LSU survives Mississippi State in double OT

Published 12:09 am Thursday, February 12, 2009

STARKVILLE (AP) — With double overtime ticking down and the game on the line, LSU coach Trent Johnson only considered one option.

Tasmin Mitchell drove the lane and drew a foul for the decisive three-point play, finally putting away Mississippi State with a career-high 41 points in a 97-94 win Wednesday night.

‘‘It was no secret where we were going to,’’ Johnson said.

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Mitchell also had 11 rebounds as the Tigers (20-4, 8-1) won their eighth straight Southeastern Conference game and second of the season over Mississippi State to take control of the West. Unlike the first matchup between these teams in Baton Rouge, this one was uncomfortably close for LSU.

The Bulldogs (16-8, 6-3) had chances to win at the end of regulation and the first overtime, but failed to convert.

Jarvis Varnado tied the game 72-72 on a free throw with 19 seconds left, but missed a second that would have put Mississippi State ahead. Then a Tigers turnover gave Dee Bost a chance to win with a layup with the score tied 82-82 with 32 seconds left in the first overtime, but missed.

‘‘When I drove, it was a wide-open layup,’’ Bost said. ‘‘I should have finished it. I just pushed it a little too hard.’’

Mitchell had just the right touch all night and didn’t fumble away his final chance. The Tigers jumped ahead by seven in the last overtime before the Bulldogs rallied to tie it 93-93. Mitchell sealed the win on the next possession. He made 12 of 15 shots and went 15-for-18 from the free throw line.

‘‘He doesn’t go over you, he goes through you,’’ Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury said. ‘‘He killed us. Killed us. He made huge plays consistently for them. He finished plays, and that’s what he is. He’s tough.’’

Marcus Thornton had 19 points and nine rebounds for the Tigers, while Bo Spencer added 15 and Terry Martin had 11.

Varnado also had a career high with 31 points and six blocks to lead the Bulldogs before fouling out in overtime. Bost added 20 points and three steals and Barry Stewart had 10 points and nine rebounds.

LSU led 31-26 at halftime and never trailed in the second half, but Mississippi kept putting together small rallies to tie the score down the stretch. The Tigers scored seven straight points in the second overtime to take a 91-85 lead. But Elgin Bailey hit five free throws and Bost hit a 3-pointer to tie it with 52 seconds left. But LSU scored five of the game’s last six points for the win and Phil Turner missed a 3 that could have sent the game to a third extra period.

‘‘They showed why they are the best team in the league,’’ Stansbury said. ‘‘When they had to make plays, they made plays. We had our opportunities to win the game. So, that’s all you can ask.’’

LSU is beginning to distance itself from the rest of the SEC. The win makes it that much harder for the second-place Bulldogs to rally with seven games left in the division race.

‘‘We knew coming into the game that it was going to be tough,’’ Mitchell said. ‘‘We know hands down that Mississippi State is a great team. This time we were able to come up with a victory.’’