BATON ROUGE, La. (AP)—Tennessee’s JaJuan Smith was so sick before the game that he could just as easily not played against LSU.
Good thing for seventh-ranked Vols that he did.
Smith’s steal and layup with 11 seconds left gave Tennessee a 47-45 victory over LSU on Saturday, in the Tigers’ first game since the firing of coach John Brady.
Smith “had a 101-degree temperature and we gave him some medication before the game that brought it down a little bit,” Vols coach Bruce Pearl said. “But he was quite ill.”
The Volunteers (21-2, 8-1 Southeastern Conference) had lost all of a 12-point second-half advantage when Chris Johnson converted a three-point play with 1:15 left. After Chris Lofton missed an open 3-point attempt, the Tigers had an opportunity to take the lead.
Anthony Randolph was fouled but missed the front end of a one-and-one. LSU maintained possession when the ball went out of bounds off Wayne Chism with 19 seconds to go.
After the inbound, Smith made his steal from Marcus Thornton and drove almost three-quarters of the court for the go-ahead layup. The basket represented his only points of the game.
Alex Farrer put up a rushed 3-pointer in the final seconds for the Tigers, but the shot came up short. Johnson rebounded and dunked, but it came just after the final horn.
LSU interim coach Butch Pierre, in his first game since replacing Brady on Friday, said the play “got messed up.”
“We tried to inbound the ball to Chris because they had a small guy on him. Chris could hand it right back to Marcus for a jump shot,” Pierre said. “I guess Chris wasn’t aware of how much time was on the clock because he took the ball to the goal. He probably could have had a nice shot right there.”
Lofton led Tennessee with 15 points, while Tyler Smith finished with 12. The Vols made just 32 percent of their field goal attempts and scored the second-fewest points in Pearl’s three seasons as coach.
Johnson led LSU (8-14, 1-7) with 17 points, and Thornton had 12.
Tennessee, which scored its fewest points of the season, managed only a two-point advantage with fewer than 4 minutes remaining in the game. Lofton knocked down a 3-pointer out of a timeout to end a 6 1/2 -minute scoring drought.
Trailing 45-40, LSU came back to tie the score for the first time since the first half. Randolph made a basket and Johnson tied the score with his three-point play.
A 3-pointer by Garrett Temple left the Tigers behind 27-24 at halftime. The Vols were just 3-of-9 on 3-pointers in the first half, and their 27 points were a season-low.