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|Mitchell's 3-pointer hands LSU SEC title at Kentucky|
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Tasmin Mitchell scored 21 -- including the game-winning 3-pointer with 9.8 seconds remaining -- to lead No. 18 LSU to a 73-70 victory over Kentucky on Saturday and give the Tigers the Southeastern Conference regular season title.
Marcus Thornton led LSU with 23 points and nine rebounds and Bo Spencer added 16 points as the Tigers (25-4, 13-1) overcame a 10-point second half deficit to win at Rupp Arena for the first time in 20 years.
Patrick Patterson had 28 points and nine rebounds and Jodie Meeks scored 24 points for Kentucky (19-10, 8-6), but the SEC's leading scorer badly missed a 3-pointer with 2.5 seconds to go as the Wildcats lost their second straight.
Thornton secured the inbounds pass following Meeks' miss and ran out the clock, throwing the ball in the air as the buzzer sounded as the Tigers celebrated.
Playing with a weakened center in Chris Johnson who was suffering with the flu and only able to go 14 minutes, the Tigers survived a quick 8-3 start to tie the game at 8-8 and take a 12-8 lead seven minutes deep into the game.
Both defenses were all over the league's top two scorers, Meeks and Thornton, in the opening half and neither was able to get off to much of a start. Garrett Temple was showing his defensive ability against Meeks, aided at times by Terry Martin and even Thornton. But Thornton was being held in check by the Kentucky defense as well as at the half, Meeks had just nine points and Thornton four.
But for LSU Mitchell was hitting early, hitting 6-of-9 field goal attempts and point-guard Bo Spencer was hitting three long-distance Thornton-like threes to help LSU keep control of the first half, opening up as much as a 24-12 advantage before going to the dressing room at the half to the disgust of the crowd of over 24,000, 38-26.
Kentucky came out in the second half, dumping the ball down low to Patterson and that allowed Kentucky to eventually tie the game at 40-40 at the 15:12 mark. That then allowed Meeks some freedom to get loose and while Thornton was trying to keep pace as Kentucky tried to move its defense pressure over to Mitchell, Kentucky got a run going and with Meeks, Patterson, Darius Miller and Perry Stevenson scoring, the Wildcats were up twice by 10 at 54-44 and then 56-46 on a Patterson dunk at the 9:51 mark.
But Thornton took over getting a trey and assisting a Terry Martin layup to cut it to five, 56-51. After a Meeks bucket, a bucket and foul by Thornton cut the game to four at 58-54 and after a Kentucky miss, Thornton scored again to make it 58-56 at the 7:38 mark. LSU held its ground, getting the lead back briefly at the 2:20 mark, 63-62, on a layup by Spencer.
Meeks made two free throws to put Kentucky up 64-63 18 seconds later before Mitchell missed a jumper, but Thornton went over the big guys and threw the ball back up and in to give LSU a 65-64 advantage at the 1:49 mark. With an ensuring free throw the LSU lead was two. Patterson would tie the game at 66 with a layup but Spencer nailed his fourth three from deep to give LSU a 69-66 lead with 1:19 to play and Thornton again had the assist.
Meeks, who was 1-of-9 from the arc, missed a three and LSU fouled Thornton who made one free throw for a 70-66 lead with 42 seconds left. On the defensive end, Kevin Galloway was fouled and made one free throw, but Patterson got the rebound and passed it out to Miller who hit a three to tie the game at 70-70 with 27 seconds left.
That set the scene for the final possession when Mitchell popped open up top for the game winner.
LSU plays Vanderbilt in the final home game as LSU tries to go for the third perfect home record in league play in the last five years. Game time is 7 p.m. with the senior night ceremony honoring LSU's five seniors set for 6:45 p.m. Tickets are available online at LSUsports.net.
LSU Head Coach Trent Johnson
On the game ...
"It was a hard fought win for us. I think we played really well. When we were down 10, I thought we were trying to do too much individually. We really needed to get back to our offense as a team and we did that. That is what happens when you have a group of guys that wants to win very badly. Chris Johnson is typical of this team, he was ready to play before the game. He wanted to play so badly and he was excited about the match-up against Patrick Patterson. Bo Spencer had a great game and he really stepped up in a huge way. We got some big minutes from some guys who haven't got a lot of minutes. Storm Warren got two huge blocks. Our guys worked extremely hard and they are a great group of guys to coach but with all that being said our guys continue to get better."
