LSU guard Charles Carmouche, right, knocks the ball loose from Missouri guard Negus Webster-Chan during the first half Wednesday night at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge. Carmouche scored after the steal. (Associated Press)
Last Modified: Thursday, January 31, 2013 9:50 AM
LSU basketball coach Johnny Jones earned his first Southeastern Conference win last week, but he might’ve brought home his first signature win Wednesday in a 73-70 thriller against No. 17 Missouri.
“Our guys did an excellent job from the tip to really trying to finish off the game tonight,” Jones said. “We got off to a great start, which we needed. … They did a great job in terms of sharing the basketball and making shots early on.
“They did an excellent job of defending in the second half knowing that Missouri, a great basketball team, talented, would make their runs.”
It might’ve been a sign of things to come for the Tigers (11-7, 2-5 SEC), who jumped out to an early lead and finished strong late, something they haven’t done much of this season.
When the pressure was on late in the game, LSU found a way to get the ball to its key players. With Missouri (15-5, 4-3) seemingly answering every LSU basket with one of its own, LSU didn’t have much room for error.
Several times earlier in the season, LSU would wilt under the pressure. Not Wednesday night.
“We’ve been in a lot of tight games this year,” said junior guard Andre Stringer. “We were finally able to put things together and pull this one out.”
Stringer showed off his cold-bloodedness when he hit what might have been the most important shot of the game late in the second half.
Missouri just cut the lead to three points with more than 3 minutes remaining, and the Tigers had scored six points in the previous 8 minutes of play. The Tigers needed a spark and Stringer delivered.
Stringer hit a 3-pointer under heavy pressure. As the referees blew the whistle to signal a foul, the ball found the bottom of the net. Stringer connected on the ensuing free throw to give LSU a seven-point lead it didn’t relinquish.
But Missouri refused to go away despite trailing by as many as 16 points in the second half. Junior point guard Phil Pressey put on an offensive clinic in the second half, scoring 16 of his 25 points from a variety of positions.
Pressey scored eight consecutive points in a little more than 2 minutes early in the second half to cut LSU’s lead from 14 to six.
Not to be outdone, sophomore guard Anthony Hickey staged his own rally.
After two Missouri free throws cut LSU’s lead to four, Hickey scored seven unanswered points to put LSU back up by double digits. The Kentucky native finished with 20 points, 14 of which came in the second half.
The Tigers have been notoriously slow starters but came out swinging.
LSU took advantage of some on-target shooting by its perimeter players to sprint out to an early lead. Conversely, almost nothing was going right for Missouri, which hit 27 percent of its first-half shot attempts.
Stringer connected on 3 of 4 from downrange in the first half and hit all of his free throws to collect 12 first-half points.
LSU led all the way from the 16:20 mark of the first half.
“It’s a much better felling of playing on that side of it than on the other side where you’re fighting to get back and expending a lot of energy to get back into the game,” Jones said. “They were on the other side of it tonight.”