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Tigers Over Tigers: LSU Men Beat Auburn

POSTED: Sunday, February 22, 2009 - 12:26am

UPDATED: Thursday, June 3, 2010 - 10:57pm

The 23rd-ranked LSU men’s basketball team clinched at least a tie for the SEC Western Division title and moved ever closer to a possible SEC overall championship with a gritty 79-72 win over the Auburn Tigers on Saturday night before a large Mardi Gras weekend crowd of 11,871.

The Tigers, 23-4 and 11-1 in the SEC, winners of 11-straight SEC games, clinched the No. 1 seed in the Western Division for the SEC Tournament in Tampa next month.

The Tigers have a four-game lead over Mississippi State with four games to play, and LSU has all tie breakers for the West's top seed (SEC standings).

LSU remains three games ahead of Kentucky, Florida and South Carolina who are all tied for the Eastern Division lead at 8-4. LSU needs one win or losses by all three Eastern Division teams to clinch at least a tie for the conference championship. Two Tigers wins clinch the outright conference championship.

Auburn (17-10 and 6-6) remains in contention for the second spot in the West despite the loss, just one game behind Mississippi State.

LSU guard Marcus Thornton again led the Tigers in scoring with 25 points, including a near perfect 12-of-13 from the free-throw line. All five starters were in double figures including point guard Bo Spencer who returned to the starting lineup after missing two games with a sprained left ankle. Spencer scored 14 points and played 28 minutes, while forward Tasmin Mitchell also scored 14. Center Chris Johnson and guard Garrett Temple each scored 12.

Korvotney Barber had 19 points to lead Auburn, while Tay Waller added 17 and DeWayne Reed 16.

LSU jumped out quickly on Auburn getting a seven-point lead at 12-5 at the 16:41 mark and led by 10 at 18-8 on a jumper by Thornton 2:30 later. Auburn -- cutting and slashing to the basket for buckets with their three-point shot being overplayed by LSU’s defense -- cut the game to two at 20-18 and trailed just 36-33 at the break.

LSU opened up a seven-point lead in the first five minutes of the second half before Auburn tied the game at 50-50 with 13:07 to go on a three-pointer by Lucas Hargrove. Auburn would take a four-point 56-52 lead with 10:04 to play on a Waller jumper but Mitchell had a layup and Quinton Thornton a lay in to tie the game at 56-56 (8:45) and then LSU ran off four more points on free throws to take a 60-56 lead with 7:41 to play.

But Auburn came back one more time to tie the game at 60-60 at the 6:08 mark on a Barber jumper but Thornton would hit his only three pointer of the night at the 5:41 mark from the deep corner to give LSU the lead for good 63-60.

“Auburn is good,” said LSU Coach Trent Johnson. “They’re a very good basketball team. Going in, we knew they were better than expected. We played very, very well at times and at other times we looked like we weren’t playing that well, but (Auburn) had everything to do with that. For us to have five guys in double figures and out-rebound them shows how much they extended us. I told our guys that from here on out everyone we play is going to be a good basketball team and we just have to be mentally tough and physically tough. We’re going to have to execute and make good, solid plays and for the most part tonight we did enough to win.”

LSU out rebounded the Auburn Tigers, 41-29.