On a topsy-turvy day in college basketball that saw six ranked teams lose to unranked opponents, the LSU Tigers (13-4, 5-0) dodged another bullet and escaped Oxford with an 80-76 win over the Ole Miss Rebels (9-8, 0-4).
For LSU, it was a total team effort as four players scored double-digit points. Javonte Smart led the Tigers with 20 points and Emmitt Williams had 17; Skylar Mays scored 15, 10 of which came in the second half; and Marlon Taylor scored 13 and was fearless around the rim, getting to the free throw line 10 times.
Ole Miss came into Saturday’s game in a freefall, dropping four consecutive games. The message around Oxford was that the Rebels needed a win “by any means necessary.” And Ole Miss came out with the desperation of a team trying to dig itself out of a hole. The Rebels scored the game’s first five points and led LSU by as many as nine in the first half.
Breein Tyree, who missed Ole Miss’s last game against the Florida Gators, gave the Rebels a much needed scoring boost, scoring 15 points in the first half. But Javonte Smart was able to keep pace with Tyree and scored 12 in the first half, while Emmitt Williams pitched in with nine points and LSU was able to erase the nine-point deficit, and went into halftime up with a slim 36-34 lead.
Ole Miss would reclaim the lead in the opening minutes of the second half but LSU counterpunched by hitting four threes in a two-minute span. In a blink, LSU flipped a five-point deficit into a seven-point lead.
LSU led by as many as 10 points before Tyree and Blake Hinson brought the Rebels back. Hinson knocked down a pair of threes while Tyree made four free throws to put Ole Miss back on top. Hinson scored a career-high 36 points, 21 coming in the second half.
But LSU was able to weather the storm and erase a late six-point deficit. Skylar Mays closed the game out with eight points in the final five minutes. Mays drove fearlessly to the rim, converting a pair of layups and also made all four of his free throw attempts.
Despite turning the ball over 16 times, LSU was able to escape Oxford with yet another road conference win. It did so thanks in large part to dominating the Rebels on the glass, out-rebounding Ole Miss 47-31. Those 47 rebounds, 12 coming on the offensive end, led to 26 points in the paint and 21 second chance points for the Tigers. Freshman forward Trendon Watford led all players with 10 rebounds.
At 5-0 in SEC play, LSU remains in sole possession of first place in the SEC. And while there are still 13 conference games to play, LSU is starting to build some breathing room between itself and the rest of the SEC.
LSU is back on the court Tuesday evening in the PMAC against the Florida Gators.