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January 17, 2012

LSU wins in overtime

The feeling was not the best for LSU near the end of its game against Auburn on Tuesday night.

LSU, which rallied from an eight-point deficit in the second half, had an opportunity to make it a two-possession game with 21 seconds remaining in overtime. However, Anthony Hickey made just one of two foul shots.

Given an opening, Auburn took advantage as Varez Ward forced overtime by making a 3-point with less than one second remaining.

Fortunately for LSU, Justin Hamilton and Andre Stringer came up big in the extra period. Two baskets by Hamilton and a 3-pointer by Stringer lifted LSU to a 65-58 victory against Auburn at the PMAC.

"For whatever reason, we lost our confidence periodically throughout the game," LSU coach Trent Johnson said. "Then, when we got into overtime, we did a pretty good job of keeping our poise and trying to play through once we got ourselves together."

The key LSU points in overtime came from two players who had done very little on the offensive end. Hamilton, who had nine first-half points, took just one shot in the second half and missed it. Stringer was 0-for-6 before making his 3-pointer in overtime.

Neither team scored for almost two minutes into the extra period. A jumper by Hamilton gave LSU (12-6, 2-2) a 58-56 lead with 3:12 remaining. It was almost another two minutes before someone made another shot. This time, it was Stringer who knocked down his 3-pointer with 1:22 to play.

After an Auburn basket by Rob Chubb, Justin Hamilton made a layup to give LSU another five-point advantage. Hickey completed the scoring with two foul shots in the final seconds.

"Chris Bass made a huge play in finding Justin (on the layup)," Johnson said. "Dre, who has been struggling from the perimeter like a lot of our guys, then had a big three from the baseline corner. Any win you can get during league play is really a good one. We'll take it and not give it back."

Hamilton was outplayed in the post by Chubb. Hamilton ended with 13 points on 6-of-11 field goal shooting and eight rebounds. He committed four of LSU's ten turnovers. The 6-foot-10 Chubb had a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds. Chubb did commit five turnovers.

"Coach Johnson reminded us the last time we were in overtime we had a dead spot in there against South Alabama," Hamilton said. "They beat us so we wanted to come out in this overtime and make sure we had a spark. I was just trying to give a spark to the team."

The one LSU player who provided that much needed spark throughout the game was Hickey, who scored a team-high 18 points. Hickey also had six assists and just one turnover in 39 minutes. He matched his season-high in rebounds with seven.

It was Hickey who led LSU's comeback from a 46-38 deficit in the last 11½ minutes of regulation. Hickey scored nine of LSU's last 16 points in that stretch. His basket off a goal-tending by Kenny Gabriel gave LSU a 50-48 lead. His 3-pointer put LSU in front 53-50. Then, his driving layup gave LSU a 55-53 lead.

"The ball was bouncing their way a little bit in the second half," Hickey said. "The first thing that kept going through my mind in overtime was that I should have made that free throw. Overtime came and our team pulled it off."

LSU built an 11-point lead in the first half. Thanks to a 70-foot shot at the halftime buzzer by Frankie Sullivan, Auburn (11-7, 1-3) trailed 34-27.

Then, Auburn scored the first 11 points of the second half to move in front 38-34. LSU didn't score until Ralston Turner made a short jumper almost six minutes into the second half.

"Auburn came out and played hard," Storm Warren said. "One thing we had to do was stay together as a team, stay in control and just play our defense."

LSU shot the ball better than in recent games as it made 44 percent of its field goal attempts. Hickey was 6-of-12 from the field, including 2-of-5 on 3-pointers. Turner, who made two 3-pointers in the first four minutes of the game, ended with 11 points in 25 minutes. He was 4-of-9 from the field.

"I have been saying all along that I really have taken the same approach to the game," said Turner, who sat out a few minutes after getting a cut over his right eye. "I shot the same shots. I did not try to force anything. The difference was that tonight they were just falling."

Hickey and Stringer were not in the starting lineup because they were late for a video session. Bass and John Isaac replaced them in the lineup. Both Hickey and Stringer entered the game at the first media timeout.

Bass had three assists and no turnovers in 13 minutes. Isaac had four points, two rebounds and two assists in 19 minutes. Stringer had a rough night outside of his clutch 3-pointer. In 33 minutes, Stringer had two assists and three turnovers. He did a good job holding Sullivan to six points after halftime.

Warren had a productive game with ten points, seven rebounds, two blocked shots and two steals in 34 minutes. Warren was 4-of-9 from the field. Malcolm White played just seven minutes and had four points. Jalen Courtney made one basket in 11 minutes.

A challenging week-and-a-half now faces LSU whose next three games are against the Southeastern Conference's only ranked teams - Florida, Mississippi State and Kentucky. First up for LSU will be a game in Gainesville on Saturday evening.

"Considering the fact that we were at home, this was a good win," Johnson said. "The players didn't need to listen to everybody else who was saying that (a loss) was going to put us on a slide. But, I think that talk bothered them. The fact they fought through that was a positive."



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