By: Terrill J. Weil
Da Boot Sports
NASHVILLE, TN: The Tigers would take down Ole Miss in Nashville on Friday night, 76-73 to advance to the semifinal round of the SEC tournament to face Arkansas for the third time this season. The Black Bears played very physical all game long controlling the tempo for most of the contest and dominating play on the glass late in the second half, but the Tigers would heat up at the right time to control the final two minutes of the game to pull out the win.
Ole Miss would control the tip, but would turn the ball over quickly to the Tigers, but both teams would miss-fire over the next back to back possessions. It would be the Rebels who would finally put the ball in the hole first as Romello White would make a layup for a 2-0 lead at the 18:28 mark.
Over the next three minutes we would have a pretty even ball game going as Ole Miss would cling to a 8-7 lead with 15:05 to go.
Trailing 11-7, LSU would step up their play on both ends of the court to go on a 9-0 run, taking the lead, 16-11 with 10:55 left on the clock. The run would be highlighted by the play of Trendon Watford and Darius Days in the paint.
The Rebels would end the run as Sammy Hunter would bank in a layup, but LSU would answer quickly on the other end of the court as Eric Gaines would find Josh LeBlanc on a thunderous alley-oop dunk to end a fast break.
After trading baskets, JaVonte Smart would take the ball coast to coast laying it up and in for his first points of the contest. We would go into a media timeout with LSU on top, 22-15 with 7:56 left to go in the first half.
Coming out of the timeout break both teams would go cold, missing several shots on both ends over the next two minutes until Romello White would break the ice with a layup at the 6:06 mark. 22-17 Tigers.
Will Wade would need to call a timeout with 4:12 left, as the Black Bears would cut the LSU lead down to one, 22-21 with a 6-0 run.
The Tigers would come out the timeout with a Watford basket, but the Land Sharks would continue their physical play the rest of the way as we would go to the half with LSU leading 29-27.
Trendon Watford would lead the team at the half with 11 points, while Darius Days would have 10 points at the break. Cam Thomas struggled in the first 20 minutes only scoring 4 points. The Tigers will need to speed the pace of the game up in the second half as the Rebels have done a great job of keeping the first half a half court, slow physical style pace, that works in their favor.
LSU would come out and pick up the pace of the game as expected going on a 9-6 run to extend their lead to 40-33 at the 16:44 mark.
With LSU up 43-36 with 15:19 left, the Tigers would all of a sudden go cold missing easy looks and loose intensity on defense, allowing Ole Miss to go on a 12-3 run to take a 48-46 lead with 12:18 left in the game.
The Tigers had now found themselves in a tight ball game against a desperate team fighting for their NCAA tournament life. Neither team could find a way to pull away as over the next five minutes LSU would outscore the Black Bears 12-10 evening the score up at 58-58 with 7:14 left in the game.
LSU would begin to wake up and step up their play going on a 7-0 run to hold a 65-58 lead at the official timeout break with 3:59 left in the contest.
The Land Sharks from Oxford would refuse to quit, as they would keep coming at the Tigers, keeping the game close with domination on the boards giving themselves second and third chance points.
Eric Gaines would hit two free throws with 1:33 to go to give LSU a four point lead, 69-65, but Ole Miss would answer with a Devontae Shuler three pointer cutting the lead to 69-68.
Darius Days would do his best to help take the momentum back from the Rebels answering with a three pointer of his own with :58 seconds extending LSU's lead to 72-68.
Eric Gaines would come up with a huge steal taking the ball to the basket, missing a layup, but Watford would rebound and put it back in to go up 74-68 with :23 seconds left.
Ole Miss would race the ball down the floor and Jarkel Joiner would hit from behind the arc to cut it a three point game.
Cam Thomas would hit two free throws with :12 seconds left to capture a 76-73 victory over a tough Ole Miss team.
Trendon Watford would lead LSU with 24 points on the night. Darius Days was solid as he would
finish with a double-double with 20 points with 12 rebounds. Thomas had an off night finishing with 18, while Javonte Smart would score 10 points.
This is the first time LSU has won a game in the SEC tournament since the end of the 2015-16 season.
Next Up LSU will take on a red hot Arkansas team in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament on Saturday afternoon in the second game of the day. Tipoff should be around 2:30pm