For almost 30 minutes of Wednesday night’s game with Ole Miss, the LSU basketball team just couldn’t get over the hump.
Thanks to Ole Miss point guard Stefan Moody, who put on a dazzling offensive show in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, LSU trailed for a good part of that stretch and was staring at a 62-56 deficit with 10:40 left in the game.
That’s when guards Antonio Blakeney and Tim Quarterman, who were replaced in the starting lineup by coach Johnny Jones for Wednesday night’s contest, came alive.
While they didn’t start, they certainly finished.
Blakeney scored 13 points and Quarterman added 10 in the final 10½ minutes as LSU outscored Ole Miss 31-19 the rest of the way for a 90-81 Southeastern Conference victory.
“I’m a big stickler for making sure of what the intensity level has to be in practice.” Jones said. “We’ve had a couple guys (Josh Gray and Jalyn Patterson) that have maintained that (intensity) in practice.
“Jalyn’s been having good practices and Josh has been doing the same.”
Gray responded with seven points and Patterson had five, but Quarterman and Blakeney helped put the Tigers over the hump after they trailed 43-40 at halftime and by as many as six points four times in the second half.
Quarterman started the comeback with a long 3-point basket with 10:25 to play, which was one of the many baskets LSU (10-6, 3-1 SEC) needed to offset a 33-point performance by Moody, who came into the game leading the league with 23.9 points per game.
It was the 11th consecutive game that Moody, a 5-foot-10 dynamo, scored 20 points or more.
While Moody was filling it up early and often, pouring in a season-high six 3-pointers in 11 attempts, Quarterman and Blakeney made their contributions when the Tigers needed a spark in the worst way.
They needed it when LSU, which got into foul trouble in the first half much like it did in a six-point loss at Florida on Saturday, needed someone to step up after Ben Simmons, Craig Victor, Quarterman and Gray all had two fouls in the opening 20 minutes.
After LSU trimmed the deficit to 64-63 on a baseline drive by Quarterman with 8:29 left, Victor had the play that ignited the Tigers and a paid crowd of 12,133.
Victor blocked a shot by forward Marcanvis Hymon under the Ole Miss basket and Hymon recovered for another attempt. But Victor swept down the rebound and started a fast break that ended with Blakeney being fouled on a 3-point shot.
Blakeney, who’s been in a slump from the field, dropped in all three free throws to give LSU a 66-64 edge and Ole Miss (12-4, 2-2 SEC) only led once the rest of the night (71-70) on a three-point play by Moody, of course, with 6:09 left.
But Blakeney came back just eight seconds later with a 3-pointer from the corner on an assist from Simmons to give the Tigers the lead again at 73-71.
After hitting only 10-of-31 from the floor in the last five games, Blakeney was 3-of-4 in the second half -- which included going 2-of-3 from beyond the 3-point arc.
That helped LSU go 17-of-24 from the field for 70.8 percent in the final 20 minutes and 55.6 percent for the game.
“Just seeing the ball go in the basket definitely helped my shot,” Blakeney said. “I wanted to try and knock them down for my team.
“I definitely felt like it helped me to come off the bench,” he said. “It was definitely different because I never really did that in high school. I’m just glad I could come off the bench and help us win.”
After his 3-point shot, Blakeney had a key rebound on the defensive end and LSU turned it into a 3-pointer by Quarterman to finish off a 13-7 run that gave the Tigers a 76-71 lead.
“We shared the ball a lot and played as a team in the second half,” Quarterman said. “People got their shots and made big shots on our team. It wasn’t just one person … it was a team effort.”
LSU had five players in double figures.
Victor had 18 points, Simmons and Blakeney had 15 each, Quarterman finished with 14 and Keith Hornsby had 10. Simmons had seven assists and Victor had a team-high six rebounds.
Ole Miss did make one more run to tie it at 76-76 on a 3-point basket by Moody and a dunk by Anthony Perez on a fast break.
But LSU would not be denied.
Blakeney sandwiched a field goal and a 3-pointer around a basket by Victor and Simmons scored on an alley-oop from Quarterman with 1:44 to play for an 85-81 lead.
Blakeney had a steal from Perez with 1:28 to play to finish off the win.
“What a great game, that was a great bounceback game for the guys from that game Saturday,” Jones said. “It was a great way to finish like that in the end. We showed a sense of urgency and toughness down the stretch.”