It seemed as LSU looked headed for home loss several times in Wednesday night’s SEC game against Georgia.
Freshman scoring machine Cam Thomas missed seven straight 3-pointers and had drive after drive roll off the rim.
Sophomore Trendon Watford, who was shooting almost 80 percent from the free throw line, clanked his first six attempts.
Junior Darius Days, who swished a 3-pointer in the first three minutes, misfired on his next three.
“There’s no such thing as an easy SEC game, you’ve got to dig it out and find a way,” LSU coach Will Wade said.
After almost being buried some ridiculously long-distance 12 Georgia 3 – “It’s like they were shooting from the (LSU midcourt) logo,” Days said – Thomas, Watford and Days got out their big-play shovels in overtime and tunneled the Tigers to daylight in a 94-92 victory.
Thomas, who scored a game-high 26 points including 15-of-16 free throws, was 0-for-the-night from deep when he raised up and nailed a corner 3 with 3:28 left in overtime for an 83-82 lead.
So when Thomas came off a Days screen just beyond the top of the key 90 or so seconds later with just under a minute remaining, two Georgia defenders switched to double-team him and Thomas calmly tossed the ball to an open Days who hit a 3 for a 90-86 advantage.
“I’ve seen Days make that shot every day in practice and in games,” Thomas said. “They were double teaming me off screens and I knew he’d be open. I knew he could make that shot.”
As for Watford, who returned to an empty PMAC for a postgame free throw shooting session, Georgia coach Tom Crean wisely thought he was playing the percentages fouling Watford twice in the final 36 seconds in overtime. Watford made 3 of those last 4 attempts.
Was LSU (7-2, 2-1 in the SEC) lucky to win?
Georgia guard Justin Kier, who scored a team-high 25 points, clanked a potential game-winning 55-foot heave off the front iron as time expired in regulation. Then on the last possession of the game, he missed a tough drive as time expired that could have sent the game to a second overtime.
“We can make big plays, but we can also make mistakes, and we’ve got to overcome those,” said Crean, whose team fell to 0-2 in the SEC after opening the season with seven straight wins.
The Bulldogs certainly did enough to win. Besides their dozen 3’s, they outscored LSU in fast breaks points 28-3, starting the game with two dunks. Every other stat was relatively even except free throws in which LSU made 10 more free throws (22 to 12) than Georgia and attempted 15 more (33 to 18).
It was three old-school three-point plays – a bucket and a free throw – in a 13-2 LSU run that flipped the Tigers from a 10-point deficit at 68-58 to a 71-70 lead in just more than two minutes with 7:03 left in regulation.
It set the stage for the horse race down the stretch to the finish in regulation and beyond.
“We need games like this, SEC games are hard,” said LSU junior guard Javonte Smart, who had 21 points (including 5 of 10 3s), 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 6 steals as he was a thorn in Georgia’s 22 turnovers. “We have to find ways to figure things out and keep fighting.”
The Tigers take that fight on the road to Missouri (7-2, 1-2 SEC) for a Saturday night 7:30 tip. Mizzou, which appeared to be one of the SEC’s most improved teams after non-conference wins over the likes of Oregon and Wichita State, has already suffered a 20-point home SEC loss to Tennessee and a 15-point road defeat at Mississippi State Tuesday night.