Anthony Hickey did it again.
After starting out cold in the first half, Hickey saw his team trail almost the entire 40 minutes against the Mississippi State Bulldogs. But he couldn't have been more clutch in the game's waning minute. Hickey hit a three pointer on a pass from Charles Carmouche and made two contested jumpers in the final 20 seconds, including a floater reminiscent of Derrick Rose's go-to move, which put his team back in the lead with only 1.4 seconds left in the game.
Hickey had made a similar game-winning shot against Mississippi State last year in Baton Rouge, which the Tigers won 69-67 in overtime, after falling behind by 17 points.
This time, the Tigers were down by 18, after a very poor shooting display in the first half, where they made only 9 of their first 33 attempts (27%). The disappointing play continued in the second half, where LSU did not come roaring back initially.
At the 8 minute timeout, LSU was still trailing by a dozen points, but Bulldogs' lead started to evaporate as Hickey finally found his shooting touch. Even though he finished the game 5-14 from the field for 12 points, 4 of his last 5 makes came in the games final 6 minutes.
Hickey got some much needed help from big man Johnny O'Bryant, who picked up 12 points and 12 rebounds, good for his 5th consecutive double double, as well as senior Charles Carmouche, who had 10 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals.
The Tigers also benefited from Mississippi State's abysmal free throw shooting. The Bulldogs shot 9 more free throws than LSU (27 to 18), but actually made 2 fewer shots from the line (13 to 15).
In the game's final minutes, there were also a couple of controversial calls that helped the Tigers. First, Fred Thomas was called for an offensive foul for setting a moving screen. Although there was fairly minimal contact, he was whistled for impeding the LSU defender and fouled out. Then, in the ensuing Mississippi State possession, Colin Borchert was called for a 5-second violation, which gave the ball back to LSU for Hickey's penultimate shot.
Technically, both calls were correct, but there are multiple instances of more egregious timing violations and off-the-ball contact in most basketball games, and I was especially surprised to see crucial calls go against the home team. However, neither call overshadowed Hickey's clutch performance in the Tigers' impressive comeback.
LSU is now 12-7, with a 3-5 conference record. The Tigers next game will be at 7:00 central time on Wednesday, against Vanderbilt, where they will have a very good opportunity to win 3 straight conference games.
Mississippi State is now 7-13, with a 2-6 conference record.