LSU Wins SEC First Round, 72-67; Advances to Face Vanderbilt
Shawn Phillips posted his first college double double with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
NASHVILLE, Tennessee — The LSU men’s basketball team just wasn’t going to let the script be the same as it had been multiple times late in the season against a league opponent in the first round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament against Georgia Wednesday night at Bridgestone Arena.
The Tigers scored the final five points of the game in the final 93 seconds after Georgia had tied the game to score a 72-67 win over the Bulldogs and advance LSU into a second-round game Thursday night against sixth-seed Vanderbilt.
LSU had played one of its best halves of the season in opening up a 42-30 halftime advantage despite having to play without starter Derek Fountain who tweaked in his right shoulder in practice prior to the team leaving for the tournament. His status is listed as day-to-day.
In the second half, however, Georgia began to work themselves back into the game as LSU struggled to make shots. Georgia would tie the game at 59-59 with 4:07 to play. LSU was able to respond with scores each time and had a 67-64 lead with 1:45 to play before Justin Hill of Georgia got an old-fashion three-point play to tie it for the last time at 67-67 with 1:33 to play.
LSU missed two shots but Shawn Phillips, seeing his first action since the Ole Miss game on Feb. 25 (and it was extensive) reached up and put the ball back in to give LSU a 69-67 lead.
On the ensuing Georgia possession, Braelen Bridges went in for a shot which Phillips rejected and Bridges’ attempt to put the back up resulted in a miss that went out of bounds to LSU with 49 seconds left.
LSU took its time, got the ball to KJ Williams who scored in the paint to make it 7-67 with 22 seconds left.
After an LSU timeout Bridges missed a shot and LSU rebounded and Trae Hannibal made one of two free throws with nine seconds to play to put the game on ice.
It marked the 33rd time in the history of the SEC Tournament that LSU won its first appearance in the event.
KJ Williams led LSU with 18 points, while Hannibal had a double double with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Phillips had a career night in 25 minutes scoring 13 points with 10 rebounds, six offensive.
Georgia was led by Bridges and Justin Hill with 13 points each, while Terry Roberts had 12 and Kario Oquendo and Jabri Abdur-Rahim had 10 each.
LSU shot 36.4 percent for the game (24-of-66) with four treys but 20-of-26 at the line (76.9%). The Tigers made 9-of-29 in the second half. Georgia finished 20-of-50 (40%) with six treys and 21-of-26 at the line (87.5%). LSU had 40 rebounds for the second straight game, out rebounding the Bulldogs, 40-35, including 18-8 on the offensive glass.
LSU turned the ball over just five times, a season low, and had a 9-6 advantage in points off turnovers and 25-4 in second chance points. LSU would lead for 33:50 in the game.
LSU defeated Vanderbilt in the regular season by a score of 84-77 on Feb. 22.
Thursday’s game will follow 25 minutes after the conclusion of the 6 p.m. game and will be broadcast on the affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network and televised on the SEC Network.
Postgame Press Conference
LSU 72, Georgia 67
THE MODERATOR: We’re ready to begin with LSU. We’ll begin and ask Coach McMahon for some general thoughts on the game, then questions for the two student-athletes, then continue with questions for Coach. Coach, would you begin.
MATT McMAHON: Thank you. Really proud of our players. Thankful for the opportunity to advance here in the SEC Tournament. It was a fun game, a great atmosphere. I was not expecting that many people here on opening night. I hope I’m never back for opening night, but that was a lot of fun. Really proud of the way our guys responded. As we all know, we’ve had some 10-, 12-point leads where we haven’t been able to sustain it and find a way to win. Georgia did a great job fighting to get back in the game
and tie it up. Had all the momentum. I thought our guys really responded well and found a way to win.
Just looking at the box score, things that really stand out to me, how do you overcome 36% shooting from the floor and 20% from three, 25 to four on the offensive glass, second-chance points was huge for us. Then just limiting our turnovers. 10 assists, one turnover in the half. Finished 13 to five. Proud of our guys and looking forward for tomorrow night.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll take questions for the two student-athletes.
Q. Trae, you guys were able to get an edge on the offensive glass. You had 11 total rebounds. What do
you think it is about this team that’s so good on the glass?
TRAE HANNIBAL: This is a tough team. We’ve been through a lot this year. We can’t go back and change it now. At the end of the day as long as guys go out there and do their job for the team, anything is possible. Tonight, I just played hard and did what I could for the win. Thankful.
