BATON ROUGE – LSU’s Javonte Smart made two free throws with 0.6 seconds remaining in overtime to push the No. 13 Tigers past No. 5 Tennessee, 82-80, Saturday at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
The game was played before the sixth largest announced crowd in the present configuration of the building (since the 2005-06 season) of 13,581. The contest had been sold-out for several weeks prior to the game.
The Tigers, Tennessee and No. 4 Kentucky (winners at home over Auburn) are all tied for the top of the Southeastern Conference with four games to play at 12-2.
The Tigers win was even more dramatic as LSU was forced to play without point guard Tremont Waters who was announced before the contest as unavailable because of an undisclosed illness.
The win was LSU’s second win over a top five team this season (at Kentucky, vs. Tennessee) and LSU’s 17th overall against an AP top five team (ninth at home).
The Tigers rallied from two points down in overtime after Grant Williams scored on a three-point play with 18 seconds left to put Tennessee up 80-78. LSU brought the ball up court and Smart and Naz Reid missed shots before Kavell Bigby-Williams got the offensive rebound and scored to tie the game for the 11th time at 80 with six seconds to play.
Tennessee came down and Lamonte Turner missed a three and when Smart rebounded the miss it appeared the game was heading to double overtime. Smart turned toward the opposite end of the court to possibly launch a desperation shot, but he was run into by Williams and officials called a foul, sending Smart to the line with less than a second to play.
Smart drilled both free throws (his eighth and ninth makes of the game) to give LSU the lead. Tennessee called time out and the Volunteers Admiral Schofield completed a length of the court baseball pass to Williams whose desperation 15-footer hit the side of the rim sending the Maravich Center into hysterics as the Tiger team after the handshake line ran to the student section to celebrate.
Smart and Skylar Mays combined for 52 points with Smart getting 29 points with five rebounds, five assists and three steals in 44 minutes. Mays played the entire game, scoring 23 points (making three treys and 10 free throws for the second time this season) with two assists and a steal. Bigby-Williams had 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Schofield had 27 points on 11-of-22 shooting with three treys, while Williams had 18 points and Jordan Bone 13.
LSU had just seven turnovers in the game, tying the season low, and LSU forced 14 Tennessee miscues and that added up to a 17-9 advantage in points off turnovers. It was the third time in the last four games that LSU has had under 10 turnovers in the game.
Tennessee out rebounded LSU, 43-37.
The Tigers shot 38.5 percent from the floor (25-65) with eight treys and was back on track at the line, making 24-of-31 for 77 percent (Smart and Mays combined for 19-of-22). Tennessee shot 44.8 percent (30-of-67) with eight treys and 12-of-16 at the line.
Tennessee led by five at the half and pushed the lead to nine at 17:47 to play, on a Lamonte Turner three pointer, 41-32. LSU then tried to get back in the contest, cutting the game to two twice before the Volunteers were able to explode back to a nine point advantage, 64-55, with 6:44 to go in regulation.
From there, the Tigers would outscore the Volunteers, 16-7 in regulation, tying the game at 69-69 on a Mays three-pointer with 1:20 to play and then taking a 71-69 lead on LSU’s next possession when Mays was fouled and made two free throws with 44 seconds to play.
But on the other end, Williams was able to score a layup with some ease to tie the game at 71 with still 33 seconds left. Smart and Mays but missed scoring attempts and Tennessee turned the ball over right before the buzzer, sending the game to overtime.
LSU fell behind on two different occasions in the extra session before the final flurry at the end that gave the Tigers the win.
LSU will conclude the three-game homestand on Tuesday night at 8 p.m. against Texas A&M. The Tigers defeated the Aggies, 72-57, earlier this year in College Station. Tickets are on sale at the LSU Athletics Ticket Office during normal business hours and at LSUtix.net.