Road warrior Tigers win again, stay atop the SEC

Another win for LSU by the hair of its chinny chin-chin.

Senior guard Skylar Mays scored LSU’s last six of eight points as the Tigers stayed atop the SEC unbeaten in league play with an 80-76 road win at Ole Miss Saturday night.

Ole Miss had a 9-point first half lead at the 11-minute mark. LSU flipped the deficit to a 10-point cushion with less than 13 minutes left, but that disappeared with Rebels taking a 6-point edge with about 7½ minutes remaining.

From that point, it settled into a possession-to-possession fight to the finish in which LSU (13-4, 5-0 in SEC play) emerged with its 12 straight league road win. The Tigers have won their last four SEC games by a combined 11 points.

Guard Javonte Smart led LSU with 20 points, including 4-of-8 3s. Forward Emmitt Williams contributed 17 points and 7 rebounds. Mays had 15 points and 5 rebounds.

“We had good attention to detail once we got into the game,” LSU coach Will Wade said. “They (Ole Miss) played more feisty than us in the first half. The second half, we were able to flip that and play just as desperate and urgent as they were.”

Ole Miss guard Breein Tyree, who entered the night averaging 26.5 points in SEC play, sat out the Rebels’ 71-55 loss at Florida on Tuesday. He came back with a vengeance, scoring a career-high 36 points, but Ole Miss fell to 9-8 and 0-5 in SEC play.

Wade said his team knew the Rebels would play like their backs were to the wall.

“We knew their team was ready, their fans were ready, they put everything into this,” Wade said of the Rebels, coached by former LSU assistant Kermit Davis Jr. “It’s different now because we’re getting into a different part of the season and playing desperate teams. We’ve got to be just as desperate to put ourselves in the (NCAA tournament) conversation down the stretch.”

 LSU put itself in hole from the opening tip by missing 10 of its first field goal attempts. At one point, Tyree, deftly working off screens, had 13 of Ole Miss’ first 18 points and was outscoring the Tigers by himself.

LSU trailed 21-12 with 11:07 left and was on the verge of trailing by double figures. That was Smart’s cue to hit eight of the Tigers’ next 10 points in a 17-6 run in a 4:17 span that got LSU its first lead at 29-27 with 6:43 left on a Trendon Watford drive.

Tigers’ guard Marlon Taylor came off the bench and was able to hold Tyree to two field goals in the last eight minutes of the first half. But the second Tyree bucket with 10 seconds left in the half sent the teams into locker room tied 36-36 at the break.

Four different Tigers combined for LSU’s first 11 points, including consecutive 3s by Aundre Hyatt and Taylor that gave LSU a 47-43 lead at the first TV timeout of the second half with 15:14 left.

Less than a minute later, Davis called a timeout when an open Taylor dunked off a Mays assist for a 52-45 Tigers’ advantage in an 11-2 LSU burst.

LSU got its first double digit lead of the game at 57-47 with 12:53 left on a Taylor free throw. But the Rebels turned the game with an 18-2 run for a 65-59 lead with 7:24 left in which the Tigers committed five turnovers and made just 1-of-5 shots.

The Tigers return home to face nemesis Florida in a Tuesday night matchup starting at 6. The Gators (12-5, 4-1 in the SEC) blew out No. 4 ranked Auburn 69-47 Saturday afternoon in Gainesville.

It was Florida’s first victory against a top-five team since beating then-No. 2 Michigan State in 2009. It was also the Gators’ first win over a top 40 team in the NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET) rankings.

“Florida is a phenomenal team and it was picked at top of the league for a reason,” Wade said. “All three of our games against them last year went to overtime (LSU lost in Baton Rouge and in the SEC tournament, won in Gainesville). It’s going to be another close one.”

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Ron Higgins

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