Going into the first Top-15 battle in the PMAC since 1984, LSU announced Tremont Waters would miss today’s game with an undisclosed illness. Without arguably their best player, the No. 13 LSU Tigers knocked down the No. 5 Tennessee Volunteers 82-80 in overtime. The Tigers improve to 22-5 (12-2 SEC) on the season while the Volunteers fall to 24-3 (12-2).
LSU joins only Kentucky and Kansas as the teams to beat Tennessee this season.
On LSU’s very first possession, Naz Reid was called for an off-ball offensive foul, a play that was reviewed and changed to a Flagrant-1 to give Tennessee their first points. Reid was called for his second foul before the first media timeout, so he would sit for the remainder of the first half.
For the next sixteen minutes, LSU would play the leading team in the SEC without Tremont Waters and Naz Reid. Darius Days checked in to the game for Reid and promptly hit a three pointer and the and-one for a four point play. The Tigers held their own for most of the half, tying the game up 5 times and seeing the lead change eight times. They went to halftime down 36-31, not shabby at all given the circumstances.
I should also note Marshall Graves got really good playing time while Reid had to sit. The now-scholarship player hit a three pointer in a very productive seven minutes and drew an ovation from the crowd when he checked out of the game.
LSU found themselves down by as many as nine points multiple times, but the shorthanded Tigers managed to stay in the game and chip away at the lead any time it got near four possessions. They’d put together great runs themselves, but could never quite keep the Vols down long enough to tie it back up.
Between 13:04 and 11:17 left in the game, Darius Days racked up four quick fouls. LSU would be down yet another player in the biggest game of the season.
At 6:44 left in the game, Tennessee led 64-55 after another Vols three pointer. Javonte Smart single-handedly cut the lead down to two points with two jumpers and a three pointer. At the last media timeout, we had ourselves a serious ballgame.
Smart traded a pair of layups with five Grant Williams free throws before a Skylar Mays three pointer tied the game up with 1:20 to go. Mays took the lead with a pair of free throws, but Grant Williams hit a layup with 33 seconds left for the last points of regulation. Williams had a great game for himself, scoring 18 points and snagging 9 rebounds for the Volunteers.
LSU was faced with their second overtime game in a row, and the sixth of the season. Six is the team record for most overtime games in a season, in case you were wondering.
The teams headed to overtime tied at 71. They tied it up again at 73, then 75, then 77, then 80 after a Kavell Bigby-Williams putback shot.
Lamonte Turner missed a three pointer with one second left for Tennessee, and who else but Javonte Smart snagged the rebound. In a moment that I’ll need to re-watch a half dozen times to have a clue what happened, Grant Williams fouled Javonte Smart. Two ice cold free throws later, LSU wins 82-80.
According to Smart, he learned during this morning’s 7am practice that he’d be covering Jordan Bone, Tennessee’s phenomenal point guard. It was then that he realized he would need to step up and fill Tremont’s shoes for the biggest home game of the year.
He absolutely filled those shoes very well on defense, and his efforts combined with Skylar Mays filled those shoes on offense. The guard duo would finish to combine for 52 points, including making 19 of LSU’s 24 free throws.
Naz Reid, who played all of four minutes in the first half, finished the game with a single point and seven rebounds. He shot 0-for-9 from the field. This isn’t so much a knock on him for an uncharacteristically poor offensive performance, but to emphasize what the Tigers were going up against in this game. It’s the biggest game in the PMAC in 35 years, they had no Tremont Waters and effectively no offensive help from Naz Reid. They won.
Kavell Bigby-Williams scored 10 points and snagged 10 rebounds (6 offensive) to record his seventh double-double of the season. He’s been an unstoppable force around the rim all throughout conference play, and one of the classic putback layups was in fact the game-tying shot before Javonte’s free throws. It couldn’t be more clear that LSU’s life and death in the Tournament will rely on Kavell’s play.
The Tigers will wrap up the three game home stand Tuesday night when they host the Texas A&M Aggies. The Aggies are currently 11-14 (4-9) before their game against Arkansas later tonight. That game will tip off at 8pm and will be televised on ESPN2.