Q. KJ, you told us about a week and a half ago you’ve been taking Shawn Phillips under your wing. What did you feed him today?
KJ WILLIAMS: Me and Shawn are roommates at the hotel. I told him to come out and play basketball, block out all the noise, come out and just play basketball. The outcome was the outcome. Came out with his first career double-double, 13-10. He just stayed the course on the offensive end, defensive end. He’s worked tremendously hard, and it came out with a good outcome today.
Q. You saw Vanderbilt a few weeks ago, see them again tomorrow. What did you make of them then and now?
TRAE HANNIBAL: Vanderbilt is a tough team. They’re well-coached. They really play hard.
Like tonight’s game is over with, we have to put it behind us. Our main focus now is on Vanderbilt. Going out there for 40 more minutes, give it our all, stick to the game plan.
KJ WILLIAMS: Like he said, we got to lock in on our principles. They came out and gave us a great game. But we came out with the win. We got to come out again, just come out and just play hard.
Q. Trae, you looked like you came out tonight and wanted to attack right from the start. What was the
plan going in? Take it right in the middle to them?
TRAE HANNIBAL: Yes, sir. Like I said, going out there and doing what I can to help this team win, being as
aggressive as I can and attacking the rim at all times. This team, we have a lot of great shooters. Can always space it out. Getting downhill is my main trait, and I think I did that pretty well, so…
THE MODERATOR: We’ll excuse the student-athletes and continue with Coach McMahon.
Q. You said Monday the big thing would be turnovers. Do you think that was the big key in the game?
MATT McMAHON: I think it was a huge part of it. I mean, you look at so many games, all right, just last week, for example, I mean, our two opponents outscored us 33 to 6 on points off turnovers. It’s impossible to win when you’re giving away that many points. I thought that was important. We really executed well offensively in the second half. Excuse me, got to flip that, in the first half (smiling). The ball moved. I thought we were able to really do a good job attacking. Our ball screen attack there with 10 assists, only one turnover, enabled us to build the lead. Second half, Georgia changed their coverages up. We didn’t attack as well. Of course, we turned it over the first two possessions for a good laugh there (smiling). Overall, 13 assists, five turnovers. Also, you have to look at the offensive rebounding. We
turned our 18 offensive rebounds into 25 points. It’s not just that we got the offensive rebounds, it’s that we were efficient in converting those into points, which has not always been the case for us this year.
Q. Really big sequence when Shawn got the dunk on the put-back, and then he blocked the shot when it
looked like the guy, Bridges, was going to get an easy shot. How big was that for a young guy like him?
MATT McMAHON: I thought he made huge plays that really impacted winning, not just those plays you
mentioned, but going to the line, up by one, I believe, at the time. He knocked down both free throws in a clutch situation there. Bridges is such an effective scorer there in the post. I thought he was really solid on the defensive end of the floor. Overall, just was a great screener for us offensively. I thought he did a lot of things well that enabled us to win the game.
Q. Derek Fountain, is he going to be available? Also, what did you tell Shawn?
MATT McMAHON: We sure hope so. It’s a day-to-day injury suffered in practice earlier this week to his right shoulder. Hope to have him back tomorrow night, but not counting on it. We’ll see how he responds to treatment. I think Shawn just knew there was a great opportunity for
him to step forward there. Derek has been one of our most efficient and consistent players all year. We were going to need someone to step up, and Shawn came through huge for us.
I thought KJ made big plays when the money was on the line there late in the game. Made clutch free throws. That was my final key to the game, the free-throw line. I thought we all know Texas A&M leads America getting to the line. Well, Georgia is number two in our league. Us being able to stay with them and match them at the free-throw line I thought was really important tonight.
Q. Heading into tomorrow, what are your thoughts on Vanderbilt, what Jerry Stackhouse has done with that program this year?
MATT McMAHON: He’s a big-time coach. We’ll have to really turn the page quickly here and start our preparation. I think offensively they execute at a high, high level, as well as anyone in the country. The other thing we obviously have to factor in is when we played them last time a few weeks ago, Robbins was still available. Had a monster game. I think one blocked shot, a triple-double. With him out, I know they’ve continued to have great success and win a lot of games. But we have to spend a lot of time tonight, figure out how they’re playing different and what we need to prepare for to give ourselves an opportunity tomorrow night.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.