SEATTLE, Wash. – A game that seemed to have an ebb and flow only from one free throw line to the other turned into a down to the wire thriller that the LSU Tigers came up just a big short of a huge road win as the Washington State Cougars hung on in overtime to win the Cougar Hardwood Classic, 72-70, in overtime before a record crowd of 15,341 at KeyArena.
The teams combined to shoot 67 free throws in the contest with LSU 18-of-27 on the night and Washington State 31-40. Ironically, LSU’s second leading scorer, Tasmin Mitchell, who recorded his fourth double double of the year, failed to get to the line at any point of the game.
LSU watched State go to the line and make 17-of-18 free throws in the opening half, but kept Klay Thompson their leading scorer averaging over 20 points a game, to just six first half points and with the tempo how the Tigers would like it, LSU trailed just 36-30 at intermission.
LSU was still down eight with 15 minutes to play but gradually tied the game at 55-55 with 6:50 to go on two free throws by Bo Spencer. A Mitchell jumper put LSU in the lead at 58-57 with 4: 13 to play before Thompson hit a three to put WSU ahead, 60-58.
But Spencer, fighting cramps in his legs, tied the game at 60 with 3:04 to play and after two WSU misses and an LSU miss and a turnover, LSU got the ball back under a minute after a missed three pointer by the Cougars. Spencer hit another jump shot to give LSU a 62-60 lead. Thompson missed another three-pointer and Chris Bass rebounded and was fouled with less than 20 seconds to play.
His first free throw was short and Coach Trent Johnson called timeout to set up his defense. The next free throw was short again and DeAngelo Casto on the other end may a layup to tie the game with 7 seconds left and force overtime.
In the overtime, LSU had its only lead 37 seconds in on an Aaron Dotson jumper to make it 64-62. Then Reggie Moore hit an in the paint jumper and was fouled by Chris Bass and Moore’s subsequent free throw gave WSU the lead for good at 65-64. That would be the only field goal in overtime for Washington State as they would go 8-of-11 from the free throw line the rest of the way.
Down five, with 1:11 to play, Tasmin Mitchell brought the ball straight down the middle of the floor and hit a three pointer to cut the game to 70-68. Spencer fouled Thompson who made two free throws to make it 72-68 with 48 seconds left. Spencer took the inbounds and drove the length of the floor to make it 72-70.
On the next possession, Thompson charged, giving LSU one last shot with nine seconds to play. Bo Spencer ended up with a three point attempt that missed ending the contest.
Spencer led LSU with 23 points, while Mitchell had 18 points and 14 rebounds, including eight offensive, in 45 minutes. Dotson had 11 points playing in his home town for the first time as a collegiate player, his second straight game in double figures. The Tigers, after a five-game winning streak fall to 8-3.
Washington State (10-2) got 26 from Thompson with Casto getting 13, Moore 12 and Nikola Koprivica 11. LSU shot 36.4 percent for the game (23-of-65) and 6-of-23 from the arc. Washington State, out rebounded by LSU, 43-35, hit 38.8 percent (19-of-49) and 3-of-15 from the arc.
LSU returns to Baton Rouge Wednesday night and will take a couple of days off for Christmas before practicing Saturday night at 6 p.m. The team will leave on Sunday afternoon for Cincinnati where they will take on Xavier on Tuesday night at 6 p.m. in a game televised by ESPNU.