I was leaving the Maravich Center about an hour after watching the LSU Lady Tigers upset top-10 ranked Kentucky, 77-72, Sunday afternoon when it came to me what an amazing weekend of college basketball had been played on our campus.
First, there was Saturday's hard to believe, improbable at best, triple overtime, 97-94, win over the SEC's second place team, Alabama. It in many ways showed again what this 2013 LSU men's basketball team is all about as the Tigers have gone from 0-4 in the Southeastern Conference to 7-7 with four games to play.
Then on Sunday, we may have learned more about the heart and the soul of this LSU women's team than ever before. As their bench gets shorter and shorter, their spirit seems to carry them further and further towards an NCAA berth in an event that will be played in their own building.
The fans that come out to men's games are learning, you can't head to the car early and listen to the game on the radio. You may miss something important. Something important like trying to come from 10 down, 69-59, in the final 3:37 of regulation. The fans have watched the Tigers come from 17 and 13 down this season, but 10 against Alabama's stingy defense, you had to wonder.
But suddenly with a couple of free throws by Charles Carmouche and Shavon Coleman, things began to get interesting. The crowd began to stir. Alabama turned it over. LSU scored again. The Tiger missed a free throw and the Tigers got the rebound and scored. Suddenly less than two minutes later, LSU was down by just two points.
The crowd was loud, they were standing and the amazing comebacks of this men's basketball team were continuing.
You should know by now the rest of the story. LSU would tie it up to force overtime. Alabama had a tip-in at the first overtime buzzer at first called good (then reversed by official review). Even live it didn't look good but Alabama was celebrating and maybe that took a bit of the wind out of their sales.
Now I have a new theory when it comes to these last second shots that are then reviewed. How an official could call that good when it was fairly obviously to my less than 20/20 eyes wearing thick glasses that the light and horn were on is tough to figure.
But so many times, the official waves good and then waves it off after review. I'm beginning to figure that it is easier for an official to wave off a basket that was signaled good after video review than to come back and make a basket good that you emphatically waved off. Remember those football plays where it is either a completion/fumble or incomplete pass; watch how many times the officials try to let the play finish out as a fumble because you can always go to the video replay. Once you call it an incompletion you are pretty much stuck.
What mattered was that LSU played on and get pushing Alabama to the brink until finally pushing the door down in the third overtime.
There were so many heroes on Saturday. Carmouche, the senior who played just three minutes on Tuesday, played what may be a school-record tying 54 minutes against Alabama, scoring 20 points and 11 rebounds. JOB III, getting his 12 double double of the year. Anthony Hickey, who spent a good part of the second half watching from the bench, with 7 assists and 5 steals. What about Andre Stringer? Spent much of the game on the bench with a minor injury, comes in during overtime to hit all three of his trey attempts.
The crowd, the players left exhausted as LSU continued to show the model of what this program under Johnny Jones plans to be in the future. Never quit. Work hard. Play Together. Welcome to a new day of LSU basketball maybe defined by one triple overtime contest.
Now I admit, I came to Sunday's women's game primarily to see if the halftime show could take out the net for the second day in a row. But it didn't take long for LSU's battle with No. 7 Kentucky to really peak my interest.
Here was LSU, still trying to make sure it would be part of the women's field and prevent an awful situation of hosting an NCAA Tournament and not making the field. Here was LSU trying to keep Kentucky at bay with eight players dressed and Jeanne Kenney very questionable with a bad foot.
But just about the time Kentucky was beginning to pull even and get the flow of the game their way after the adrenaline of the opening minutes began to wane, here came Kenney off the bench.
This Baton Rouge girl is a battler. We'd already seen an emotional performance against Tennessee after spraining her knee late in the previous game against Texas A&M. So here she came again. I don't know what it will take to keep her off the court unless trainer Micki Collins ties her to the bench.
Tie game 24-24 (7:10, first half). Kenney hits a three that sparks a 7-0 run with layups by Danielle Ballard and Adrienne Webb. On to 3:01 first half. Kenney another three around layups by Derreyal Youngblood and Theresa Plaisance key another 7-0 run. Down to 1:05 left first half. Kenney another three and two more free throws before the half and LSU is up 43-32 at the break.
How is this happening? Kenney nine minutes 3-3 from the field, 2-2 at the line, 11 points.
The halftime break didn't slow her down. More treys, including one off an amazing screen by Plaisance that stopped a Kentucky player in her tracks. The Wildcats would tie the game with 4:03 left and guess what happened 15 seconds later -- Kenney hit her fifth three in as many attempts. LSU never trailed in the second half and this undermanned team which after another injury was left with seven players to finish things, had beaten a top 10 team and had proven itself to be every bit worthy of the win.
While Kenney's 22 points with a bad wheel were amazing, this team is not a one-person show. Plaisance had another 20 point night with 13 rebounds, Lutley posted 15 and the Tigers made 16-of-22 at the line on a night when foul calls came and went with little consistency.
What couldn't be questioned was the team's heart and Coach Nikki Caldwell may have worked harder to put her team in position to win, but you would be hard pressed to find a game in which she pushed all the right buttons time and time again.
So it was a good weekend of basketball at the Maravich Center. For those of us who love college basketball, it was something special. Great individual performances and wonderful coaching strategies led to great team wins.
And now it happens all over again. Wednesday night at 7 the men host Arkansas and Thursday night the women at 7 p.m. host their final regular season game against Alabama. You might want to take them in because frankly, you never know how the scripts are going to play out to get a victory. Geaux Tigers!