COLLEGE STATION, Texas — With 6:56 left in Tuesday night’s game with Texas A&M, Will Wade paced up and down in front of a socially distanced LSU bench and reminded his team of one thing.
Glancing occasionally at the scoreboard high above the court in Reed Arena, Wade shouted, “Six-minute game! Six-minute game!”
It was nothing new, of course. Wade has been preaching that since he took over the Tigers program almost four years ago.
But the not-so-gentle reminder was suddenly necessary as LSU, which had dropped two games in a row by double digits, was locked in a tough fight with Texas A&M.
Little did Wade know at the time that the Tigers wouldn’t give up another point while his offense scored 18 in a row to secure a 78-66 Southeastern Conference victory.
It was a win LSU had to get, considering the circumstances.
Minutes earlier, the Tigers were seemingly heading down the same path that cost them in a 30-point loss to Alabama and a 13-point setback at Kentucky — namely a porous defense and inconsistent shooting.
Texas A&M, a team shooting just 26.8% from beyond the arc for the season, started the second half by burying its first seven attempts from deep and made 10 of 15 shots overall to erase a 17-point first-half deficit and take a 66-60 lead with under nine minutes to play.
With LSU's next two games against No. 10 Texas Tech in the Big 12/SEC Challenge on Saturday and at No. 9 Alabama on Wednesday night, something needed to happen.
And it did, in spectacular fashion.
Texas A&M’s crowd groaned and moaned with each missed shot, turnover and botched free throw in that final 8:49 after Jay Jay Chandler’s 3-pointer stretched the Aggies’ lead to six points for the second time.
That’s when LSU took control by clamping down on defense while the Tigers’ offense scored every one of the contest’s final 18 points.
“It’s huge. … Anytime you win on the road in the SEC, it’s a big win,” Wade said. “We had been getting our doors blown off, by Bama and then in the tough loss to Kentucky.
“This was one that we needed to play well and needed to find a way to win. Proud of our guys — we prepared and we responded in the right way. It was a good night for us.”
It was, considering LSU reached the halfway point of the league schedule with a 6-3 mark instead of being 5-4 and in the middle of a crowded pack in the SEC race.
“Yeah, we were desperate … that’s the one word to say for this game,” LSU forward Trendon Watford said. “We were desperate to win this game. We had dropped two in a row and we didn’t want to drop three in a row.”
LSU really couldn’t afford to do that after crushing A&M by 23 points in the conference opener on Dec. 29, before the Aggies lost four of their next six games — scoring more than 60 points just once in the league.
Still, Wade knew Buzz Williams’ team would make a run at home despite falling behind by 17 points early.
And when Texas A&M outscored LSU by 23 points in an 18-minute stretch covering parts of both halves, the game was definitely on.
“We knew they were going to make a run like we did,” said Watford, who had 13 points and a team-high eight rebounds. “They made a run at the end of the first half and the game got close, but we kept our heads up and just moved on to the next play.”
Watford said the game turned when the Tigers changed their defensive strategy and ran the Aggies off the 3-point line.
“That was the play. We wanted to pressure them,” he said. “They hit a couple of threes off the dribble and we just wanted to make them drive and finish over me, Darius (Days) and Shareef (O’Neal) at the rim.”
On the offensive end, Cam Thomas ignited the late scoring explosion.
Thomas, who got 12 of his game-high 28 points in the second half, had nine points in the final eight minutes and hit the 3-pointer that cut A&M’s 66-60 lead in half.
He nailed another one with 4:06 to play to give LSU a 70-66 lead and then drew a foul on a 3 that he turned into three free throws and a 73-66 margin with 2:34 remaining.
“We were down and I knew we needed some big shots,” Thomas said.
“I was proud of our leadership,” Wade said. “It’s not easy to come back from what we went through the last couple of games, getting our clock cleaned.
“We were ready to go today. I felt it all day, I felt it (Monday) in practice. Credit to our players, they did an awesome job.”