Last Modified: Saturday, March 09, 2013 6:57 PM
BATON ROUGE — It wasn’t going to be easy for LSU under the best of circumstances against a desperate Ole Miss team Saturday afternoon.
But the Tigers were really in trouble when the Rebels brought their best game to spoil LSU’s Senior Day with a 81-67 thrashing to close the regular season.
“It was kind of a tough matchup for us,” LSU coach Johnny Jones said. “I thought those (Ole Miss) guys were hitting on all cylinders today.”
And from most anywhere.
The Rebels, led by Southeastern Conference leading scorer Marshall Henderson’s 22 points, shot 52 percent from the field, outrebounded the Tigers 37-31 and outscored LSU 36-20 in the paint.
“I thought we played one of the better teams we’ve played all year,” Jones said.
The flamboyant Henderson did most of his damage from outside, including four 3-pointers, while Murphy Holloway had his way slashing inside with 16 points and the Rebels almost seemed to yawn off a hot LSU start.
The Tigers (18-11, 9-9 SEC) will be the No. 9 seed in this week’s 14-team SEC tournament in Nashville, Tenn., and play in the second round Thursday against No. 8 Georgia. The bottom four seeds play Wednesday’s opening day.
Ole Miss (23-8, 12-6) kept its NCAA tournament hopes alive and will have a double-bye in the tournament before playing on Friday.
“We came in here today seeing the finish line,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. “We were playing for a lot and controlling our own destiny.”
LSU, however, controlled the game early, leading by as many as eight in the opening 11 minutes after the Tigers hit four of the first five 3-point attempts.
“We did come to play tonight,” Jones said. “From the jump, I thought we played with a sense or urgency. I thought we played very well right off the bat.”
“Then all of a sudden we let them get on a run,” LSU forward Johnny O’Bryant III said. “We let Henderson get going and we let Holloway get going.”
O’Bryant, despite playing with a sore foot, had his league-leading 13th double-double of the season with 17 points and 12 rebounds, but the Tigers also got a setback when guard Charles Carmouche went down with a hip injury. He was able to return, but obviously wasn’t at full speed.
“It changed a little bit of momentum,” Jones said. “I think it hurt us a little bit there and they were able to take advantage of it.”
The game had only one lead change, as Holloway drove for a layup at the 8:51 mark of the first half to put the Rebels up 22-21.
“We seemed to exhale a little bit then,” Kennedy said. “We were trying to do too much on the road as opposed to just letting the game develop.”
It quickly fell apart for the Tigers.
Ole Miss, which finished the half on a 31-9 run, opened the second half with the first two baskets and never looked back.
At times the LSU defense seemed helpless.
“They did a great job, even when we stretched the defense out, of getting easy scoring opportunities,” Jones said. “They made some layups, got dunks, They were able to drive us to the basket.”
Andre Stringer led LSU with 18 points, but the Tigers, who trailed by as many as 19, never made a serious run in the second half.