On Marcus Thorton and Tasmin Mitchell ...
"I think as a coach, I have to let those guys go out there and just play. There were times they tried to force the ball but this afternoon those guys just played smart basketball. We have gotten so much better defensively. I have said all year long that we have a much better chance at competing when we take care of the ball."
On the offensive plan ...
"Kentucky is long, athletic and strong and I don't think we had the advantage there. We decided to set a lot of screens so we could try to go around Kentucky. We really wanted to give Mitchell and Thornton room to go out there and make plays. We wanted to get Mitchell off the dribble and allow Tasmin to pop outside and get Kentucky to get two or three guys covering just those two so they could find the open man. It is easier said than done when you have good players."
On the experience of this team ...
"I think the experience of this team has been very important. We have to give a lot of credit to guys like Marcus Thorton, Bo Spencer and Chris Johnson because he gives us a lot of meaningful minutes. Guys on this team have been in some of these situations before so you have to give them credit for knowing what to do in these type situations. But also we got some guys who have never been in this situation and this is their first time in Rupp Arena. I told the new guys to not be timid and to continue to be aggressive."
# 1 Tasmin Mitchell
On them coming back from down ten ...
"We were not going to give up. Even when we were down ten we kept playing hard. We never stopped playing hard. We have been in that situation before. We came back and started to push one another even harder. It was a tough environment to play in but we kept playing hard."
On getting off to a big lead ...
"We just played within our game plan. It was a loud environment at first, but we kept playing hard. We knew we were going to have to play hard and we never quit."
#5 Marcus Thornton
On his big game ...
"Around the five or six minute mark, Coach (Johnson) had faith to put the ball in my hand. I will give credit to my teammates for having confidence in me and getting me open looks. My teammates trusted me with the ball and I knocked down shots."
On Kentucky's defense ...
"They have guys that can defend you that are 6-foot-7 and 6-foot-8. I really got in a grove though and it didn't matter if they were 7-foot tall, I was going to make the shot."
On getting a historic win in Rupp Arena ...
"I think I heard somewhere that if we won, it would have been the first time since 1989 that LSU had won in here. It feels great to go down in history by getting this big win in Rupp. It was an intense environment tonight and a great win for us."
#14 Garrett Temple
On Meeks' last shot ...
"We knew that they were going to put the ball in his hands. I told the guys to hedge and not to worry about the slip. We had slipped sometimes in the game but we didn't need to that time. When he went up for the shot, I knew that we didn't need to foul. We were trying to get him to take a tough shot. That is why I didn't go up for the block at the end because it was such a tough shot."
On their success under first-year head coach Trent Johnson ...
"Last year, Kentucky got off to a slow start under their new head coach and we didn't want that to happen to us. We knew that we were going to have guys that were experienced get a lot of playing time. We tried to mesh together really well early in the season and it has paid off for us. We have bought into Coach's (Johnson) system and know that he knows how to win. It has really helped us be successful."
Kentucky Head Coach Billy Gillispie
On today's game against LSU ...
"It was a game where they were tougher than us and smarter than us. That is why they won."
On the last shots of the game ...
"We wanted to get the shot Jodie Meeks got. On the defensive end we were supposed to switch and we didn't."
On Kevin Galloway...
"He played good but I think it was an entire group of guys that played in the second half. He put some pressure on the point guard like we like to do. We started disrupting them and got a big lead but then we relaxed too much. We aren't mature enough to be a team that stays composed. We didn't play smart enough. When we had a lead it was similar to the South Carolina (game). I made a critical substitution during that 10-point lead, which ended up being the wrong guy. That's what got us in the position we were in, in the first place and it got us in the end. That was a mistake by me."
On Marcus Thornton ...
"We let him catch the ball too easily in the corner. You can't do that. He's a really good player. He beat us off the drive. We gave him an easy flex cut. We didn't play as smart as we needed to defensively. We played a hard game against a good team."
On the advantage of LSU's experience ...
"That was one of the things I admired about their team going into the game. They play consistently at the start of the game, in the middle and at the end. They play smart on both ends of the court. We make too many mistakes in critical parts of the game to win close games. You have to listen and carry out your assignments in order to win."
On using Patrick Patterson efficiently ...
