BATON ROUGE, La. (AP)—Jermareo Davidson had no interest in how many points he was racking up.
And if he had taken it upon himself to stop No. 19 Alabama’s two-game slide, he didn’t admit it after scoring a career high 31 points in the Crimson Tide’s 73-70 victory over faltering LSU on Wednesday night.
“We’ve been talking about teamwork. … It was just my night. It just came to me,” Davidson said. “Actually, I didn’t look up to see how many I had. … I was just playing. I was looking to see what the score was, but my personal stats, I don’t worry about that.”
In that case, what Davidson saw was an Alabama deficit for nearly the entire second half. That is, until he sank two free throws with 45 seconds to go to put the Tide (16-5, 3-4 Southeastern Conference) up for good at 69-68.
On LSU’s next possession, Garrett Temple’s pass was intercepted by Alonzo Gee, who was fouled driving to the hoop on a fast break and hit both free throws.
Chris Johnson’s follow-up dunk with just under 10 seconds left pulled the Tigers to 71-70, but LSU failed to foul Alabama before the clock ran out and the Tide got a last second-dunk from Davidson, who pumped his fist in triumph as the final buzzer sounded.
“There hasn’t been a whole lot of smiling here the last eight or 10 days,” Alabama coach Mark Gottfried said. “They earned this one. It was a gutsy, tough, hard-fought win for them. I am proud of them for that.”
The frustration continued for LSU (13-8, 2-5), which has lost four straight, the last two in close games with poor finishes.
“We didn’t play the last 5 minutes well against Georgia and we didn’t play well the last 5 minutes tonight,” LSU coach John Brady said. “We had some opportunities … but we made some poor decisions.”
Glen Davis led LSU with 15 points, but missed a pair of crucial shots in the final minutes.
Richard Hendrix had 13 points on 6-of-8 shooting for the Crimson Tide, while Mykal Riley added 12 and Gee 11.
Tasmin Mitchell scored 14 points for LSU and Johnson 13. Johnson, however, threw up an airball on a long jumper from the corner early in a possession with LSU leading by a point and a minute to go.
“It was what we wanted him to do,” Brady said. “That one just didn’t go down.”
It was just one of four straight fruitless possessions in the clutch for the Tigers, who fell out of the Top 25 this week. The dry spell started when Davis missed a 3-pointer and an awkward inside shot in traffic, both as the shot clock wound down. It ended with Temple’s turnover.
LSU led 62-54 after Darnell Lazare and Ben Voogd hit floaters off consecutive Alabama turnovers in the face of the Tigers’ trap, stirring the crowd into a frenzy.
The Tide committed one more turnover before calling a timeout, and came back with a methodical 6-0 run on four free throws and Gee’s jumper to make it 62-60.
“We lost our poise. We got hurried and rattled … and we needed to settle down and beat the press and take a deep breath,” Gottfried said. “I was glad how they responded to that, because could easily have punted right then and been in trouble.”
LSU built its lead back up to 66-60 before Alabama closed again, starting with Justin Tubbs’ 3-pointer for his only points of the game.
Both teams shot well—Alabama hit 51.9 percent and LSU 51.8 percent—but the Tide finished with a 30-24 edge in rebounds.
The game marked the first career start for Johnson, LSU’s 6-foot-11 sophomore forward.
He scored the first points of the game with a quick 3-pointer from the top of the key and then stuffed an attempted shot on the other end for a tie-up.
Alabama regrouped quickly behind Davidson, however, going on a 10-0 run to take an early 15-8 lead, setting the tone for what would be a back-and-fourth opening half.
Davis hit several jumpers to help LSU regain and hold a slim lead. He had 11 points in the first half, hitting five of his first six shots, including a 3-pointer, and LSU took a 38-34 lead into halftime after Temple’s last-second inside basket.
Davidson, showing his range with turnaround jumpers on the baseline and accuracy from the perimeter, kept the Tide close with 15 points in the opening 20 minutes.
“Jermareo, I thought, was phenomenal,” Gottfried said. “He just stepped up with a lot of courage, and we went to him when we needed to. He took it strong to the basket. He just willed our team to victory.”
LSU was without reserve point guard Tack Minor, whom university officials said had left the school. Brady had said Tuesday that Minor would not play against Alabama because of an unspecified academic infraction that had been under appeal.