second half, when the opponent would then buckle down and push past the undermanned Tigers.
“We’ve been able to get close against a lot of people,” Johnson said. “There’s no secret to it, our record is what it is. All you have to do is refer to your stat sheet from start to finish. There’s a reason we’re last in a little bit of everything.”
Ole Miss opened the first half hot from the field. Warren knocked down five 3-pointers, and the Rebels held a 33-29 advantage at the break. The Tigers managed to keep the Rebels within reach after each big Ole Miss bucket, even managing to hold the home team without a point for a two-minute stretch late in the half. Yet a 7-0 run helped push the lead to 29-21, which gave Kennedy’s team breathing room after sputtering down the stretch.
The second half brought more of the 2-3 zone defense from LSU, a look that slowed the Ole Miss attack – one built on fast play from the guards.
“I bet you in 85 percent of our possessions, they were in zone,” Kennedy said. “From a personnel standpoint, it keeps them in games. It slows it down. We’re a team that shoots the ball 64 or 65 times a game. We only got it up 51, simply because of the pace of the game.”
With the game tied up at 36 early in the second half, Ole Miss used an 11-2 run to move out to a 47-38 lead with 13:57 to play, their biggest advantage of the game.
LSU responded with an 8-0 run that cut the lead to one with 11:22 left. Yet, the scale was soon to tip in favor of the home team for the final time. By the 10-minute mark, the Tigers were seeing their shot at a second conference victory drift away. At the 6:30 mark, the LSU offense breathed its’ final breath. From then on, the Tigers would be outscored 14-4.
“It's hard to guard Chris Warren, Terrico White, [Murphy] Holloway and [DeAundre] Cranston,” Johnson said. “They're going hard. Their perimeter players are probably as good as any in our league, which says a lot, and they're just better than us.”
Warren’s 22 points led four double-digit scorers for the Rebels. Graham scored 16, White added 15 and Holloway had 12.
Bo Spencer’s 20 points led LSU. Tasmin Mitchell, the only other Tiger in double-digits, scored 11 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in 40 minutes of action.
LSU returns to the court on Saturday for their final game of the season, a home contest against Georgia set for a 4 p.m. tip. The afternoon will also hold Senior Night festivities, where Mitchell, a fifth-year Tiger out of Denham Springs, will suit up for the final time.