COLUMBIA, S.C. – Jarell Martin pumped in a career-high 18 points off the bench, and the LSU men’s basketball team ended a two-game losing streak with a 71-68 victory over South Carolina Saturday at Colonial Life Arena.
LSU (10-4, 1-1 SEC) secured its first SEC win and picked up its 10th win of the season. The Tigers have won four of the last five meetings over South Carolina (7-8, 0-2 SEC) in Columbia since the 2005-06 season.
For Martin, he was 5-of-6 from the floor and turned in a 7-for-8 effort at the foul line. The Baton Rouge native also collected six rebounds and a career-best five steals.
Jordan Mickey and Johnny O'Bryant III tacked on 13 points apiece for the Tigers. The duo combined for a 10-of-19 shooting clip. O’Bryant III has pieced together six straight 10-plus scoring performances, while Mickey has reached double figures in 13 of his 14 outings.
Andre Stringer bounced back from being held scoreless during the Tennessee game and came away with nine points from the bench.
Making only his second start of the season, Malik Morgan garnered a solid all-around with eight points, six rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks. The eight points matched Morgan’s second-highest scoring output of the season and whereas his four dimes were a season’s best. Shavon Coleman notched five points, six rebounds and two steals. The six rebounds tied a season-high for Coleman.
USC was led by Sindari Thornwell, who poured in a career-high 25 points. He made nine of his 13 field goal attempts. Tyrone Johnson totaled 15 points and Brenton Williams accounted for 11 points to give the Gamecocks three players in double figures.
With LSU ahead 46-44 at the 10:37 mark of the second half, the Tigers seized the momentum and ripped off 18 of the next 24 points over the next 4:45. O’Bryant III and Mickey hit three consecutive hook shots in the lane to ignite the run. Stringer came off a double screen and nailed a triple from the left baseline to push LSU’s lead to 55-47 with 8:16 remaining.
The Tigers snatched its largest lead at 64-50 with 5:45 left after Tim Quarterman and Stringer canned three-balls on consecutive possessions off feeds from O’Bryant III followed by a Martin free throw.
South Carolina reeled off nine straight points of its own and pulled back to 64-59 with 2:11 to go. Thornwell capped the Gamecocks flurry with a transition dunk and a jumper.
After Anthony Hickey drained two free throws, South Carolina made it 66-62 on a Williams triple off a friendly bounce from the rim.
O’Bryant III knocked down a trio of foul shots over a 7-second span to extend LSU’s advantage back to 69-62 with 42.3 seconds left on the clock. Morgan split four free throws down the stretch and Williams made another three-pointer at the buzzer for the final tally of 71-68.
As a team, LSU connected for 22-of-56 from the floor which included a 5-for-18 mark from three-point range. The Tigers knocked down 12-of-26 shots during the second half. LSU was 22-of-35 at the foul line, and the 35 free throw attempts were a season-high for LSU.
The Gamecocks secured a 20-of-48 shooting performance and made 4-of-11 behind the three-point line. South Carolina was 24-of-34 from the charity stripe.
The two teams traded eight ties and 12 lead changes during the first 28 minutes of the contest. LSU raced out to a quick 5-0 advantage aided by five Coleman points before the Gamecocks knotted the tally at 5-5 after Thornwell fired back with five points of his own.
Trailing 25-24 at the 3:39 mark of the opening half, the Tigers registered the next eight points started with a Morgan runner. LSU also received a traditional three-point play from Martin, while Mickey and Stringer hit free throws to allow the Tigers to take a 32-25 lead with 2:10 remaining. The Gamecocks ran off the final five points of the half to bring the score to 32-30 at halftime.
LSU continues its first of three SEC two-game road swings and travels to Ole Miss on Wednesday. Tip time is slated for 8 p.m., and the game will be carried by Cox Sports Television (CST), Comcast Sports Southeast (CSS) and www.WatchESPN.com
The LSU Sports Radio Network will broadcast the game on Eagle 98.1 FM in the Baton Rouge 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 and @lsucoachjones on Twitter.
LSU Head Coach Johnny Jones
"I was really pleased with our guys' effort today. I thought it was a great team effort. We really needed to play well from tip to finish coming into a hostile environment like this - they won the last five of their last seven games and they've been playing well. I thought we got off to a great start battling through a tough game. But we battled through the first half and then getting into the locker room with a two-point lead. And then even there at the end, continuing to do more of the same. We got a lead with the attitude mentality of the team. We knew they weren't going to quit and were going to continue to fight to get back into it. I'm really proud of the two freshmen. I thought both of them played extremely well. Jordan [Mickey] playing as he's played really all season and being steady. And I thought Jarell Martin did an excellent job today coming off the bench - I thought he played really relaxed, knocked down shots, free throws, and defended extremely well to give us an opportunity to get out of here with a win today.
On spreading the floor and getting good angles to the basket...
"Yes, I thought we did a great job of spreading the floor and getting angles to the basket and making plays. Unfortunately, we didn't knock the free throws down and we didn't knock some of the shots down - only shooting thirty-something percent from the field. I thought we had better looks and great opportunities. Shots didn't go, but I thought we were able to make it up on the other end of the floor with hustle-defense and getting stops when we needed them.
LSU Freshman Forward Jordan Mickey
On starting slow, but picking it up in the 2nd half...
"I just had to slow down. I was playing a little too fast. I had a few turnovers that were kind of careless. I just had to slow down and play my game.
LSU Freshman Forward Jarell Martin
On coming off the bench...
"Coach just said that he wanted to try something new and I was waiting. I just want whatever is best for the team. And coming off the bench I felt really relaxed. As the game was going on, I got really comfortable with everything and started knocking down shots and getting to the free throw line.
South Carolina Head Coach Frank Martin
"First and foremost I want to thank our fans. It is the first time since I've been here where I've felt that we've actually had a home crowd and I am extremely disappointed that they came here to support us and we let a great opportunity go to send them home feeling good about our team. Close losses are just bad, that doesn't help you in any shape or form. To start the game with a bad turnover and that just continued. We had two bad spells in the game, we survived the one in the first half but we couldn't survive the one in the second half.
On Sindarius Thornwell...
"We've been on him about being more aggressive and assertive. He has got to be more on attack mode offensively and we've been harping him on that and today he was. He got shots and got to the line, which gave us a little life. Our guards missed some shots, Ty (Johnson) and Brent (Williams), they missed some shots and that's going to happen. Our inside play is just atrocious right now. We got out-toughed at the rim by freshmen and that's unacceptable. We missed some shots, but we cannot get out-toughed and we got out-toughed today.
Freshman Guard Sindarius Thornwell
Taking over in the 2nd half because of others' foul trouble or the coaches' decision...
"I think it was a little bit of both. I was just getting open shots. I was just playing in our offense and it was coming to me easy. We were just running our offense and it just so happened that I was open.
Junior Guard Tyrone Johnson
Bigger take-a-way: the team's fight to get back into the game or the fact that they lost...
"The bottom line is that it's just a loss. When we have a crowd like we did today and the crowd is into it - they just beat us. They out-rebounded us on the offensive glass, defensive rebounds. We just have to find a way to close games like this. With a great crowd behind us, we've got to find a way to win. There's no excuse. We've got to come in and be tougher. That team just out-toughed us today on the glass. We kind of took away what their two guards do, which is score the ball well, but, inside we didn't do too well as a team rebounding.