Hannibal’s Career-High 24 Points Helps LSU Rally Past Winless Missouri in Second Half, Finish 9-9 in SEC

Trae Hannibal had a career-high 24 points and led a second-half comeback that saw LSU go up by 21 before having to stave off Missouri late and hold on to finish in the upper half of the SEC one year after going 2-16 and finishing dead last in the conference. PHOTO by LSU Athletics

Trae Hannibal scored a career-high 24 points to lead five players in double figures as LSU beat Missouri 84-80 on Saturday night.

Tyrell Ward added 14 points for LSU (17-14, 9-9), which shot 50% (16 of 32) from the field and made 19 of 25 free throws in the second half. Hunter Dean chipped in with 12 points for the Tigers. Mike Williams III and Jordan Wright scored 10 apiece.

LSU finished tied with Texas A&M in seventh place in the SEC one year after going 2-16 in the conference. LSU will, however, be the No. 8 seed in the tournament that begins next Wednesday in Nashville. LSU has a first-round bye and will play No. 9 Mississippi State in a rematch on Thursday.

“Really proud of our players for the win.  We’re always going to celebrate winning,” LSU coach Matt McMahon said.

“Obviously there’s some lessons to be learned there the last three minutes, but we won’t let that take away from the joy of winning tonight on senior night.  Credit to Missouri for their fight.  They’ve been in a lot of games down to the final buzzer.  I think 11 of their SEC losses were by one, two, or three possessions.  And as you saw tonight, they fought to the final buzzer and great respect for them.  Coach Dennis Gates is a big- time coach and has handled adversity in a really first-class manner this way.  But I’m proud of our players.  I’m proud of our program.

“I know this, I didn’t come to LSU to celebrate 9-9, but I think sometimes we all think success is just this easy climb, and you get to where you want to go on a smooth travel plan.  Twenty-three months ago, LSU didn’t have a basketball program.  There was no coaching staff in place, there were no players, no academics, there was no program, 23 months ago.  And it’s been a gradual process, but I’m proud of the players that have joined us on the journey, on the steps that we’ve made.  I think it is an accomplishment, I think of the power five schools, the second biggest jump in win totals in league play behind South Carolina and what Coach Lamont Paris has done this year, and I’m really proud of what these players have invested to take some steps forward for the program, and now we’ll reset and start getting prepared for the SEC Tournament,” McMahon said.

Sean East II scored 26 points to lead Missouri. Noah Carter made four 3-pointers and scored 18 points. Tamar Bates added 13 points.

East scored 11 points to help Missouri build a 35-29 halftime advantage. LSU pulled away on a 26-4 run for a 64-49 lead with about eight minutes left. Trent Pierce’s 3-pointer cut the Tigers’ deficit to 76-67 with 58 seconds to go. Carter’s 3 made it 81-78 with six seconds left before LSU sealed it at the free-throw line.

Missouri (8-23, 0-18) finished the regular season winless in the Southeastern Conference. Missouri has lost 21 of 22 games since beating Wichita State 82-72 on Dec. 3.

LSU largest lead was 21 points, 74-53, with 4:40 remaining in the game.

 “They were getting second-chance opportunities,” Hannibal said of the difference between the first half and the second half. “They got open shots. We weren’t communicating. I think it got to the point where we knew we had to lock in. Everyone got on the same page that’s all that happened.”

Missouri coach Dennis Gates said his team’s missed shots in the second half fueled LSU’s 26-4 run that ultimately turned the game.

“I thought our missed shots allowed them to get out quickly, and then they recovered some second-chance points as well,” Gates said.

“I thought our guys just did not get back in transition fast enough and when we did, we fouled. They ended up shooting 37 free throws and we gave up 25 free throws in the second half. Some of that was because we were trying to foul them at the end. But ultimately, we were not able to get to and execute on that foul line in the first. But in the second half, we did; we got to the foul line 15 times in the second half, which I thought was awesome. But in that first half, we were not able to extend that lead. So sometimes, you have to be able to keep these guys out of their flow and the ball was going in instead. In the second half, we were just trying to get stops and we did not do our job of getting them at half-court.

“We got the shots that we wanted; we have to come away with the makes. Sean (East) was the only one in that first 10 minutes to score a field goal and I thought our guys had opportunities from Nick Honor to Noah Carter to (Tamar) Bates. For everyone else who played and missed a field goal, the ball was just not going in for us. Overall, I think our guys did a great job fighting back in the second half trying to make it an interesting game. We cut it down to one possession and that just says that our guys are fighting and trying their very best in situational. We almost gave ourselves a chance at the end of the game,” Gates said.

LSU plays Mississippi State in the SEC Tournament on Thursday at noon central.

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