Basketball Bounces Back to Beat Auburn, 87-80

LSU's Johnny O'Bryant III
LSU's Johnny O'Bryant III
Steve Franz
Kent Lowe (@LSUkent)
Kent Lowe (@LSUkent)
Communications Sr. Associate

BATON ROUGE – LSU posted 55 second-half points, with five treys and 26 free throws in the second half to rally from a point down at halftime to score an 87-80 win over Auburn Saturday afternoon at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

The Tigers are now 15-7 on the season, 6-4 in the Southeastern Conference, while Auburn is now 11-10 and 3-7 in the league. LSU is now 5-1 in the league at home, winners of five straight in the building.

Five LSU players scored in double figures with Johnny O'Bryant III and Jordan Mickey both posting double doubles on the afternoon. JOB III had his fifth of the year with 19 points and 10 rebounds, while Mickey had his seventh double up of the year with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Andre Stringer off the bench made 10-of-12 free throws and finished with 18 points and seven assists while Anthony Hickey had 17 points with five treys. Jarell Martin made it three straight double figure games for the second time this year with 11 points.

Auburn was paced by Chris Denson who had 19 first half points, but was held to 10 in the second half to finish with 29 points. KT Harrell had 19 and Tahj Shamsid-Deen had 16.

LSU shot 45.6 percent for the game (26-of-57), including 8-of-21 from the arc (5-of-10 in the second half). Ole Miss finished the game at 40.3 percent (29-of-72) after shooting just 35 percent in the second half. Auburn was 6-of-23 (26.1%) from the arc.

After the teams combined to shoot two free throws in the first half, there were 59 free throws in the final 20 minutes with LSU making 26-of-36 (72.2%) in the half and Auburn 16-of-23 (69.6%).

Auburn won the battle in the paint, 42-26, and in points off turnovers, 22-11.

The first half started out good for Auburn as Denson and Harrell combined to get the visiting Tigers off to a 6-1 advantage. Martin got the first of his points on a dunk but then Harrell hit a trey and Denson got a dunk and the Auburn margin was 11-3.

LSU would eventually get his offense in gear, down 15-10, when Martin would hit a jumper followed by a Mickey layup. Martin and O’Bryant III would hit back-to-back layups to give the Tigers an 18-15 advantage completing an 8-0 run for LSU.

But the teams traded buckets with LSU up 22-19 before Denson had a layup and Auburn had back-to-back treys to make it 27-22 with 4 minutes left. Auburn continued to take advantage of LSU misses and get a couple of run outs to go up 31-27 before Hickey hit his second trey to cut the Auburn lead to 31-30 with 1:18 to play.

Auburn then turned the ball over and Stringer went coast-to-coast to give LSU a 32-31 advantage. But Denson, who had 19 first half points drove the lane and laid it up to give Auburn back a 33-32 lead. On its final possession of the half, Stringer missed a three for the halftime margin of one to the visitor.

The LSU Tigers came out to start the second half after an Auburn miss, LSU connected on a Hickey three to make it 35-33 LSU. But Auburn countered with a bucket, an LSU turnover and a bucket and foul to put Auburn back up three, 38-35, with 18:50 remaining in the game.  But JOB III countered with a bucket and a free throw to tie the game for the second time at 38-38.

Auburn missed two shots and Mickey got a bucket to give LSU the lead, 40-38. After an Auburn turnover, JOB III found Hickey for his fourth trey of the game and LSU was up five, 43-38. Two free throws extended the LSU lead to 45-38 at the 15:54 mark.

Denson, who had 19 points in the first half, did not have any points for Auburn in the first five minutes of the second half.

LSU continued to keep Auburn at bay, getting the seven point lead back at 55-48 with 11:32 to go, but Denison got his first points of the half on Auburn’s next possession before two JOB III free throws boosted LSU back up 57-50 at the 10:55 mark. After an Auburn miss, an LSU free throw made it 58-50, LSU’s biggest lead that extended to 11 when Stringer hit a three to force an Auburn time out at the 10:11 mark with LSU up, 61-50.

LSU had gotten in the double bonus 10 minutes into the second half and had 18 free throw attempts in the first 12 minutes of the half, getting as much as a 14-point lead in the final four minutes.

