Last Modified: Saturday, February 23, 2013 6:38 PM
BATON ROUGE (AP) — Johnny O'Bryant capped a 24-point, 10-rebound performance by hitting two free throws in the final 10 seconds of the third overtime, and LSU held on for a 97-94 victory over Alabama on Saturday.
O'Bryant's strong inside basket gave the Tigers the lead for good at 91-90 with 2:18 to go in the last extra session, and Anthony Hickey added a clutch 3 from the right corner to make it 94-90 with 1:19 left. That allowed LSU (16-9, 7-7 Southeastern Conference) to finally capitalize on its 10-point comeback inside the final three minutes of regulation and hand Alabama (18-9, 10-4) its first loss in five games.
For the Crimson Tide, the loss spoiled Trevor Releford's career-best 36-point performance on 14-of-18 shooting, including 4 of 4 from 3-point range. The junior also had three steals, making him the Crimson Tide's all-time leader in that department with 178, two more than the previous mark Senario Hillman set in four seasons.
Charles Carmouche added 20 points and 11 rebounds for LSU, while Shavon Coleman had 17 points. Hickey finished with 13 points, his only made 3-pointer on four attempts coming at the perfect time.
Rodney Cooper scored 18 for Alabama, including a late 3 that tied it at 88 in the final seconds of the second overtime. However, Alabama had to play all three overtimes without starting center Moussa Gueye, who fouled out late in regulation. Levi Randolph also eventually fouled out.
Because a slam dunk exhibition that served as halftime entertainment ripped the net in front of Alabama's bench, Tide players had to wait around on the floor during repairs before they could run through their second-half warm-ups.
It hardly seemed to bother them, at least initially.
Releford converted a fast-break layup as he was fouled and Cooper scored on a putback, giving 'Bama its largest lead to that point at 41-34.
The Tigers chipped away, closing to 54-51 on Carmouche's free throws, but then Releford started another surge with a clutch floater off the glass at the shot clock buzzer as he was falling over the baseline.
Releford followed that with his third and fourth 3s of the game, putting the Tide up 64-54.
Alabama led 69-59 on Randolph's putback with 3:30 left and the crowd at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center was quiet, as if sensing a comfortable Crimson Tide victory. Then Carmouche hit a pair of free throws, Coleman added two more, and O'Bryant scored inside as he was fouled, pulling LSU to 69-65 with 2:00 left. O'Bryant missed his foul shot, but LSU rebounded and Carmouche hit a layup to make it a two-point game and send the crowd into a frenzy.
Releford, meanwhile, had gone quiet, taking only one shot, a missed floater, during the Tide's collapse.
O'Bryant hit two free throws to tie it up with 54 seconds left, but missed a jumper that could have won it in regulation.
Neither team led by more than two points during the first overtime, and Releford did not shoot until missing a driving floater for the win in the final seconds. Cooper tipped it in as the buzzer sounded, and officials initially counted it, setting off a wild celebration on the court among Alabama players and protests from LSU. The basket was then discounted on video review, forcing a second extra session.
The Tigers scored the first five points of the second overtime on O'Bryant's layup and Andre Stringer's 3, but Releford later tied it on a driving layup as he was fouled.
LSU led 88-85 late in the second OT after O'Bryant followed his offensive rebound with a pair of free throws, but Cooper's 3 forced yet another extra session. Alabama led 90-88 on Nick Jacobs' tip-in early in the final overtime before LSU scored the next six points en route to a dramatic victory that elicited little more than tired hugs in front of the bench when it was done.
Neither team led by more than six in a tightly played first half that saw 13 lead changes and three ties.
Releford scored 14 of his points in the first 20 minutes on a mix of driving layups and mid-range jumpers. He hit six of his first seven shots, including his only two attempts from 3-point range in that span.
His second shot from deep gave 'Bama a 30-29 lead late in the period. O'Bryant's strong move inside briefly put the Tigers back in front, but Trevor Lacey responded with a 3 and then Andrew Steele rattled in a 3 at the horn to put the Tide up 36-31 at halftime.