Wayne Chism had 17 points and 10 rebounds and Tennessee (No. 13 ESPN/USA Today, No. 15 AP) overcame its worst first half of the season to beat LSU 59-49 in the first round of the Southeastern Conference tournament on Thursday.
With the teams tied at 30, Cameron Tatum stretched across the lane to hit a layup with 14:28 left and launch a 16-4 run for Tennessee (24-7). J.P. Prince dunked off an alley-oop pass from Brian Williams to extend the Vols' lead to 46-34, their largest margin of the game.
LSU held Tennessee to 25.9 percent from the floor in the first half, the Vols worst shooting performance of any half this season. Tennessee also committed 17 turnovers.
Still, the Tigers couldn't take advantage of the Vols' struggles after scoring 11 off the giveaways and finishing with 36.4 percent shooting.
Tasmin Mitchell hit consecutive 3’s to cut Tennessee's margin to 54-49 with 1:02 left in the game, but Aaron Dotson missed a layup and a foul on Storm Warren sent Bobby Maze to the free-throw line. Maze sank both of his shots to help Tennessee preserve the lead.
“I thought for the most part we were in a position where we could have come out with a win,” said LSU head coach Trent Johnson. “We had some shots for us that didn't go down. There were a couple of key possessions where they hurt us on the glass, but I can't fault our effort. I can't fault our execution.”
Mitchell entered the game needing 21 points to reach 2,000 but finished with 10 to end his career with 1,989.
“He's special, okay. He's special,” Johnson said of Mitchell. “His best basketball is ahead of him, and he brings it every day. He's passionate, he's committed, and he's complete. When you look at the full body of work for a four-year period, it's hard to argue the facts, hard to argue the results.”
Tennessee, the only ranked team to play on the first day after finishing third in the East Division, advances to play Mississippi, the West's No. 2 seed.
LSU, meanwhile, will regroup and get ready for the 2010-11 season as the Tigers ended this campaign 11-20. Johnson has several highly touted players coming in with the 2010 class and he’s anxious to get back to work and make LSU a contender for next year.
“Well, the future's bright. It's bright,” Johnson said. “Like I told them, we’ll take two weeks off here. We'll have an awards banquet on March 28th. And March 29th at 6:00 a.m., we'll start working back to get back to the top.
“I'm not one to get caught up in the future because this is the last game for a guy that's a special player. But our future's bright. Make no mistake about it. Everything that happened this year was -- I don't want to say it was expected to the degree it was, but the responsibility sits up here. My history dictates that I'll get it correct. Believe me.”
With the loss, LSU moves to 43-50 all-time in SEC tournament play. The Tigers are now 3-7 vs. Tennessee in SEC tourney play. They are now 2-3 in SEC tourney games played in Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena.
• The two teams last met in the tournament in 2007 -- with LSU also ranked last in the West and Tennessee third in the East in that game -- but the Tigers won 76-67 in overtime.
• LSU’s 49-point total was their second lowest of the season. They scored 38 points in a loss at Alabama on Jan. 27.
• Forward Storm Warren paced the Tiger attack with 18 points, hitting 9-of-13 shots.
• Senior Tasmin Mitchell ends his LSU career just shy of reaching 2,000 points. He scored 10 points, concluding his career with 1,989. Mitchell also topped the Tigers with eight rebounds.
• LSU was hurt by the shooting of leading scorers Mitchell and Bo Spencer. They combined to go 5-of-22 from the field.
• LSU jumped ahead 10-4 with 12:09 left after consecutive baskets by Eddie Ludwig and Warren.
• LSU’s largest lead of seven points (17-10) came on a Ludwig layup with 5:00 left before halftime.
• Tied 30-30 with 15:48 left, the Tigers went scoreless for more than 6:28 of the clock until Warren converted a basket. The Tigers were outscored 8-0 during that span.
• With 4:42 remaining, LSU made its first 3-point attempt. Spencer ended a 0-for-11 streak from beyond the arc.
• LSU closed the margin to five at 54-49 on consecutive 3-pointers by Mitchell but the Vols closed out the game with a 5-0 run.