The game turned into a battle of the free throw line but the Tigers were able to get key buckets down the stretch to stop an Auburn comeback from getting any closer than five points in the final minutes.

Malik Morgan injured his right leg late in the contest and Coach Johnny Jones said in his post-game press conference that he would be reevaluated at the start of the week.

LSU will be no worse than a two or three-way tie for fourth at the end of the evening heading to a week on the road beginning Wednesday at Texas A&M and then next Saturday at Arkansas. LSU doesn’t play again in the Maravich Center until Wednesday, February 19, against Mississippi State.

Follow LSU Basketball on Facebook at and on Twitter @LSUBasketball.



Opening Statement…
“We knew coming in tonight it was going to be a hard-fought battle. This team started off the season in conference play 0-6 but is a team that’s really been playing well as of late. They’ve actually played well in some of their setbacks. They lost some games by two and three points in conference play and battled Florida in a hard-fought battle. Knowing about the challenge and coming off of a quick turnaround, I knew that our guys certainly had to be focused to battle with them today. They have high-scoring guards. We saw that and they did not do anything to disappoint. They made big plays again today. I was really pleased with our guys coming out in the second half executing well, defending better, rebounding the basketball and then being able to close out the game at the free-throw line. The way that gutsy Auburn team played, they never went away and continued to battle.”

On Anthony Hickey’s scoring ability…
“We know that he is a very capable shooter. At times, teams are going to try to pick and choose and play percentages. They feel if they play Johnny (O’Bryant III) down there one-on-one, 75 to 80 percent of the time he’s going to make a positive play for us. If they go down and double (team), they certainly have to choose who they will double off of. Sometimes, that is Hickey, and he certainly has the ability to make them pay with the long ball or penetrate and shoot floaters.”

On switching the defensive strategy…
“They did a great job of controlling the tempo early. They were executing their offense pretty good in the first half and we struggled. I thought if we went man-to-man, we were going to make them play over (our) length. We would have an opportunity to guard them, get into them, mix it up and take them out of their rhythm. Once we did that, we felt like we were playing better. We only allowed them to shoot about 35 percent in the second half. We mixed it up a little bit. We played a little bit of zone, not as much, but I think man-to-man was our more consistent defense. We benefitted from it in the second half.”

On the capability to make big shots and execute the offense …
“Big shots were made by both of those guys (Andre Stringer and Anthony Hickey). They’re very capable. Andre (Stringer) comes off the bench and plays big for us, in terms of his numbers, knocking down shots. His field-goal percentage is high. I think he was shooting over 50 percent in league play from the three-point line. The defenses know that. They don’t want to allow us to get the ball inside, and when we do they send a double. With Jordan’s (Mickey) ability to dive, catch and finish at the rim, they try to take him away. So, we have some opportunities to pass it out of the double team and our guys have done a good job of executing those plays when they catch it.”

On Auburn’s excellent pair of guards …
“Well, I’ll tell you that you have to watch those guys. They’re extremely quick. With Denson, that’s how he scores. He’s excellent. He uses his left hand to find driving lanes. They’ve done a great job of making sure that they strip the weak-side help, and it’s tough to get to the rim, in terms of blocking shots. He’s averaging about 10 free throws a game. It’s because he’s capable of getting to the rim and finishing. If not finishing, he’s drawing fouls. He had 19 at the half. We did a great job for the most part in the second half of trying to contain him. That’s one of the reasons why we went man and wanted to stay in front of him. At the same time, he still got a way in and scored 10 more points there after the half. They’ve got a good scoring team. I think those guys are second and third in the league in terms of scoring. They get their opportunities. They run their offense, and they’re patient and execute it.”

On Jarell Martin’s play …
“I think what’s good about Jarell is that he takes what they give him. He has the ability to shoot the three. He can find driving lanes and get to the basket as well and draw fouls. We love it that he’s capable of mixing it up. That’s a 6’8.5”-6’9” player out there that can play on the perimeter. With the strength, size and quickness that he has, a lot of times it’s a match-up problem. I think he did a great job of making decisions tonight.”

