Second-half surge lifts LSU men past Auburn

Two days after a bad loss at Georgia, the LSU men’s basketball team rebounded Saturday behind a balanced scoring effort and used a 12-3 run in the second half of an 87-80 victory over Auburn in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

Johnny O’Bryant III scored a team-high 19 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, and Andre Stringer added 18 points off the bench to go with 17 from Anthony Hickey.

After trailing 33-32 at halftime, LSU (15-7, 6-4 Southeastern Conference) took the lead for good behind a 10-0 run starting with three-point play from O’Bryant to pull even at 38.

Three minutes later, a pair of Jordan Mickey free throws capped the burst for a 45-38 lead with 15:54 left. Auburn (11-10, 3-7) never could stitch together a true rally.

A quiet second half from guard Chris Denson, who scored 19 of his game-high 29 points in the first 20 minutes, didn’t help the visiting Tigers. Denson went without a point in the first seven minutes as Auburn fell behind.

Guard KT Harrell added 19 points, while point guard Tahj Shamsid-Deen chipped in 16 for Auburn.

Still, Auburn, which shot 40.3 percent, lingered long enough that LSU needed to muster another burst to get free and clear.

Hickey buried a 3-pointer at the top of the arc to extend LSU’s lead to 55-48 with 11:31 to go, and Stringer connected from behind the arc off the right wing 90 seconds later to make it 61-50.

By the time Shamsid-Deen drove for a layup with 8:53 remaining, the Tigers’ lead was out to a comfy 64-53 margin that would peak at 14 points with roughly five minutes left.

Behind its press, Auburn managed to trim the deficit to 80-75 on a 3-pointer from Shamsid-Deen with 1:06 to play. That forced LSU to cinch the victory at the foul line down the stretch.

LSU wobbled but didn’t topple.

Stringer swished a pair of free-throws with 30.4 seconds left for an 84-77 lead, and Mickey came up with a block of a Shamsid-Deen with 26.3 seconds remaining.

Auburn’s Alex Thompson canned another 3-pointer with 10.9 seconds to go make it a five-point game again. Yet Stringer sank another pair of free throws, and Auburn couldn’t muster up a final shot.

Desperately needing to avoid another bad loss, LSU managed to over a slow start that saw ut trail Auburn, the No. 159 team in the RPI, by eight points early in the first half.

When Denson drove for a layup with 14:55 left until halftime, Auburn silenced the 10,588 inside the PMAC and created palpable tension.

Cue up a one-man burst from Jarell Martin, who scored eight points over the next seven minutes during a 15-4 run capped by a jumper from the right baseline by O’Bryant that made it 18-15.

A putback by Mickey nudged LSU’s lead to 22-19 but was met by an 8-0 run from Auburn. A 3-pointer from Dion Wade gave Auburn a 27-22 lead with 3:59 remaining.

Yet Auburn could never find a way to get clear, taking a one-point edge into the locker room on a reverse layup from Denson with 27.1 seconds left.