STARKVILLE, MISS. — The LSU basketball team escaped Humphrey Coliseum with a 92-88 overtime victory despite trailing by double digits once again in the second half.
Naz Reid bounced in a 3-pointer with 11 second left to seal the improbable road victory that improved the Tigers’ record to 18-4 overall and 8-1 in Southeastern Conference play at the midway point of the league’s season.
Reid finished the game with a game-high 29 points and a rebound shy of a double-double, and Tremont Waters shot 11 for 18 for 26 points to go along with five assists, four rebounds and five steals despite spending most of the game in foul trouble.
“One thing coach always preaches and breathe and be the person you are,” Reid said of playing with foul trouble. “That’s what we were able to do today.”
The freshman forward was nothing short of dominant in the back-end of the game, scoring 25 of his 29 points in the second half and overtime.
On the surface Reid may not seem like the guy the Tigers would want taking a potential game-winning 3 in the closing seconds of the game, but LSU coach Will Wade said he had plenty of reason to believe it was the right move.
“He’s statistically our best 3-point shooter, so he would have been way up there (on our list of preferred shooters in that situation,” Wade said. “He would have been way up there in the order. … It’s a good shot for him. He hit two tonight.”
That being said, it’s not exactly the shot Wade expected to get.
With roughly 13 seconds between the shot and game clocks, Waters brought the ball up the floor and waited for the shot clock to hit 8 seconds before running a play.
Waters said he had the Arkansas game in his mind while running the offense in overtime.
Now he was in a situation that mimicked the one he had against the Razorbacks in which he turned the ball over on an alley-oop attempt to Marlon Taylor that ultimately cost the Tigers the game.
He knew he wouldn’t make a similar mistake this go around.
“It was kind of a similar situation (to the Arkansas game),” Waters said. “About 50 seconds left, 30 on the shot clock. It was pretty much the same exact situation.”
He approached the 3-point line, pump faked to get Nick Weatherspoon off his feet before hitting Naz Reid who put up a shot as the shot clock expired. The shot bounced off the front of the rim and into the basket for a bucket that served as the dagger in the back-and-forth battle.
“It’s certainly not what the play was drawn up for, but under the circumstances it was a pretty good look,” Wade said.
Kavell Bigby-Williams also had a big night, completing a double-double with 14 points and a team-high 13 rebounds.
LSU once again struggled with a sloppy first half in which it turned the ball over 11 times and allowed 20 points off those turnovers.
The Tigers came out strong and build a 16-8 lead before they went more than six minutes without a field goal and allowed Mississippi State (16-6, 4-5 SEC) to go on a 17-0 run in less than four minutes to fall behind 25-16.
From there, LSU was forced to play catch up, and it did so behind a strong performance from Javonte Smart who scored 8 points in the first half while Tremont Waters spent much of the period on the bench with two fouls.
The Tigers tied the game late in the half, Mississippi State went to the halftime break up 42-34 after Tyson Carter and Quinndary Weatherspoon hit back-to-back 3’s, with Weatherspoon’s going in at the buzzer.
Quinndary Weatherspoon finished the game with 27 points thanks to a 11-for-17 shooting effort. Reggie Perry also had a solid outing, shooting 5-for-8 from the field for 19 points.
“We had no answer for (Quinndary) Weatherspoon and Perry tonight,” Wade said. “They were just phenomenal. We were just fortunate to enough to get it to overtime, then we found a way. Naz found a way to hit the big 3 and Tre was tremendous all night.”
It seemed like LSU spend most of the second half cutting into MSU’s lead only for the Bulldogs to strike right back.
But the Tigers finally got back into the game in the closing minutes with the two teams trading blows until the final buzzer of regulation which rang as the two teams were tied at 83 apiece.
Despite struggling to get the win, Wade said he didn’t feel the the Tigers walked on the proverbial tightrope he mentioned after their loss to Arkanasas on Saturday.
“We played better,” Wade said. “The first half we just turned the ball over too much. We only had four turnovers in the second half. We had really good days of practice. I felt like we were going to play well tonight.
“It’s tough when you play a team like Mississippi State, you could play your best game and get beat. That makes it tough, but we were able to scratch it out tonight.”
The game in The Hump marked the first of a brutal six-game stretch in which LSU will play some of the top teams in the conference.
The Tigers get back in action Saturday in the PMAC where they will play host to Auburn — another team that spent a good portion of the season in the Associated Press Top 25 — at 1 p.m.
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