Mississippi 71, LSU 70
OXFORD, Miss. (AP)—Mississippi guard Clarence Sanders has made a habit of hitting important shots this season, but none was more important than his final basket Wednesday night that lifted the Rebels to a 71-70 win over LSU.
“I knew it was good when it left my hand,” said Sanders after hitting the game-winning 17-foot jumper with less than a second remaining to give the Rebels their fourth straight win and sole possession of the Southeastern Conference Western Division. “It’s a big win for us, but were still not satisfied.”
The Rebels (17-8, 6-5 SEC) improved to 13-1 at home and snapped a six-game losing streak to LSU.
“We told Clay (Sanders) that he would have to win the game for us and that’s what he did,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said.
Todd Abernethy scored 12 points and added 11 assists for the Rebels, including the decisive assist to Sanders. The game-winning shot put Ole Miss ahead for the first time in the final nine minutes.
“Honestly, when you look at the stats, it’s a game we should have lost,” Abernethy said. “Then we get a chance at the end and make a play to win. It’s really hard to believe.”
LSU (14-11, 3-8), led by Glen Davis with 26 points and 11 rebounds, shot 61 percent from the field and outrebounded the Rebels, 37-23. The Tigers were done in by 16 turnovers, including one on the final play that led to Ole Miss’ game-winner.
The Tigers had a 70-69 lead with 13.9 seconds left. An errant pass was picked off by the Rebels’ Brian Smith, who quickly found Abernethy in the frontcourt.
“I was thinking don’t rush the shot and make sure we get a good look,” Abernethy said. “I wasn’t thinking about finding Clarence, but he popped open and I knew he could hit that shot.”
The Tigers had a final opportunity, but the last-second pass was knocked away at midcourt by Smith to preserve the win.
“The difference in a significant team and an OK team is the ability to win close games,” LSU coach John Brady said. “We are 1-6 in close games this year. Our team deserved to win the game. We didn’t do it. That’s where we are right now.”
Darnell Lazare scored 22 points and Tasmin Mitchell added 11 for the Tigers.
The Rebels, according to Kennedy, still have loftier goals despite being picked last in the Western Division in the preseason media poll.
“I don’t want to put a ceiling on what we can accomplish for the rest of the season,” Kennedy said. “Our guys believe in themselves right now.”
Sanders confirmed that belief.
“Going into this game we thought four wins would make it tough to be caught,” Sanders said. “But were not thinking that way any more. We’re hungry for all of them.”