BATON ROUGE – No. 13 LSU stunned No. 5 Tennessee 82-80 in overtime to stimulate the battle for the Southeastern Conference (SEC) regular season title on Saturday.
A crucial overtime foul by Grant Williams put Ja’vonte Smart on the line to knock down a pair of free throws to give the Tigers (22-5, 12-2 SEC) the lead with 0.6 seconds left on the clock and then the home side held on for victory.
Smart ended the game with 29 points, five rebounds
“I just had a lot of fun. I just wanted to get that win under our belt and push forward,” Smart said about the performance.
“I just love him,” said LSU head coach Will Wade about Smart. “He’s everything we’re about as a program. He’s from Louisiana. He loves LSU and he loves it.
“There’s no doubt he was making those two free throws. He was supposed to miss the second one, but once Tennessee was going to call timeout we figured we might as well have him make it. He was going to miss the second one so they wouldn’t have enough time.
“Those things were going in. I love his hustle. I love his grit. He gets the job done. We only turned the ball over seven times today. That’s huge.
“To be able to value the ball and just make simple plays and only turn it over seven times was just tremendous.”
Kavell Bigby-Williams ended with a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds for LSU, which trailed by five at halftime, but battled back to send the game into overtime after both teams were knotted at 71 at the end of regulation.
Freshman forward Darius Days contributed nine points, four rebounds and two steals in the victory.
The Tigers were bouncing back from an 82-77 OT defeat to Florida in midweek.
Admiral Schofield had 27 points and nine rebounds for fifth-ranked Tennessee, which was losing for the second time in the last three games.
Grant Williams ended with 18 points and nine rebounds for the Volunteers (24-3, 12-2), with Jordan Bone scoring 13 points in the defeat for the visitors, who shot 44.8 percent from the
Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes discuss what’s next for his team and how they have to move forward.
“We have to understand from those situations that we’re going to be in close games from here on out,” he said. “The way we execute down the stretch, not turning the ball over, staying within ourselves is what we need to do. We’ve got to guard the ball.
“There is not a question about that. We’ve got to be able to stay in front of the basketball and not let people get to the rim. We’ve got to get to the free-throw line more than we did tonight.”
The win sees LSU joining Tennessee atop the SEC standings with a 12-2 record.
The Tigers, who also defeated Kentucky when the Wildcats were ranked No. 5 two-weeks-ago, return to action Tuesday night when they entertain Texas A&M.
As for the Volunteers, they will travel to take on Ole Miss on Wednesday.