Johnson gets the best of Fox in match-up of former Nevada head coaches
AP Sports Writer
BATON ROUGE, La. – Tasmin Mitchell has been LSU’s best player all year long and did what he could to ensure he’d go out a winner in his final home game.
He only needed a little help from Bo Spencer at the end.
Spencer’s off-balance jumper with 19 seconds remaining helped LSU close out its regular season with only its second Southeastern Conference victory of the season, 50-48 over Georgia on Saturday.
“I told Tasmin that I would get him a victory on his way out of here,” Spencer said. “I am proud to get the win … even though it wasn’t the prettiest or best game.”
After being honored on senior day, Mitchell scored 20 points and Spencer finished with 10 for LSU (11-19, 2-14 SEC), which won despite shooting only 31 percent (18 of 58) and being outrebounded 39-34.
“The ceremony was really emotional because I have been here for a while,” said Mitchell, who spent five years at LSU because of an injury that led to a medical redshirt two years ago. “It felt great for selfish reasons because it is my last home game to get a victory. Hopefully we can just try to keep this going into the SEC tournament.”
The conference tournament starts Thursday in Nashville, Tenn. LSU will be the sixth and lowest seed coming out of the Western Division. Georgia (13-16, 5-11) with be sixth seed in the Eastern Division.
Trey Thompkins scored 19 points and grabbed 16 rebounds for Georgia, which struggled to set up a shot in its final possession. Jeremy Price’s turnaround jumper from the top of the key bounced out in the final seconds. Thompkins hustled inside for an offensive rebound and appeared to attempt a putback as time expired, but it rattled out.
Bulldogs coach Mark Fox, a former assistant to LSU coach Trent Johnson at Nevada, said Georgia was looking for a 3-pointer. However, as shooting guard Ricky McPhee ran around a screen toward the corner, LSU’s Daron Populist was able to stay with him, prompting the Bulldogs to settle for Price’s awkward shot.
Georgia, which has not won a league road game all season, shot only marginally better than LSU. The Bulldogs hit 36.5 percent (19 of 52) from the field. Travis Leslie, who came in averaging 14.1 points, managed only seven against the Tigers and was still the Bulldogs’ second-leading scorer in the game.
“He didn’t play well and he needs to learn from this,” Fox said. “He’s a great kid and a great player, but he’s just got to become more consistent.”
The game was tight throughout the second half, with no team leading by more than six. The Bulldogs were up 30-24 on McPhee’s 3 and did not trail until LSU’s Dennis Harris hit a jumper to put the Tigers ahead 37-35 with 9:41 left.
The lead changed hands several more times down the stretch, with LSU going up 48-46 after Mitchell grabbed a long rebound and hit a short turnaround fade.
Leslie’s putback tied the game again at 48 with 1:20 to go, and Georgia had a chance to take the lead after Spencer’s jumper from several feet behind the 3-point line missed.
However, Georgia’s Dustin Ware turned the ball over and Spencer then hit his winning shot, pulling up off of a quick dribble to the left of the foul line.
Both teams had trouble scoring in the first half, when they opened a combined 0 for 12 from the field before Price finally dunked more than five minutes into the game.
Price added a jumper during a 9-0 run that made it 9-2, but LSU quickly came back with a 7-0 run ignited by Storm Warren’s dunk as he was fouled.
Mitchell scored nine of his points in the first half and Warren seven, accounting for most of LSU’s points in the first 20 minutes.
Ebuka Anyorah’s putback gave the Bulldogs a 20-16 lead late in the half. Then Warren hit a jumper off the glass and Mitchell added a layup to tie it at 20 at halftime.
“Any win is a good win for us,” Johnson said. “But the uglier the game is, the better it is for us. I’m just happy the kids are happy and we had a chance to win.”