It may have taken a little while, but the LSU basketball team’s defense showed up at just the right time Tuesday night.
After giving up 82 points to Gardner-Webb in the season opener Saturday, LSU had to turn things up a notch on the defensive end after a poor first half in its second outing against Texas Tech.
On Tuesday night, the Tigers came up with big stops throughout the second half to climb all the way back from a 12-point halftime deficit, then pressured the Red Raiders into crucial turnovers at the end of regulation and overtime to come away with a 69-64 victory.
The key was a solid defensive effort that held Texas Tech to just seven field goals in 30 attempts (23.3 percent) in the second half and an overtime period after the Red Raiders shot 48.3 percent in the first half, connecting on 14 of 29 shots to build a 36-24 lead.
“I think a lot of credit for this win goes to our defense,” said forward Jordan Mickey, who had 18 points, 14 rebounds and three blocked shots. “Our defense is definitely a lot better than it was last year.”
It certainly was when they needed it Tuesday night.
Guard Tim Quarterman came up with a steal under the basket and turned it into a soft layup that helped the Tigers tie the game at 59-59 with 13 seconds left after they trailed by four points just 4.5 seconds earlier.
Back on the other end, a 3-point shot at the buzzer by Tech’s Robert Turner failed to find the mark, sending the game into overtime.
LSU won it after holding the Red Raiders to five points in the extra period. The Tigers capped it by forcing a five-second call on an out of bounds play with 6 seconds left.
Still, a defensive adjustment by coach Johnny Jones, who went with a smaller lineup in the second half by putting the 6-goot-6 Quarterman in as a third guard, was the catalyst that got them to that point.
“He came in and did an excellent job for us,” Jones said of Quarterman, who logged all 25 minutes after halftime after playing just five minutes in the first half. “He made some huge plays, even right there at the end getting the last steal from the end line on the out of bounds play.
“We put the press on to get the game into overtime,” he said. “Our guys are comfortable. We know we’re a good basketball team on the defensive end. We understand we’re a work in progress, and we have to continue to get better and hopefully not put ourselves in that type of position.”
A switch to a 2-3 zone late in the first half allowed Texas Tech to score on eight of 12 possessions to break open a close game with an 11-0 run going to the locker room.
Coming back out, Quarterman not only ignited the defensive effort, he contributed offensively with a basket that cut the deficit to seven points and fed Martin for a dunk that got it to down to five less than four minutes into the half.
Quarterman’s biggest moment came on defense when he stole a pass from Randy Onwuasor after he took an inbounds pass with 16 seconds to play in regulation.
“I saw Josh (Gray) getting up on him, putting a lot of pressure on him,” Quarterman said. “Coach didn’t want us to foul, so I played the passing lane between my man and (Onwuasor). I jabbed at him and he faked a pass, and then I sat in the lane and he threw it. I got the steal and laid the ball up. I was surprised he threw it.”
But after that poor start in the first half, LSU came back and managed to finish the job in overtime — mainly, Jones said, by holding Texas Tech to 23.3 percent shooting in the second half.
“That speaks volumes of the type of defense and how tenacious we were in the second half,” he said. “The guys are confident the way we played tonight, and hopefully, we’re not put in that position often. But at least we responded well tonight and passed the test.”
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter @MicklesAdvocate.