In perhaps the most up and down game of the season for the LSU Tigers, a tear drop from Anthony Hickey with only a second to go was enough for the Tigers to put away Mississippi State in overtime. To go along with the action, there's literally more ways than ever to dissect this game, as both teams had their equally fantastic and horrendous moments, which is perhaps why it was such a thrill to watch.
Perhaps the biggest difference from this game and the first was the three point shooting. Both teams struggled quite a bit from behind the line, and it might have been the centers that had the best game from out there. Both Renardo Sidney and Justin Hamilton hit clutch 3 pointers in OT.
The reason I have a light switch as a picture today instead of an action shot is quite simply because it describes the game more than anything else. To start the game, it was in the off position. For some reason, once LSU decided they had enough when they were down 30-17, they flipped the switch on. From there, the defense shut down Mississippi State, and the Bulldogs went 9 minutes without scoring another point. In fact, over the following 20 minutes after going up by 17, they only managed to score 20 points(LSU scored 35 in that same stretch).
There's plenty of heroes today for LSU, as Storm Warren recorded a double double off the bench. Ralston Turner lead the way with 17 huge points, and of course, Anthony Hickey with the game winning runner and steal in the final seconds. Truth be told, it was the defense of Ralston Turner that really won this game for us, though.
I watched closely on the defensive end, and he was by far the best on ball defender in the game. He was never beaten off the dribble, and at the same time he had 5 crucial rebounds. Hamilton, Warren, and O'Bryant had their hands full with Moultrie and Sidney as you would expect, so it was absolutely key that Turner get the long rebounds and weak side rebounds. I thought before the game it might be Ludwig that would fill this role, but Turner was able to do it while also having a great game on the offensive end.
When the switch was in the off position, though, there was a lot to complain about. As good as Turner was on ball defensively, Stringer and Hickey were getting beat all night by Dee Bost. Bost led the way for the Bulldogs with 15 points and 5 assists, but also 5 turnovers. He was able to drive quite easily and find open shooters like Rodney Hood for a good part of the first half, and was responsible for building up that lead.
Stringer and Hickey were also equally as bad at the offensive end when the switch was off. In a frustrating display of foolishness, the two guards went through a couple of stretches where they simply refused to pass the ball. Instead, they forced up a bunch of contested 3 pointers, sometimes with only one pass or less. The results were as you would expect, airballs and back-board-breaking shots. They were worse simply because the forwards were also out of position, giving LSU no hope of a rebound.
In the end though, it was the defense that won out for LSU. Trent Johnson, although on the hot seat, does deserve credit for coaching a good game today. His adjustments on defense worked very well once he decided to scrap the 2-3 zone and go back to man to man. The green light for Hamilton also worked today, and the substitution patterns were also fantastic in keeping LSU fresh. I blame myself for not noticing earlier, but this was MSU's 3rd game in 5 days, so they were also on weak legs, and it was a smart move to use a lot of substitutions to keep LSU fresh.
The win moves LSU to 15-10, 5-6 in the conference. The NIT looks like a real possibility with a few more wins, and the NCAA tournament is also possible but that would require 6 more in a row. A road trip to South Carolina is next for a game this Saturday. It's certainly the most winnable road game LSU will have this season, as the Gamecocks are at the bottom of the SEC with a 1-9 conference record.