MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Apparently, a big win on the road calls for a special celebration inside the LSU basketball team’s locker room.
But considering its latest win Thursday night came against a ranked opponent in a difficult place to play, not to mention having to come back from a 14-point second-half deficit, Tigers’ coach Johnny Jones felt the urge to give his team a little more.
So when the LSU players reached the locker room after a stunning 74-73 victory against No. 16 West Virginia sparked the usual spontaneity on the court, Jones let loose.
“Coach Jones, I’ve never seen him like that,” said guard Josh Gray, whose uncontested drive to the rim and layup with 7.4 seconds left proved to be the game-winner. “He pulled out a couple of his (dance) moves. He used to dance back in the day. … He’s got a little rhythm.”
While the usually-reserved Jones tried to downplay his locker room talent later several players noted that he often celebrates huge that way.
There was no question this one fell under that category, judging by how quickly 10,802 fans filed out of WVU Coliseum and into the cold night after LSU’s first road win over a ranked opponent in nearly a decade.
The last time was on Nov. 26, 2005 on the same floor when the Tigers, who four months later advanced to the Final Four, took down the 13th-ranked Mountaineers 71-68.
“I gave them a little something, but they shouldn’t be talking about that,” Jones, who also notched his 250th win as a head coach, said with a grin. “Usually, a lot of times after games we have a lot of fun in the locker room.”
Guard Keith Hornsby said Jones was more excited than usual.
“He was jumping around with the rest of us,” Hornsby said.
“We were all excited, and it was good to see how enthusiastic they were,” Jones said. “That’s probably the most excited I’ve seen a team in a long time after a victory. Those guys put a lot into it tonight.”
Considering they were about ready to start a nine-day break for final exams, it couldn’t have come at a better time.
Playing just 48 hours after crushing UMass by 22 points at home, LSU needed another big victory to close out the first part of its schedule in style.
Unbeaten West Virginia, which rolled to seven consecutive wins by an average of 19.6 points, was as good as anyone to help the Tigers build up their nonconference resume.
How they did it was what made it so special, considering star forwards Jordan Mickey and Jarell Martin played most of the second half in foul trouble after Mickey picked up two quick fouls in the game’s first two minutes.
LSU (6-2) also committed a season-high 24 turnovers, many of which came on West Virginia’s sticky full-court pressure.
Jones’ team gave it up 15 times alone in the first half, which was what it averaged in the first seven games, helping West Virginia erase a six-point deficit four times and to a five-point halftime lead.
That wasn’t the worst of it, however.
After finishing the first half on a 16-5 run, West Virginia (7-1) scored the first nine points of the second half to complete a 25-5 run and push the lead to 14 points at the 18:07 mark.
In that early stretch of the second half, the Mountaineers took advantage of a missed layup and three turnovers by the shaken Tigers.
At that point, Hornsby said they woke up as the crowd roared during a timeout Jones called to try and stem the tide.
“We kind of looked at each other and said, ‘This can’t be how his game goes,’ ” said Hornsby, who had 15 points. “We came back and made some defensive stops and got some rebounds, and the rest is history.”
Over the next nine minutes, LSU went on an 18-4 run of its own to tie the game at 56-56 on Hornsby’s 3-pointer with 9:03 remaining.
In that critical stretch, everyone helped out.
Tim Quarterman poured in seven of his game- and career-high 21 points, while Martin, Hornsby and Gray had three points each.
“In the first half, they got after us a little bit on the defensive end,” said Quarterman, who added seven rebounds, two blocks and two steals. “I thought we cleaned it up a little in the second half and got some easy opportunities at the basket.”
From then on, the Tigers were in it even though they had to erase a six-point Mountaineers lead twice in the final 5:06, which eventually led to Gray’s big shot and two misses by West Virginia on the other end just before the final horn.
“It was a hard-fought battle,” Jones said. “We just had to keep grinding.”
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter @MicklesAdvocate.