The run basically did it.
Sure, LSU hit some big buckets late. So did Ole Miss.
But LSU beat Ole Miss Saturday afternoon because of a 24-5 run in the first half to move from trailing 21-11 to leading 35-26.
When it came right down to it, that was your ole ballgame. That, and LSU's ability to answer late.
Something like a 14-5 run is expected in college basketball. A run like 24-5 happens too, but much less often. So looking back, it did the Rebs in, although Ole Miss led in the contest as late as four and a half minutes to go (64-62) on a Brian Smith 3-pointer, and the game was actually tied 71-71 with 2:13 left when Todd Abernethy nailed a trey.
LSU Coach John Brady said it was all about his team going to a zone during that stretch, which bascially went from a dunk by Rebel senior Londrick Nolen at the 10:41 mark of the first half for the 10-point UM lead to a Clarence Sanders jumper at the 3:11 mark that started the Rebels on a 7-2 run to end the half and trail 37-33.
In between those two Rebel baskets, 24 points for visiting LSU, five for homestanding Ole Miss.
"We went zone at that point," Brady said. "We were playing man and couldn't stop them. We got them out of their rhythm and were able to take the lead by halftime."
During that first-half stretch of just under eight minutes, Ole Miss had six of its 16 turnovers in the contest.
"Turnovers were our biggest problem today," said Ole Miss Coach Rod Barnes. "Our guys played with a lot of intensity. We did a good job on the boards. We shot the basketball well for the most part. We just turned it over too much."
Barnes also mentioned that he feels his team presses when it faces a zone.
"Maybe we try too hard to make something happen when people go zone," he said.
But the Rebels didn't go away on this day, although they had their chances. The contest turned out to be a good college basketball game, despite a seemingly inordinate amount of timeouts, both team called and media.
"I really thought we played them even," said Barnes, whose team fell to 13-6 overall and 3-3 in Southeastern Conference play with a Tuesday ESPN2 game in Oxford against Florida at 7 p.m. up next. "I didn't think we were overmatched today. We got better today. Our crowd (announced at 7,805) really helped us."
Brady, whose team remained perfect in SEC play at 6-0 and is now 14-5 overall, said he was pleased to escape Oxford with a win.
"This was a good college basketball game," he said. "Our team answered everything that a team also playing well threw at them. We have the best defensive stats in the league as far as teams shooting against us, and they shoot 53 percent (27-51). We have the best rebounding differential in the league, and they beat us on the boards (32 rebounds for UM to 25 for LSU). If Ole Miss plays like this, there aren't many teams that will beat them here."
As a matter of fact, the Rebels are 10-2 at home this season. Only highly-ranked Memphis has won in Oxford as the visiting team, besides LSU.
Brady had high praise for Barnes as well after this one was done.
"In our league, a lot of coaches do a great job," he said. "This is my ninth year at LSU. I've always thought Rod had his team ready to play. He subbed guys when he had to, and he made us work hard to win this game. They played extremely well, and our guys answered a team that was on top of its game. I don't know if you saw what I saw, but I saw an Ole Miss team that played exceptionally well."
Certainly that was the case early and actually throughout the contest - save the just under eight minute run when the Tigers took control in the first half. Ole Miss jumped out to a 12-4 lead in the first five minutes. The lead was 10 points (21-11) when Nolen made the dunk halfway through the first period - just before "the run."
The Tigers' biggest lead of the game was six points at 58-52 on a Tasmin Mitchell jumper with 9:29 to go. But the Rebels outscored LSU 12-4 over the next five minutes to take that 64-62 lead on Smith's trey.
Down the stretch LSU answered every Ole Miss situation, whether it was a 3-point basket or free throws. Only in the game's final 25 seconds was the outcome no longer in doubt. Darrell Mitchell sank two free throws at that point to give the Tigers their final six-point margin of victory.
"All our guys contributed down the stretch and made free throws," Brady said. "That showed me a lot about our team. We took care of business at the end."
Leading the Tigers, who shot 47 percent as a team (26-55) including 50 percent from 3-point range (7-14), were Darrell Mitchell with 28 points, Tasmin Mitchell with 20, and Glen Davis with 19. The Tigers were 20-23 from the free throw line for 87 percent.
For Ole Miss, four players scored in double figures - Bam Doyne with 20, Sanders with 15, Nolen and Abernethy with 10 each.
The Rebels were 9-21 (43 percent) from 3-point range. From the free throw line, Ole Miss was 10-13 (77 percent).
The Tigers committed only seven turnovers in the game. LSU had 24 points off turnovers to five for the Rebels. The Rebel bench contributed 23 of UM's 73 points. LSU's bench only two of its 79 points. The Tigers played three starters 40, 38, and 37 minutes in the 40-minute affair.
"We got better today," said a focused, serious, and business-like Barnes after the contest. "But we've got to bounce back. We've got a tough Florida team coming in here Tuesday night. We played well today, but we can't take steps backwards. This game will make us better."
Doyne, who was 6-7 from the floor including 3-3 from 3-point range, said the Rebels will be bounce back against the Gators.
"Our confidence is still there," he said. "We've just got to correct some things and stay focused, which we will do."
LSU beats UM in hard-fought hoops game
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