There were times Wednesday night when it looked like Ole Miss point guard Stefan Moody was going to shoot the LSU basketball team out of its own gym.
A lot of times, in fact.
Whenever the 5-foot-10 Moody raised up for a shot, or dared to dribble in and penetrate the lane to challenge the big men inside, there was a feeling the ball was going to wind up in the bottom of the net.
It looked like there was nothing the Tigers could do, especially when Moody backed up and buried a couple of 36-foot 3-pointers — one in each half — to hush the Pete Maravich Assembly Center crowd.
But when it needed it most, LSU shot back by making 10 of its last 14 field-goal attempts to erase a six-point deficit and come away with a 90-81 victory over Ole Miss in a game the Tigers needed after a loss at Florida.
Coming off a 68-62 setback against Florida, where LSU could never quite get the run it needed to pull off a big road win, the Tigers hung in and stayed the course Wednesday night.
They made 7-of-10 field-goal attempts in the first 10 minutes of the second half, then continued that upward trend in a closing 34-19 flurry — eventually shooting 70.8 percent from the floor in the final 20 minutes in knocking down 17-of-24 field-goal attempts.
“They did a great job of having patience and sharing the ball,” LSU coach Johnny Jones said of his team, which shot 43.3 percent in the opening half. “They were able to open the floor up.
“We utilized our offense when we tried to punch the ball to the side and tried to make sure that we were able to take advantage of them (inside). Then, our perimeter guys were able to step up and knock down some shots.”
It was the second time this season LSU shot 70 percent or better in the second half of a game. The Tigers shot 77.1 percent after halftime in a 119-108 victory over North Florida on Dec. 2.
“To shoot 70 percent against a very tough defensive basketball team like that, especially during the second half, required patience and toughness,” Jones said. “Our guys were able to do that in the end.”
His team needed every one of those shots against Ole Miss.
The biggest of the big were a pair of 3-pointers each by Antonio Blakeney and Tim Quarterman, who weren’t on the floor for the start of the game after being part of the lineup for the past seven games.
Blakeney scored 13 of his 15 points in the final 10½ minutes and Quarterman had 10 of his 14 to help turn a six-point deficit at 62-56 into a nine-point victory.
Jones pointed out that Josh Gray and Jalyn Patterson earned the starts because of their work in practice, which was a lesson learned for Blakeney and Quarterman.
With six capable guards on his roster, Jones has the luxury of tinkering with his lineup and rotation depending on the matchup with the opponent, or if he sees the need for a teaching moment — like Wednesday.
“It was good that we had guys who may not have started the game and wound up finishing the game and played a lot of balanced minutes,” he said. “I hope it was a lesson learned that we have a team of guys who are looking forward to taking advantage of their opportunities.
“Guys understand, they’ve been playing long enough,” Jones added. “A lot of guys take pride and put a lot of emphasis on whether they’re starting or not.”
It didn’t matter to Moody who started or who came off the bench.
After Jones repeatedly noted earlier in the week that the 5-foot-10 guard almost singlehandedly beat Kentucky a year ago, he took his best shots at the Tigers.
He was 6-of-11 from 3-point range and 4-of-7 on regular field-goal attempts and added seven free throws in piling up a career-high 33 points.
Just like Kentucky did a year ago, LSU weathered the storm with the help, Jones emphasized, of 10 players — from Craig Victor’s team-high 32 minutes to Darcy Malone’s five.
“I’m hopeful that when guys weren’t in they were just as involved in the game, pulling for their teammates because we wanted the score to be different,” Jones said. “We had guys who made a sudden impact. Each guy who came in gave us some positive things, and that’s what we need.”
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter, @MicklesAdvocate.