Sometimes, you’ve just gotta steal a win

LSU guard Skylar Mays made just one shot in the second half vs.Mississippi State Saturday night but it was the game winner. PHOTO BY JONATHAN MAILHES

LSU football coach Ed Orgeron repetitively names each day of the week during the season to keep his team in a familiar routine.

For instance, Mondays are “Tell the Truth Monday” in which everything good and bad from the previous game is discussed at a team meeting.

LSU basketball coach Will Wade doesn’t ever feel the need to wait that long.

All Wade does is glance at a postgame stat sheet to give an unfiltered review to his team and then pull no punches with the media.

Like Saturday night in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center when the Tigers were awful in just about every category yet walked away a 60-59 winner over Mississippi State, thanks to Skylar Mays game-winning 18-foot jumper at the final buzzer.

“I told our guys after game you can’t accept in winning what you would not accept in winning,” Wade said. “If we had not won, we would be very disappointed about our rebounding and free throws.”

Everything on the stat sheet screamed that LSU should have suffered its first SEC loss of the year. The Tigers were destroyed on the boards 49-31, they made just 14-of-23 free throws and were an unfathomable 2-of-21 in 3-point clanking.

The only reason LSU (11-4 overall, 3-0 SEC) walked out of the PMAC a winner and Mississippi State (9-6, 0-3) got in its bus for a long, frustrating ride back to Starkville was the Tigers’ frenetic pressing defense in the game’s final five minutes.

After Robert Woodard hit a mid-range jumper for a 53-44 lead that was State its biggest margin of the night with 5:18, the Bulldogs missed four straight field goal attempts and committed six turnovers against the hustling, diving, clawing Tigers.

State’s only made field goal for the rest of the game after taking the almost double-digit lead was Reggie Perry’s drive to the basket of an inbounds play for 59-58 State lead with 4.1 seconds left.

The game clock is supposed to stop after made shots in the final minute. But when the officiating crew decided it needed a video review to see if time needed to be added back on – they changed it to 4.6 seconds – it gave Wade time to draw up a game-winning play.

A play, by the way, the Tigers have never practiced.

“That was just Coach Wade drawing it up,” said Tigers’ guard Charles Manning Jr., who inbounded the ball as LSU had to go the full length of the court.

Wade said he diagrams different plays on his play card.

“I draw them up every game for all sorts of different situations,” Wade said. “Even though we haven’t worked on it, it was a play I have written down 100 times.

“There’s basically not a whole lot to it. We curl and get the ball to the best player, everybody gets out of the way and he makes a play in space.”

Mays, who hadn’t a made a shot in in the second half, was LSU’s do-or-die option. As inbounder Manning Jr. ran right to left down the baseline being hawked by 6-11 State forward Abdul Ado, he threw a perfect pass to Mays.

He caught the ball as he was half-turned heading upcourt with State’s Nick Weatherspoon stride for stride down the left sideline.

He took six dribbles, realized he was just about out of time, planted a foot, spun hard to his right and jumped to release an 18-footer with a perfect posed follow-through.

Ball game.

“We had just (more than) four seconds, I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to get it off,” Mays said. “It tried to get within striking distance and get something off, I was lucky to get it in. Some people make game winners and it (the shot) doesn’t feel good. It felt good off my hand.”

It was the fifth time LSU has won a game under third-year coach Wade in the final five seconds.

“That’s what Coach Wade does,” Mays said. “We’ve been able to win close ones like that since he’s gotten here. He’s great in late-game situations.”

Wade appreciated the compliment, but he also said he felt stronger about another of his job requirements.

“Because we didn’t handle our business at the free-throw line, because we didn’t handle our business with the rebounding, we put ourselves in a situation where we needed a miracle,” Wade said. “I am more focused on making sure we are not in those situations.”

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Ron Higgins

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