CHARLOTTE AMALIE, Virgin Islands — Near the end of one of their best halves of the still-young season Saturday night, LSU forward Jordan Mickey added the perfect exclamation point to the Tigers’ victory over Weber State.
Actually, it was two exclamation points.
Frustrated a night earlier when he scored just five points and had six rebounds in a 70-61 loss to Old Dominion in LSU’s opener in the Paradise Jam, Mickey turned it around — especially in the second half of a 72-58 win.
Sufficiently motivated, Mickey scored a career-high 27 points and his 14 rebounds matched the career-high he recorded just four nights earlier against Texas Tech.
“I was pretty hard on myself (Friday) night,” said Mickey, a preseason first-team All-Southeastern Conference pick. “I know what I’m capable of, and I know what I can do night-in and night-out. I just knew we needed this win, and I had to produce for my team.”
That he did. The final five points of a 17-point second-half effort, when the Tigers woke up after taking a slim 28-27 lead to the locker room, were emphatic and to the point.
With LSU holding an eight-point lead with 4:23 to play, Mickey stepped behind the blue line at the top of the key and calmly launched a high-arcing shot that touched nothing but net for the first made 3-pointer of his career in eight attempts.
Less than a minute later, guard Keith Hornsby led a fast break that ended with him hitting Mickey in stride for a slam dunk that pushed the lead to 68-55 and iced the win for LSU (3-1) with 3:32 remaining.
It capped a second half in which the Tigers came out and connected on 19 of 31 field-goal attempts for 61.3 percent after making just 13 of 34 shots (38.2 percent) from the field in the first 20 minutes.
It was the way coach Johnny Jones envisioned his team finishing a half after LSU struggled in the latter stages of the first half and early in the second half of the ODU loss.
“We played with a lot of intensity tonight, especially in the second half,” Hornsby said. “That was one of the things coach said after the game (Friday night). He told us to remember that feeling and make sure we didn’t feel the same way after this game.
“We had some lapses against Old Dominion, but we played a better overall game offensively and defensively tonight.”
Hornsby, who scored 12 first-half points to get his team off to a good start, finished with 18 points in hitting 8 of 13 shots from the field and had four rebounds and four assists.
“The biggest thing we did was share the ball,” Jones said. “We made some extra passes and got some easy shots and scoring opportunities off that, and we attacked the basket.”
Forward Jarell Martin had 11 points, all of them coming in the second half after he played only 12 minutes in the first half because of foul trouble for the second night in a row.
Like Mickey, Martin came up big when LSU had to have it.
After watching a 10-point first-half lead dwindle to one, much like the Tigers did when they led Old Dominion by 12 points three times in the first half a night earlier, the second half was theirs.
Martin scored five of LSU’s first nine points of the second half on an alley-oop off a Tim Quarterman feed and a three-point play, sandwiching those points around baskets by Mickey and Hornsby.
Weber State (1-3) continued to hang around, however, but Mickey took over after the score was tied at 39-39 with 15:40 to play. Mickey scored eight of LSU’s next 12 points as the Tigers started to pull away.
“Coach Jones wasn’t happy Friday night, so we knew that we had to come out with a different attitude in the second half,” Hornsby said. “At halftime, he stressed what we needed to do, but he didn’t go off.”
Mickey certainly did.
“That was a great bounceback game for us,” Jones said. “Any time you play a game like that (against ODU), you’re eager to see how they respond. We didn’t finish that game the way we’d like to, but we came back and responded well with an edge. That second half was one of the better halves we’ve had.”
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter @MicklesAdvocate.