Already weary from a late-night flight home Thursday after a gut-wrenching overtime loss at Missouri, the LSU men’s basketball team had ample opportunity to fold Saturday night.
Another overtime, this one against a Georgia team that was well-rested after a Tuesday night loss to Arkansas, was just the start for the Tigers in their home Southeastern Conference opener.
Having relinquished an eight-point lead in the final eight minutes of regulation and having to go to overtime, just as it did against Missouri, LSU appeared headed to a second loss in 48 hours three minutes into the extra period.
That’s when everything changed, however, and the Tigers managed to get the game to a second overtime, which produced an unbelievable finish and improbable 87-84 victory.
Improbable because LSU forward Jarell Martin, who went into the game as the SEC’s leading scorer, fouled out with 2:20 left in overtime after scoring just seven points.
Improbable because the Tigers overcame a deficit that grew to nine points on the foul that sent Martin to the bench for the rest of the evening.
Improbable because they had a controversial call go their way — then against them when officials reviewed the play — with 1:58 remaining and Georgia holding a six-point advantage.
Improbable because reserve guard Tim Quarterman, who averaged just 2.5 points a game as a freshman a year ago, scored six of a career-high 27 points in a 19-second span to set up the second overtime.
In that second five-minute period, Quarterman had a layup with 2:11 to play to give his team a four-point lead, then was credited with a steal when Georgia’s Charles Mann tried to draw a foul on a 3-point shot with 2 seconds to play.
Quarterman wisely didn’t take Mann’s pump-fake, the ball bounced harmlessly to the floor and the clock ran out as an incredulous Georgia coach Mark Fox pled for a call while LSU players and fans celebrated.
The back-to-back overtime games were the first for LSU since the 1983-84 season when the Tigers defeated Georgia and Tennessee.
The close call was fitting for LSU and Georgia, who were picked to finish fourth and fifth, respectively, in the SEC media preseason poll.
“It was certainly a great battle … we’ve been in some tough overtime games,” LSU coach Johnny Jones said, remembering a 97-94 triple-overtime win over Alabama on the same floor in 2013. “This would rank up there with the best because of the caliber team they are.”
Quarterman, who was 6-of-10 on 3-point shots as the Tigers connected on 16 of 23 attempts from beyond the arc, made sure to credit his teammates.
Freshman guard Jalyn Patterson, who missed three free throws in regulation and the second overtime, made a key one with 26 seconds left to come through with a career-high 15 points. Forward Jordan Mickey had 17 points and eight rebounds, and guard Josh Gray had 15 points and six assists.
“One of our big players (Martin) went down, and some other players had to find a way to step up,” said Quarterman, who added five rebounds, five assists, three steals and three blocks to his stat line.
While the points were big, Jones lauded Quarterman’s leadership during timeouts when things looked bleak for the Tigers.
“He reiterated to the guys quite often that we weren’t going to lose the game,” Jones said. “We had to continue to fight … we had to continue to battle. Even when he threw an errant pass to Jalyn, when we were four up and could have gone up six, he took it upon himself.”
“We stayed focus, and we never gave up,” Quarterman said. “It was easy to give up, but we kept fighting, and we overcame. It means a lot, especially in front of our fans.”
Kentucky tickets on sale
Tickets for the Tigers’ matchup with Kentucky on Feb. 10 will go on sale Monday at the LSU Athletics Ticket Office and online at www.LSUTix.net.
The ticket office is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Ticket prices start at $16 for adults and $5 for youths aged 3 to 12.
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter @MicklesAdvocate.