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February 15, 2012

Hickey's shot beats Bulldogs

For almost 50 minutes against Mississippi State at the PMAC on Tuesday night, Anthony Hickey had scored a grand total of four points.

Then, he made a layup which appeared to give LSU an insurmountable four-point lead with 20 seconds remaining in overtime. Amazingly, the Tigers squandered that four-point advantage. That situation was perfect for Hickey.

After Brian Bryant missed the second of two foul shots with 11 seconds to go, Storm Warren snagged the rebound and handed the ball to Hickey. No one else touched the ball. Hickey capped the possession with a runner in the lane with one second left to give the Tigers a 69-67 victory against the Bulldogs.

"The shot clock was going down," Hickey said. "My big man (Justin Hamilton) set a pick. I saw there were five seconds left, so whatever happens happens. I floated it and the ball went in. Everybody was making big shots around me. I was struggling, but they told me to keep shooting."

There is no doubt that the victory was very most meaningful for this Tigers team. The players celebrated on the court following the final buzzer. Coach Trent Johnson definitely showed some emotion immediately after the game.

"I don't know how many lives we've got," Johnson said. "Our start was horrendous. There were not a lot of adjustments at halftime. There was just one immature basketball coach. Anthony has great courage. Guys like him are few and far between. He is not afraid to step up and make plays.

"It was Valentine's Day. That's why I was excited. The only thing that matters is that the guys in the locker room are happy. It was a good win, a big win because of how hard they worked."

It certainly appeared for most of the first half that LSU (15-10, 5-6) was not going to be close to pulling off a victory. With Dee Bost accounting for 13 points, Mississippi State (19-7, 6-5) moved ahead 30-13 with six minutes remaining in the opening half. Hickey was unable to keep up with Bost.

The Tigers reduced their deficit to seven points at 36-29 by the break when Ralston Turner knocked down a 3-pointer. Four reserves - Storm Warren, Chris Bass, Malcolm White and John Isaac - turned the momentum in LSU's favor.

"Our energy was awful at the start," Johnson said. "Chris Bass, John Isaac, Storm Warren and Malcolm White got us back in it. We turned it into a possession-by-possession game. We had some guys who went on their own in the first half. To their credit, they got it back together and regrouped."

The Tigers scored the first seven points of the second half to tie the score at 36. The Bulldogs answered with a 10-1 run to go back ahead by nine points. Renardo Sidney scored six of his 13 points in that stretch. But, LSU came right back and got even at 50 following two Turner free throws with 7:17 to go.

Each team only scored eight points the rest of the way in regulation. Two baskets by Warren gave the Tigers a 54-50 lead. However, two field goals by Bryant and one by Rodney Hood put the Bulldogs in front by two points at 56-54.

Two Hamilton free throws tied the score at 58 with 41 seconds remaining. LSU had the final chance in regulation, but Hamilton missed a 3-point shot.

After falling behind by three points in overtime, the Tigers took the lead on two free throws by Warren. Then, Hickey made a layup to put LSU ahead 67-63. But, a 3-pointer by Sidney and a bad pass on the ensuing inbounds play by Turner gave Mississippi State the opportunity to go ahead.

Bryant made just one free throw to tie the score. Warren's rebound of the second missed free throw set up Hickey's game-winner.

"One thing about this group is it has fight," said Warren, who had a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds in 21 minutes. "We are not going to quit until we get it done."

Four LSU players ended in double figures - one of whom not being Hickey, who had eight points. Turner, who was 6-of-13 from the field, led the Tigers with 17 points. He continues to take the ball to the basket more than he was doing earlier in the season.

"Ralston is making open shots," Johnson said. "He is more aggressive as he's trying to take the ball to the basket and get some easy looks."

Hamilton scored 14 points, but he was responsible for nine of LSU's final 15 points. Hamilton had the Tigers' first five points in overtime on a 3-pointer and a dunk. Of course, he could have won the game in regulation if he had made that 3-point attempt.

"Renardo Sidney was not coming up to guard me," Hamilton said. "I knew I would be open. Anthony and me played a two-man game. I was open. I just didn't knock it down. The next one in overtime I did make. I am pretty confident in the 3-pointer. I shoot them every day."

Andre Stringer had ten points, five assists and three steals. More importantly, he asked for the assignment of guarding Bost in the second half. Bost scored two points during the second half and overtime. Stringer played very tight defense and, at times, frustrated Bost.

"I've seen Dee a lot," said Stringer, who played his high school ball in Jackson, Miss. "I am familiar with his game. He doesn't like physicality. He does that little flopping thing. So, I played physical with him. Dee was pretty hot in the first half. I told coach (Johnson) I wanted to guard him and hold him down."

Outside of Warren, the other Tigers reserves didn't score a lot of points. White had four, while Isaac had two. Bass had three assists. But, there was no doubt that the tenacity from the LSU backups ignited the comeback.

LSU now has as many Southeastern Conference victories this season as the past two years combined. The Tigers' next game will be on the road against South Carolina on Saturday afternoon.


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