LSU’s first victory in Tuscaloosa, Ala., since 2004 was a mighty important one.
The Tigers were projected to make the NCAA Tournament in the preseason, but their postseason hopes have taken a few shots thanks to a couple of ugly losses. A loss to 10-7 Alabama, even on the road, could have been the loss that forced LSU to put its dancing shoes away. The Tigers played with an extra sense of urgency and eked out a 72-70 win over the Crimson Tide at Coleman Coliseum.
Resiliency has been the formula for LSU and Saturday’s effort was no different. The Tigers trailed at halftime for the sixth time in seven SEC contests, and Saturday’s win marked their fourth win after trailing at half.
The Tigers didn’t pull ahead until Tim Quarterman buried a pair of free throws with 1:15 remaining. But that lead was short-lived, as Alabama’s Retin Obasohan made a free throw to tie the game at 70 apiece 13 seconds later. With 32 seconds left, Quarterman pulled down his own missed shot and sank the putback attempt to put LSU up for good.
“At the end of the game, I was just going to try to get stops for my team and make big plays,” Quarterman said, according to the Associated Press. “It doesn’t matter who starts, it’s who finishes. And we got the win.”
The Tigers used their depth to finish off the Tide with five players scoring in double figures. Freshman stud Ben Simmons led LSU with 23 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Veteran guards Quarterman and Keith Hornsby, freshman guard Antonio Blakeney and Arizona transfer Craig Victor give LSU plenty of depth to be a tournament team.
LSU still has plenty of life at 12-7 overall and 5-2 in the SEC. At the very least, LSU will be tied for second in the conference standings at the end of the day.
The Tigers escaped a major trap in Tuscaloosa, but they have plenty of business to take care of if they want to improve their NCAA Tournament chances. If they can keep finishing off games, despite sluggish starts, they could be headed to the big dance.
“I thought our guys did a great job of finishing down the stretch against a very tough team, making baskets and having to get two big-time defensive stops and rebounds there at the end,” LSU coach Johnny Jones said, according to the AP. “Great bounce-back game for us.”