BATON ROUGE - The LSU men's basketball team made all of the key plays down the stretch to end a four-game losing skid and sealed Johnny Jones' first SEC victory with a 58-54 triumph over Texas A&M Wednesday at the Maravich Center.
LSU (10-6, 1-4 SEC) turned to its suffocating full court pressure after falling behind by 14 points early in the first half and forced Texas A&M (12-6, 2-3 SEC) into a season's high 24 turnovers.
Shavon Coleman ripped off 10 of his team-leading 17 points during the second half. For Coleman, it was his highest scoring output since the Seton Hall game on November 29. He also tacked on four rebounds and three steals.
Johnny O'Bryant III turned in another double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. He knocked down 6-of-10 from the floor, and the Tigers have won all four games this season when O'Bryant III has compiled a double dip.
Anthony Hickey notched 10 points for his eight straight outing with double figures. He also collected a career-best eight steals to add to his nation's leading average.
All square at 50-50 with 2:24 remaining, the Tigers took the lead for good on a Coleman lay-up. After forcing an A&M turnover, Coleman connected for another lay-up off a beautiful feed from Hickey to go up by two possessions at the 1:04 mark.
Fabyon Harris responded with a 10-foot runner to draw the Aggies back to 54-52 with 44.9 seconds to play. Following an A&M timeout, LSU broke the Aggies press attempt and O'Bryant III slammed down a two-handed dunk to give the Tigers back a four-point cushion.
Three possessions later, Harris dropped in two free throws to bring Texas A&M back to 56-54 with 13.9 seconds remaining.
After scoring only three points in the first 39-plus minutes, Andre Stringer calmly went to the foul line less than a second later. He drained both free throws which included the front end of a 1-and-1 to clinch the 58-54 victory.
Harris fueled A&M with a game-high 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting. He was the only Aggie to garner double figures.
Texas A&M executed at a high level en route to building a 19-5 lead eight minutes into the opening half The Aggies went 8-for-14 during the outset and received baskets from six different players.
LSU crept back to single digits after a Coleman triple to make it 21-12 at the 8:42 mark.
The Tigers continued their charge and sliced the deficit down to 28-27 heading into the locker room after ripping off 10 straight points over the final 2:41 of the stanza. Hickey ignited the flurry with a three-pointer and buried a 17-foot rainbow jumper off the dribble as time expired.
LSU grabbed its first lead at 39-38 after Morgan canned a three-ball with 14:55 to go in the second half. The game stayed within one possession for the next 13:50 until Coleman's second lay-up at the 1:04 mark.
LSU travels to the Bluegrass Saturday for its lone match-up with defending national champion Kentucky. Tip time is on-tap for 3 p.m. CT from Rupp Arena, and the game will carried live by the SEC Network. An online version of the telecast will be available via www.WatchESPN.com and the Watch ESPN app.
LSU's next home game will be next Wednesday, January 30 as No. 22 Missouri visits the Maravich Center for the first time as a member of the SEC. Tickets can be purchased online at LSUtix.net or by calling the LSU Athletics Ticket Office at (225) 578-2184.
The LSU Sports Radio Network also will broadcast the game on Eagle 98.1 FM in the Baton Rouge area and inside the Geaux Zone at LSUsports.net/live. Jim Hawthorne, Ricky Blanton and Kevin Ford will call the action.
For all of the latest news and information on Tiger basketball, visit www.lsusports.net/basketball. Fans can also follow the program on its social media outlets at www.Facebook.com/lsubasketball along with @lsubasketball on Twitter.
HEAD COACH JOHNNY JONES
Opening statement ...
"We knew going into that it was going to be a hard fought battle playing a team like A&M who's really controlled the tempo, and the games that they've played in conference play. (They) went into Rupp Arena, one of the toughest environments in college basketball and getting a win there. Playing well at home, controlling the tempo against Arkansas and doing the same at Alabama the other night and losing right there at the end of the game with only seconds left. We knew we had our work cut out for us tonight. We didn't get off to a great start but credit our guys for continuing to battle. They fought extremely hard. We jumped into the press which created the tempo to our liking. Our guys were able to make plays finishing with 19 steals and creating a lot of those steals and finishing on the other end. That gave us some scoring opportunities tonight. I thought that was really the difference in the basketball game. Shavon Coleman, the number of minutes he played and playing the point of that press, it says a lot about just his toughness and his will to win. He gave us that opportunity with the extended minutes tonight."
