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LSU Knocks Off No. 5 Tennessee in OT Thriller, 82-80

by Kent Lowe (@LSUkent)
Men's Basketball vs. Tennessee - Highlights Inside LSU Basketball - Show 10 Box Score Men's Basketball vs. Tennessee - Audio Replay Will Wade Press Conference - Feb. 23 +0
LSU Knocks Off No. 5 Tennessee in OT Thriller, 82-80

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.

Marshall Graves, the former walk-on who received the late Wayde Sims scholarship for the 2019 spring semester, played seven minutes and hit a three-pointer during the game.

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

LSU vs Tennessee Quotes
February 23, 2019

LSU Head Coach Will Wade

Opening statement…
“Obviously a tremendous, tremendous win for us under a lot of adversity. I thought Javonte (Smart) was phenomenal. I told somebody before the game that it probably wasn’t going to be as aesthetically pleasing, he’s going to get the job done. That’s what he does. It won’t look as crisp, but he’s going to get the job done and he’s done that for us all season long. Very, very proud of him and Skylar (Mays) and Kavell (Bigby-Williams) with the double-double. I was just very, very proud of our team overall. We overcame a lot of adversity. We had to pretty much flip our game plan in a night on things. We were able to do that and our guys were really locked in and focused. We did an extra walkthrough this morning. We were basically walking through until we went on the court to warm up so we could get some things going. The initial plan was to feed Naz (Reid) the ball down low then he got the two fouls and that really hurt us there. We had to go to Plan C from there. In the second half I thought we turned the game by getting the ball in the paint and being able to beat them in the paint. We were down four in the paint at halftime and I think we won by eight so we were able to flip that by 12 points. Being able to convert those points off turnovers, we won that battle by eight. We did a good job going to the free-throw line as well. Just a great team win and a great team atmosphere. That’s as good as it gets for college basketball. For our fans to be here at 11 a.m. like that, the students, it was awesome. Hopefully everybody will come back on Tuesday night.”

On making more free-throws than the other team shoots…
“It was huge. We just wanted to drive that ball in there. Javonte drove it in there. We all just drove it in there, drove it in there, shot faked and drove it in there. I think we took 16 threes in the first half, we were 4-of-16. We only took nine threes in the second half and were much better with what we were doing in the second. When you don’t have Tremont (Waters), you have a little narrower path to win. Our guys executed well and we were able to navigate that path.”

On what flip switched with Javonte Smart in the second half…
“That’s how he is. He’s so tough. I just love him. He’s everything we’re about as a program. He’s from Louisiana. He loves LSU and he loves it. There’s no doubt he was making those two free throws. He was supposed to miss the second one, but once Tennessee was going to call timeout we figured we might as well have him make it. He was going to miss the second one so they wouldn’t have enough time. Those things were going in. I love his hustle. I love his grit. He gets the job done. We only turned the ball over seven times today. That’s huge. To be able to value the ball and just make simple plays and only turn it over seven times was just tremendous.”

LSU Guard Skylar Mays

On approaching game knowing Tremont Waters would be out…
“Tremont leads most of our offense. He does a great job and we cannot wait to get him back. We definitely need to be a lot more aggressive and try to emulate what he does as much as possible.”

On competing without Waters in the game…
“Everybody contributed. Obviously, we are a better team when Tremont is on the floor, but with him not playing, everybody had to step up.”

On the crowd…
“You cannot beat it. We get so much energy from them. It would have been a much different game if we would have not had that type of crowd.”

On celebrating the win…
“I feel like we are really a part of something special. I feel like this year is starting to look like a turning point in LSU Basketball. Being a part of the downside of it and seeing the way this team is going, and the fact we have not even peaked yet is something I see as special. I am glad to keep on coming to work with these guys. Learning from Darius (Days), Javonte (Smart), Naz (Reid) and Tremont (Waters). I am just happy for the team.

LSU Guard Javonte Smart

On the performance…
“I just had a lot of fun. I just wanted to get that win under our belt and push forward.”

On the effort to go inside and score…
“We knew they were going to make some jumpers. We watched film on them and they make a lot of jumpers and mid-range shots. Me and Skylar said ‘stay aggressive and just get to the rack’.”

On waiting through the timeout to shoot free throws…
“Yesterday at practice we shot free throws. I did not miss a free throw in practice. So, I just said ‘practice makes perfect’ and I went up to the free-throw line with a lot of confidence.”

LSU Forward Darius Days

On competing without Waters in the game…
“The coaches trust us to do our job to the best of our ability.”

On celebrating with the students after the game…
“I felt like it was an unbelievable moment. They came to support us the whole game. They helped us win and they played a huge part in that win.”

LSU vs Tennessee Quotes
February 23, 2019

Tennessee Head Coach Rick Barnes

On facing LSU without Tremont Waters
“In some ways you can say it is tougher because you already talked about your game plan and what you want to do. I’ve seen situations with teams where you even play better when you lose a guy. It happened to us one year. ”

On the improvement of the LSU and the SEC as a league …
“They’re a very talented team. They have terrific talent on the floor. Our entire league has improved. When you go back start to finish from where I was sitting four years ago, this entire league has improved. Every coach in this league knows we have to continue to improve.”

On moving forward on the season…
“We have to understand from those situations that we’re going to be in close games from here on out. The way we execute down the stretch, not turning the ball over, staying within ourselves is what we need to do. We’ve got to guard the ball. There is not a question about that. We’ve got to be able to stay in front of the basketball and not let people get to the rim. We’ve got to get to the free-throw line more than we did tonight.”