On Malik Morgan’s injury …
“He’s not doing good, unfortunately. They’re going to have to reevaluate him and take another look. It’s his knee. I think it got out from under him tonight. We’ll talk with the doctors here a little bit farther and kind of see where he is, but it doesn’t look good.”


F Johnny O'Bryant III

On offensive production in the first half…
"They came out in a zone. I had a tough first half, a lot of turnovers. Coach told me I was taking a second dribble and wasn’t going quick enough. It was very tough for me to get in a rhythm offensively. As a team we handled it well and just kept pushing

On the message at halftime…
"We just had to stop their fast break. Almost all of (Chris) Denson points came from just attacking the rim, same with (KT) Harrell.  They were just attacking us off the dribble and we definitely had to contain that. The past two games we have been beat off the dribble some.  Our guards are definitely fast enough to contain people and all of us have to do a better job of that.

On getting back on track at home…
“We needed this one. We went down to Georgia and dropped one.  It was big for us to come back home and get a win tonight. We have to go on a road against a tough Texas A&M team and try to get another victory Wednesday. Every game at this point is going to be tough.

On winning in different ways…
“We are a great team when everyone is clicking. When we get in foul trouble and guys are off it can be tough for us to win. When everyone is clicking and sharing the ball and guys are playing defense, we can be one of those top teams.”

G Andre Stringer

On the advantage of playing with Anthony Hickey
“It’s great, obviously he is a small guard like I am.  We know where each other are at all times.  We know our strengths and weaknesses.  It seems like it has been that way for a long time. When we play together like that I feel like we are hard to guard.”

On Anthony Hickey’s three-point shooting…
“He can shoot the ball and also do a lot of amazing things other than that as everyone knows.  He has been proving that over his whole career here at LSU. He really shot it great tonight.”

On the guards three-point shooting and post players…
They did a good job of packing it in on Johnny (O’Bryant III) and Jordan (Mickey). They trapped and sent the whole team once they got the ball. It was up to us to set our feet, stay locked in and hit the open shots when the post guys trust us and kick the ball out.  We did a great job hitting shots for the most part tonight. It makes it hard to take away the post when you are hitting jumpers. They have to come away from the double team and that gives the post guys one-on-one defense again.”

On the message at halftime…
“We weren’t satisfied with our defense. (Chris) Denson got a lot of points early and we weren’t happy with that. Individually we challenged ourselves to get down and guard their guards and we did a better job than the first half even though they still scored some points.”


On coaching a game with a slow pace…
“It was just a slow pace in the second half and you have to adjust. The team, players and coaches have to adjust to it.”

On the problems…
Our defense wasn't as sharp as it has been. We made way too many mistakes out the zone. Give them credit: They made a nice adjustment against our zone trap coming out of the second half. But we scored 80 points, and that's definitely enough to win. You're not going to win on the road giving up 87 points.

On offensive struggles…
We did enough offensively, especially between KT (Harrell), Chris (Denson) and Tahj (Shamsid-Deen), but you can't win with just three guys being productive on the offensive end of the floor. You've got to have more guys contributing. Like LSU
did. Like we did against South Carolina.

On coming back to close the lead…
I'm proud of the way the guys fought. We got down by 14 and it could have gotten away from us, but I'm proud of the guys the way they kept fighting. We just didn't have enough to get over the hump. We had our chances, but we didn't rebound the ball the way we needed to. The defensive backboard hurt us.


G Chris Denson

On the increase in fouls in the second half…
“At the beginning of the year we had an issue with fouling. We were putting teams on the free-throw line too often. LSU let us play in the first half. They were blowing that whistle in the second half, on both ends. We played hard. We just came up short in the end.”

On seeing the lanes open and being able to score…
“They were in a two-three zone in the first half. In the second half they were just all man-to-man. I was just finding the gaps and attacking anyway I could. I was in the passing lane and they got steals. It was different in the second half with their man-to-man. LSU has good blockers like, Jordan Mickey and Johnny O’Bryant III.”

On cutting LSU’s lead to five…
“It just shows that we fight. Everyone was still there, in the game. No one in the locker room is hanging their head. We have a big game on Wednesday. It definitely could have gone the other way. We cut the lead back down and fought hard. From here we will just prepare for Wednesday.”




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