On the success of the press ...
"I think our guys have done a tremendous job in terms of anticipating passes. I think they're really good up on the front of the press as well where they're very aggressive and long, rangy. Shavon Coleman is long. We can put Malik (Morgan) over there on one wing. We can generally put (Charles) Carmouche on another. All of those guys have done a tremendous job. Then, when you take (Anthony) Hickey, who has somewhat of a football mentality sometimes and plays like a defensive back, he's done a great job of reading shoulders, eyes, rotating and getting to the ball. At the same time, Hickey is really good on the ball. He's got strong hands, quick hands, and a lot of times he can pick the guy that he's guarding, or at least knock the ball loose. He's done that a couple times a game, but a huge game for him tonight with eight steals."
On the successful press providing some energy ...
"I thought in the beginning of the game A&M came out and controlled the tempo. They were very deliberate in terms of their style of play, making extra passes, getting open, knocking down shots and I thought they did a great job of getting off to a really good start. I thought when we got into the press and got moving that it gave our guys a little bit more energy. We started moving a little bit better, and I thought it kind of lit a fire under us. It really got us going so I thought the press really changed the game for us."
On the difference down the stretch ...
"In the finish, shots went down. I thought we rebounded the ball well. We got the 50/50 balls. We got loose balls. We made some tough plays. Defensively, we made people play up over the top of us. We made them take difficult shots. On the other end of the floor, we made baskets. We executed towards the end, even when Stringer stepped up there and knocked down those two free throws. Those were big. It was somewhat of a pressure situation. You're trying to close someone out. It takes us from two to four. We get a timeout call after we go up three, he goes back in and nails his next one putting us up four. We were able to get back defensively. So, I thought we did an excellent job of closing the game out and finishing. That's not something we've done in the last few games. We haven't been finish strong."
LSU PLAYER QUOTES
GUARD MALIK MORGAN
On getting the first win in conference play...
"It was a good win for us tonight. I think it's the start of something real special. Hopefully, we continue with this run."
GUARD ANTHONY HICKEY
On the success of the full court press...
"Credit Shavon (Coleman) and Malik (Morgan). They get the tips up top. I'm able to gamble in the back. They (Coleman and Morgan) get mad at me when I get the steals, but I give the credit to them. They get their hands on the ball, and I'm able to get the steals."
On coming back from an early deficit...
"It wasn't really hard. We just have to stay together. The crowd was still into it. They didn't get dead on us. Everybody was still into the game. We made our run, and we put the pressure on them. We were able to get our hands on the ball, and we got back into the game."
FORWARD JOHNNY O'BRYANT III
On looking ahead to the rest of the season...
"We want to just continue to push and not look back. We have been through so many tough games, and we weren't able to pull them out. I think this one really sets the tone for us. We have to get ready for a good Kentucky team on Saturday."
TEXAS A&M HEAD COACH BILLY KENNEDY QUOTES
"I'm really disappointed in how we gave them the ball and basically gave them the game. Not to take anything away from LSU - they were down 19-5. They continued to compete and really just out-competed us - that's the disappointing thing. They were quick at every loose ball in the second half and played with more effort and more urgency than we did."
On the team's turnovers...
"24 turnovers - six by your point guard and five by a guy that only played ten minutes - you're not going to win many games when you turn the ball over 24 times."
On blowing a 14-point lead...
"We had lack of depth today. We had guys with two fouls in the first half, and we weren't very good tonight - that was the biggest reason in the first half. We've just got to get better. Our game plan and the way we set out about the game is the right game plan, but we've just got to get tougher so we can sustain it. We're just not tough enough right now."
On what went wrong for his team tonight...
"[LSU] forced a bunch of turnovers in the last game against Georgia. That's what they do. They did a good job of converting, and we did a poor job at competing at the rim. [Shavon] Coleman drove by us like we weren't even guarding him."
On how his team can improve...
"We've got to be tougher. We can't emulate the same thing that LSU did because we don't have those kind of athletes. Some of the turnovers were situations where we weren't needing to pass, not wanting the ball. We had some guys that played with some fear in there, and we've got to do a better job at preparing where that doesn't happen."