LSU rallies for win over Washington State

Published 12:18 am Sunday, December 28, 2008

BATON ROUGE — Trent Johnson’s Stanford team defeated Washington State three times last season, so he appreciated what his LSU squad did on Saturday.

Trailing by seven points midway through the second half, the Tigers rallied for a 64-52 victory against the Cougars.

‘‘Our team had to show great courage and play well at times and we did,’’ said Johnson, LSU’s first-year coach. ‘‘I’m happy for this team. The players work so hard. I’m happy when they’re happy. This basketball team is getting better.’’

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LSU (10-1), which trailed 47-40, ended the game on a 24-5 run. Marcus Thornton had eight of his 18 points during that stretch, while Garrett Temple added six of his 13 points and Bo Spencer had five of his 19.

The Tigers held a two-point advantage heading into the final five minutes. On two occasions, Aron Baynes made field goals to pull Washington State (8-4) within a point — the last time at 53-52. The Cougars didn’t score again.

Quintin Thornton made one foul shot before Marcus Thornton knocked down a 3-pointer and Spencer converted a three-point play following a steal. Both Spencer and Marcus Thortnon sank a pair of foul shots in the final seconds.

‘‘The game was a hard, uphill battle,’’ Marcus Thornton said. ‘‘Washington State was a very intense team and we just tried to match their intensity. Coach Johnson told us that this would be one of the best teams we played. We tried to get prepared to get this win.’’

Spencer kept the Tigers in the game during the first half when he scored 12 points, while Thornton made four 3-pointers in the second half.

Taylor Rochestie led Washington State with 14 points. Klay Thompson added 12 and Caleb Forrest had 10.

‘‘If we’re going to have any chance to be competitive and be successful, we’ll be in a lot of close games,’’ Washington State coach Tony Bennett said. ‘‘Until we learn how to take care of the ball, we’ll never win those games at the end.’’

After falling behind by six points early in the second half, the Cougars answered with a 14-2 run. Washington State made six consecutive baskets — two by Thompson — to go ahead 41-35. Moments later, LSU started its comeback.

The opening 12 minutes were characterized by rugged defensive play. The teams combined for seven field goals out of 35 attempts during that stretch. A 3-pointer by Rochestie put Washington State on top 9-8.

LSU put together a 9-2 run to take a four-point advantage with 3:36 remaining in the first half. Spencer had a field goal and two free throws, Tasmin Mitchell hit a 3-pointer and Temple made a layup.

Trailing 19-15, the Cougars cut the deficit in half before the break. Forrest made two field goals to help Washington State pull within 25-23 at the half.