Before shuffling his sandal-clad feet back to the locker room, LSU guard Charles Carmouche wanted to be definitive.
“I wasn’t suspended or anything,” he said after the Tigers’ 97-94 triple overtime victory Saturday against Alabama.
The redshirt senior’s 54 minutes could be labeled an act of atonement, a penance when he scored 20 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and locked Alabama guard Trevor Releford in a cell for the final 18 minutes.
Carmouche, who transferred from Memphis for a fifth season of eligibility, was parked on the Tigers’ bench and played only 3 minutes after squabbling with a critique from LSU’s assistant coaches early in Tuesday’s 82-72 loss at Tennessee.
“I talked with the coaches the next day in practice, apologized,” Carmouche said. “We’re all good now.”
Clearly, considering he was tapped to start just four days later. Granted, a nicked-up Andre Stringer weighed heavily in coach Johnny Jones’ calculus.
Regardless, Carmouche’s efforts showed there were no ill effects.
“Sitting over there watching the team struggle the way they did and knowing I could help them, it was tough,” Carmouche said. “I pretty much owed my team this win.”
With forward Johnny O’Bryant ensnared in double teams, Carmouche, who scored his 20 points on 5-of-11 shooting, floated the offense with seven points and seven critical rebounds as LSU trailed 36-31 at halftime.
Yet Carmouche, a rangy 6-4, 187-pound New Orleans native, proved more vital defensively against Releford.
Case in point: Releford, who gashed LSU for a career-high 36 points, popped off eight points over three minutes and capped it with a 3-pointer to stand at 29 points and put Bama ahead 64-54 with 6:47 left in regulation.
He only scored seven points the rest of the way after Carmouche drew Jones’ assignment to guard him with three minutes left.
“Coach saw it in my eyes that I really wanted, because I didn’t really say nothing,” Carmouche said. “I just wanted to guard him and lock him down.”
The result: Releford went 2-of-6 the rest of the way and didn’t attempt a shot as LSU rallied from a 62-52 hole to force overtime.
Afterward, Jones didn’t speak as if there were any lingering doubts about trusting Carmouche. Or that the guard could adhere to directions.
“I probably should have put him on him earlier,” Jones said.
There’s a temptation to probe statements for signs of distrust after an incident in the vein of Tuesday’s moment. The fact that Carmouche, who can at times rank among the Tigers’ best one-on-one defenders, might chafe against critiques wouldn’t help repair the cracks.
Yet Jones was quick to deny an emerging fissure.
“I was really pleased with his effort today and yesterday in practice,” Jones said. “Any time you have to make some tough decisions in games, it’s hard to do that.”
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