CHARLOTTE AMALIE, Virgin Islands — After making the first 3-point basket of his college career in a victory over Weber State on Saturday night, LSU forward Jordan Mickey could have used another one Monday.
But when Mickey needed it most, his 3-pointer from the top of the key bounced off the right side of the rim and went out of bounds at the final buzzer to seal LSU’s 64-61 loss to Clemson in the fourth-place game at the Paradise Jam.
LSU (3-2) finished the tournament in sixth place with a 1-2 record, beating Weber State and losing to Old Dominion and Clemson in one of the most competitive games of the four-day event.
Mickey may have been distracted by the thought of being wide open as the final seconds ticked off the clock after Clemson’s Rod Hall made two free throws with 17.3 seconds left to make it a three-point game at 64-61.
For much of the second half, especially after frontcourt mate Jarell Martin picked up his third and fourth fouls in an eight-second span — the latter with 17:58 to play — Mickey was double- and triple-teamed every time he touched the ball.
After Mickey poured in 16 first-half points to help his team to a slim 31-30 lead at the break, Clemson (3-2) was determined to not let Mickey beat them as he did when he scored a career-high 27 points against Weber State.
But he was left open when LSU worked the ball for a 3-point shot that would have sent the game into overtime. It just didn’t fall.
“It would have been real nice,” Mickey said of draining another 3-pointer from the same spot he did Saturday. “It was a wide-open shot. I have to continue to work on that shot. I feel I’m good enough to knock that down easy.”
The Tigers wanted to get the ball to Hornsby, their best 3-point shooter who was 0-for-5 from beyond the arc, with a triple screen off an inbounds play. He passed on the shot and got the ball to Tim Quarterman, who was doubled — leaving Mickey open.
“We ran a play for Keith, but they had good defense,” Quarterman said. “They double-teamed me, so I got it to Jordan. It was a good shot, it just rimmed out.”
Mickey shouldn’t have been so hard on himself because he had plenty of company down the stretch in a closely played game.
After Hornsby made a layup to give LSU a 51-50 lead with 7:21 to play, LSU was 2-of-13 from the field the rest of the way in letting an eventual four-point lead slip away in the final four minutes.
Mickey missed four shots, as did Martin, while Hornsby misfired twice and Quarterman once. Martin and Josh Gray had the only made field goals as LSU shot just 37.7 percent from the field — 32.3 percent in the second half.
“We missed some layups and some putback baskets in traffic,” Jones said. “It was unfortunate, we just couldn’t get them to go down.”
Part of the problem was the defensive pressure Mickey faced after Martin went out early in the second half.
Mickey was 7-of-9 on field-goal attempts in the first half, but got only one shot off until Martin re-entered the game with 6½ minutes left.
“It was tough, but outside of one play when he forced one, he did a good job getting the ball to open people, and they made shots,” Jones said.
“That (Martin’s foul trouble) was a big part of it, but it’s part of basketball,” said Mickey, who had a team-high 18 points and 10 rebounds. “When guys get in foul trouble, someone has to pick the team up. As a team leader, I have to step up.”
It was extremely critical in a game that featured 13 lead changes and 10 ties.
“We just went through a stretch where they hit some big shots,” said Quarterman, who had a career-high 16 points and seven rebounds off the bench. “We played good defense, they just backed us up a few times and were able to hit good shots.”
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter @MicklesAdvocate.