"When we really needed to have the kind of composure it takes to beat good teams in close games in a possession type game we take poor shots. We forget about Patrick being down low. We had a great opportunity out of a timeout and we threw the ball away. Missing free throws kills you in close games. We are too immature to understand that each possession counts so much no matter what the score is. It shouldn't be happening at this time of the season. But all that being said, it's still my fault for the incorrect substitution."
On Jodie Meeks ...
"He did a good job. He's having a hard job finishing plays in the lane. He's not trying to make the basket, he's trying to force the foul too much. He has to get back to trying to put the ball in the basket and if it gets blocked, it gets blocked. He's working hard out there. He's having to guard good players on the defensive end. LSU is a great defensive team. It's arguable that both our teams are the best defensive teams in the league. They were better than us today when it counted the most."
On using Jodie Meeks efficiently ...
"If you're the shooter you should be the best screener on the team. It will either force a play or get your team a basket. Sometimes we understand that and sometimes we don't. I think Jodie (Meeks) has been good at it all year long, but we haven't been able to complete passes. I think we are getting better at understanding open players and delivering the ball on time and target. (Jodie) is understanding better and we are understanding how to use him better. We are delivering the ball better from the lane too."
On Ramon Harris ...
"I didn't know what was up with him. I took him out before anyone told me he was hurting. I didn't know if it was a respiratory problem but he looked like he was having difficulty breathing. I found out later his shoulder had been knocked back. He became available. He never wanted to be out of the game. I should have played him more."
#54, Patrick Patterson
On what happened down the stretch ...
"I think that it was a lack of communication. We had a run and got up by 10 points or so. AJ played some tremendous defense today. Tasmin Mitchell came in and just took over the game. It was a lack of effort on our part, we didn't rebound down the stretch. It was a lack of communication on the last play, coach drew up a defense for our man to switch and they both went with Thornton and left Mitchell wide open. Coach then designed a great play to get Jodie wide open and it must have just slipped out of his hands or something. We had our chances down the stretch but we didn't execute."
On what is the difference between last year's team pulling out the close game and this year's team ...
"I don't really know, last year we had Joe and Ramel, and last year in key situations we were always look for those two. This year we have Jodie and I but I don't think that we are doing as god of a job that they did as seniors last year. It's probably an experience issue. Ramel also wanted the ball in his hands and was able to pull things out down the stretch. Jodie and I haven't been able to close it out like we were able to last year."
#1, Darius Miller
On what he thought when he hit the three late to tie the game ...
"I really didn't have time to think about it. We had to get back down the floor and play defense. As you could see, the game wasn't over after that. They came back and knocked down a big shot so we didn't have time to think about it."
On what happened down the stretch ...
"We just didn't communicate very well. We had some problems switching and stuff like that. We just have to communicate better."
On how disappointing this game was ...
"It is pretty disappointing. LSU is a great team and we had them on the ropes at home and it would have been a great win for us. We just didn't take advantage. We have to work out a few things this week. We need to come in with the right mind set and be focused to not have any more let downs. We have to come with intensity every single time and listen to what coach is saying and get better."
#23 Jodie Meeks
On Kentucky's performance...
"I think we played hard defensively and got some stops that got us back into the game. We really executed on offense. I thought everyone put forth their best effort."
On making a comeback in the second half...
"I thought the people that were in there when we made the comeback did an excellent job of fighting back. They executed on both ends of the court, but for whatever reason we came up short."
On if the last shot at the end of the game was a good look...
"We were trying to look for that or someone coming through a split screen. I thought I had a decent look, but not a great look. I just didn't knock it down."
#3 Kevin Galloway
On the difficulty of switching players after a screen...
"It was pretty tough. I knew there was a lot of time left, so I didn't want (LSU) to waste time. I figured if they hit a shot, I would at least have a chance to get another shot off. So I tried to get in and pressure him a bit to try to get him to go a little earlier than he wanted to, and try to get the five-second call. I remember he bumped me. After that I tried to charge back and get as close as I could. It's really difficult because you get caught in emotion. I honestly didn't feel the screen."
On his defense and coming off screens...
"You want to go as hard as you can, and when you feel the screen, roll off it. It's tough with the crowd yelling and not being able to hear the switch being called."
On playing the point position...
"I was pretty comfortable. They (LSU) wasn't really pressuring that much. I was just trying to get the ball inside to (Patrick) Patterson and let him go to work."
(Report courtesy of lsusports.net)