Da Boot Sports
By: Terrill J. Weil
BATON ROUGE, LA: LSU returned home looking to win their second consecutive game. Mission accomplished as they defeated Mississippi State 69-65. Though it wasn't pretty at times, the Tigers made the plays when needed to beat a tough Bulldogs team that fought until the very end.
Once again the Tigers started slow, but rebounded to take control of the contest taking a 37-22 lead at the half. But LSU allowed the Bulldogs to climb back into the game, as they struggled offensively for much of the second half before Tari Eason stepped up to lead the Tigers to a huge home win.
“Great win. I thought the first half we played tremendous. It was as good complementary basketball that we have played all year. We didn’t turn the ball over, we were able to set our defense, we were able to kind of grind them to a halt and get our offense going." said Wade. "We were off to a slow start offensively in both halves. We got great looks in the first half, but just didn’t finish very well. We didn’t get things to go down and in the second half we missed a bunch of threes, most of them pretty open three’s."
“We’ve got to close the games out better, that was atrocious, but our press offense was good. We didn’t turn the ball over, we got fouled and did some things there but, our defense was sloppy and we’ve got to be more solid on defense. But, great win, two in a row, after what we have been though in the past couple of weeks this is huge." Will Wade said. "They are a really good team; I mean a great team. [Iverson] Molinar is a tremendous player, Tolu Smith is a great player, Garrison Brooks is a great player, like they are a tremendous team. I was very pleased to get the win. I was really fired up about the first half and that is something we can build off of. If we put two haves together like that, we will be very tough. I thought we did a really nice job there. Obviously, Tari (Eason) adding a different dimension to his game in the last couple of games making these three’s is hug. He’s unguardable when he is making three’s like this. Fifty percent tonight, three-for-six. He is a good three-point shooter, I have been saying that all year, but they are finally starting to fall because people are playing off of him for the drives. You know Xavier (Pinson) hit him on that big corner three that put us up four. I though he played really well. Shareef O’Neal gave us just huge minutes, I am very proud of him. He gave us some great minutes as well. Overall, a very good team win and it is time to move forward to Georgia on Wednesday night.”
The Bulldogs controlled the opening tip and took an early 2-0 lead as Garrison Brooks hit two free throws at the 19:39 mark. Meanwhile LSU started the contest going 0-6 from the floor while committing three personal fouls on the defensive end. Two by Efton Reid and one by Darius Days.
Iverson Molinar would sink a three pointer to give State a 7-0 lead with 16:24 left on the clock before the Tigers finally
put points on the board on a second chance layup by Brandon Murray, cutting the lead to 7-2. After starting the game missing their first seven shots, LSU scored four straight to pull within 7-4 just before the officials timeout at the 14:01 mark.
The Tigers extended their run to 9-0 over the next three minutes after returning to play taking the lead, 9-7 with 11:34 left on the clock and another officials timeout break.
LSU continued to outscore the Bulldogs, 16-4 over the next four minute of play, extending their lead to 16-11 with 7:19 left in the first half.
With LSU up 20-11 with 5:43 left on the clock, both teams began to trade scores over the next four minutes of play as the Bulldogs cut the Tigers' lead to seven.
Tari Eason would answer with back-to-back three pointers from the top of the key to extend LSU's lead to 35-22 with
43 seconds left.
After a State turnover, Xavier Pinson was fouled driving to the basket and was sent to the free throw line with two
seconds remaining. 'X' sank both free throws to give LSU a 37-22 lead at the half.
The Tigers shot the ball well in the first half going 14-31 from the floor for 45%,.. They managed 5-13 from three point land for 38%, and a solid 7-9 from the free throw line for 80%,.. The Tigers also forced the Bulldogs into 11 first half turnovers, but were out rebounded by State, 15-12.
Tari Eason led the team at the half with 10 points. Xavier Pinson added 8 points. Brandon Murray and Mwani Wilkinson both scored 5 points each.
The Tigers started the second half slow as they allowed the Bulldogs to outscore them 8-2 over the first three minutes of play to trim the LSU lead down to 39-30 with 17:19 left on the clock.
LSU would then go on a two minute scoring drought and the Bulldogs took advantage, cutting the Tigers lead to 41-35
with 14:25 to go in the contest.
The Tigers continued to sputter badly on offense allowing Mississippi State to go on an 8-2 run to tie the game at 43-43 at the 11:11 mark.
With 7:38 left in the game, LSU found themselves clinging to a one point lead, 49-48 as they remained ice cold from the floor hitting only one of their last nine attempts. The Tigers simply couldn't shake off the pesky Bulldogs after blowing their 15 point halftime lead.
The sleeping Tigers finally woke up going on a 9-2 run over the next two minutes to extend their lead to 58-50 with 5:14 left in the contest.
With 1:58 left LSU held a six point lead, 61-55 before Darius Days banged a three point shot in from the top of the key, giving the Tigers a 64-55 lead.
Mississippi State responded scoring four straight to cut the lead to 64-59 with 54 seconds left on the clock. But the Tigers would hold off the Bulldogs to win their second in a row. 69-65....
Tari Eason continues to lead this team in scoring game after game, finishing with 23 points. “It felt amazing." Eason said. "I told the guys in the huddle ‘I’m not leaving this gym without a win.’ That’s a sigh of relief. It’s good to get a second-straight win and get the monkey off our back a bit, but it’s time to get back to work.”
Xavier Pinson looked good and played well scoring 12 huge points. “We started out slow." said Pinson. "We need to start coming out of the second half with better energy and pace like in the first half but for the most part we still thugged it out and walked out with a win.”
Darius Days started slow, but had a good second half hitting a couple of key shots late in the contest as he added 10 points on the night.
Shareef O'Neal played 14 valuable minutes scoring 8 points. “Our leaders do a good job of keeping me prepared." said O'Neal. "We practice hard every day. Coach (Will Wade) tells me to wait for my opportunity and I’ll play my heart out everytime I get a chance.”
Brandon Murray made some big baskets early in the game that helped the Tigers snap out of their slow start as he finished with 7 points. Mwani Wilkinson added 5 points while Eric Gaines finished with 4 points.
With the win the Tigers are now 18-7 overall and 6-6 in SEC play...
Next up the Bayou Bengals will host the Georgia Bulldogs in the PMAC on Wednesday, Feb. 16th at 6:00pm CT...
Photos Below By: Michael Bacigalupi
Photos Below By: Jonathan Mailhes