GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands – An apparently slow start by the clock operator at John Gray Gymnasium in the final 4.7 seconds potentially cost LSU a chance to tie and force overtime, giving Kansas State a 61-59 victory over the Tigers in the championship game of the Cayman Islands Classic.
The finish marred an entertaining battle between SEC and Big 12 teams before an overflow crowd of some 2,400 at the first Cayman Islands Classic final in three years.
Neither team led by more than three in the final eight minutes of the game and Kansas State had taken a 61-59 lead right at the end of the shot clock (which was reviewed) with 4.7 seconds to play.
After that basket was reviewed and counted, the teams then proceeded to each take their final two timeouts before play resumed with LSU having to go the length of the floor in 4.7 seconds.
This is when hand on clock switch didn’t work as it should have apparently.
Jalen Reed was out of bounds for the throw in and threw the ball across the out-of-bounds area to Trae Hannibal who had also moved out-of-bounds on the baseline. Hannibal then tossed it in bounds back to Reed. He dribbled once with the clock not running and then it started as his second dribble was hitting the floor.
He passed the ball back to Hannibal at the top of the key and he drove pass his defender and with time apparently remaining, laid the ball in with the clock going from .02 to .01. The horn sounded and it appeared the game was going to overtime as LSU celebrated.
While officials Jeff Anderson, John Higgins and Doug Shows went to the monitor to check on the bucket being good, it was discovered by the officials that there was a clock error. The officials brought out a stopwatch and timed the play and based on the video evidence the play was ruled to have taken longer than the 4.7 seconds that was on the clock when play resumed.
Unofficial timed video replays by other media after the game put the clip at just over five seconds. Unlike in the Southeastern Conference and most major venues, there is no system that is used where the officials can start and stop the clock. It is a table clock operator handling all that manually.
The officials brought the two coaches together explained the situation and took the LSU points off the board, sending the K-State fans into jubilation.
“It’s disappointing,” Coach Matt McMahon said afterwards. “I will have to look at the film and see. I have never been a part of a game ending that way. It looked like our guys had executed it well and made the play, so I’ll have to see when the clock did start. I guess that is the way the rule is written. Just a disappointing end to that game.”
The loss dropped LSU to 5-1 on the season and kept K-State undefeated at 6-0.
KJ Williams had his 29th career double double scoring 17 points and 10 rebounds with Justice Hill getting 12 and Adam Miller. Both Williams and Miller were named to the 10-person all-tournament team representing LSU.
The Tigers again played a tremendous half of basketball to open the game, building a 41-33 halftime advantage. LSU led by as much as 12 in the opening stanza, breaking an 8-8 tie to go up 15-8 and eventually a 23-11 run that put LSU up, 31-19, with 5:35 to go. Only a three-pointer at the halftime buzzer by Markquis Nowell kept the margin below double digits.
LSU in the first half had just three turnovers, shot 47.1 percent (16-of-34) with five treys but was 4-of-10 at the free throw line. Kansas State shot 50 percent in the first half (10-of-2) but also turned the ball over 11 times resulting in 11 LSU points. The Tigers, turned it over only three times.
But in the final 20 minutes the Tigers had just two assists and 14 turnovers as neither offense really got going again as both teams shot in the high 30 percent range and combined to make just 2-of-15 from the three-point arc.
Kansas State got 14 points off the LSU second half turnovers.
LSU was held to just 18 points as only Williams and Reed were able to score more than two points, with each totaling four.
“It’s a tough way to lose,” Coach McMahon said. “Can’t fault our players for their great effort on the floor. I wish I could have done a better job to get them in better positions to be more effective offensively in the second half. We turned it over 14 times and some of those turnovers led to points. We shot 50 percent from the free throw line. Just disappointing. Couldn’t score enough points in the second half to win.”
The Tigers will now return to Baton Rouge and will play Wofford at the Maravich Center on Sunday at 2 p.m.
“It was a crushing loss, but I told the team after the game ‘The last time a team went undefeated in college basketball was 50 years go’, so a lot of it is how do we respond to the losses. As disappointing as it is, we have to move forward,” the first-year Tiger mentor said. “We get to go home and celebrate Thanksgiving and then get ready to play again on Sunday.”
Nowell, who was named the tournament MVP, led K-State with 18 points, while both Keyontae Johnson and Desi Sills each scored 16 for the Wildcats.
Rebounds in the contest were even at 30 as were points in the paint at 28. LSU had a 9-1 advantage in second chance points, but Kansas State had a 10-3 lead in fast break points, including a few points on transition buckets when K-State was rallying to even the game.
In all there were eight lead changes and four ties in a game LSU led for 30:45.