Auburn downs LSU 81-77
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) In his 20-plus seasons as college head coach, Bruce Pearl had never endured a four-game losing streak until this season.
Pearl's Auburn team ended its four-game skid Thursday with an 81-77 Southeastern Conference road victory against LSU.
Both KT Harrell and Antoine Mason recorded season-highs in points. Harrell, who made five 3-pointers, finished with 28 points and made three free throws in the final 17 seconds. Mason scored 24 points and hit four free throws in the last 36 seconds.
''This was a big win for Auburn's program because we haven't won on the road yet,'' Pearl said. ''We had lost four in a row. The kids give up a little bit. It is hard. But, they stayed together and our best players got the ball in key moments.''
When Mason converted a three-point play, Auburn (11-11, 3-6) had a 72-67 lead with 2:47 remaining in the game. Two free throws by Josh Gray and a layup by Tim Quarterman pulled LSU within one point at 72-71, then LSU led 73-72 after two foul shots by Quarterman with 1:19 to go.
But a basket by Cinmeon Bowers gave Auburn the lead for good. Mason sank two free throws following a turnover by Jordan Mickey. LSU had a chance to tie it with 11 seconds remaining, but Gray made one of two foul shots, leaving Auburn on top 77-76.
LSU had one more chance to tie the score when Auburn's Mason was called for traveling with 2.6 seconds remaining. On the in-bounds pass, Mason knocked the ball away from Keith Hornsby, was fouled and made his last two free throws.
''You gain experience from close games,'' Mason said. ''The most important thing we did this week was practice. We practiced situations for the last five minutes. We competed really hard in practice and that carried over into this game. We kept together as a team and pushed forward.''
Bowers had 16 points and 10 rebounds - his SEC-leading 13th double-double of the season. Harrell, Mason and Bowers accounted for all but 13 of Auburn's 81 points.
''We have to stick with the plan,'' Harrell said. ''As leaders of the team, Antoine and me have to stay focused and try to get better. That's what helped us come out here with a lot of energy and a lot of passion. That's why we came out with a win.''
Both Mickey and Jarell Martin had double-doubles for LSU (16-6, 5-4). Mickey had 23 points and 12 rebounds, while Martin had 14 points and a career-high 16 rebounds. Quarterman added 17 points and Hornsby had 11 for LSU.
''We wasted a great opportunity,'' LSU coach Johnny Jones said. ''We played a team that had several losses in a row in conference. They came in and played desperately, looking for an opportunity to win. They played with an edge. We played too comfortable on the floor. You can't turn it on and off.''
Auburn used deep-range shooting take a 41-39 lead into halftime. Auburn made half of its 12 shots from behind the 3-point line in the opening 20 minutes. Harrell and Mason each had three 3-pointers. Auburn was just 9 of 25 on field goal attempts in the first half.
A 10-0 run gave Auburn the largest lead for either team in the first half at 26-19 with 8:49 remaining. A three-point play by Malcolm Canada put Auburn ahead 20-19. Field goals by Bowers and Jordon Granger and two free throws by Harrell completed the Auburn outburst.
Sparked by Quarterman, LSU was able to reduce its deficit to two points by halftime. Quarterman scored 10 of LSU's final 20 first-half points. Unlike Auburn, LSU struggled behind the 3-point line, making 3 of 9.
Auburn maintained its lead in the early stages of the second half. Harrell scored seven of Auburn's first nine points. Meanwhile, LSU stayed close, thanks to Mickey, who scored all seven of its points.
A 3-pointer by K.C. Ross-Miller put Auburn up 53-46 with 14:25 remaining. LSU then put together a good four-minute stretch, with Mickey making a couple of baskets, Jalyn Patterson knocking down a 3-pointer, and Martin making a dunk to tie it at 58-58 with 9:23 to play.
Patterson gave LSU its first lead since midway through the first half on a floater in the lane. Harrell answered with his fifth 3-pointer to give Auburn a 61-60 advantage with 8:11 remaining.
With Harrell and Mason scoring all of the points, Auburn kept the lead for the next four minutes. Harrell made free throws, while Mason had two free throws and two field goals to leave Auburn on top 69-64 with 4:18 left in the game.
LSU: For the first time this season, LSU lost a game in which it had a higher field goal percentage than its opponent. LSU shot 44 percent from the field (29-of-66), while Auburn made 43 percent of its field goal attempts (26-of-61).
Auburn: Auburn won its first true road game of the season. Auburn had lost its seven previous games played on the home court of its opponent. Auburn's average margin of defeat in those seven games was slightly more than 12 points.
GOOD SUCCESS AGAINST LSU
All Auburn coach Bruce Pearl needed to end his team's losing streak was to have LSU on the schedule. With the victory against LSU on Thursday, Pearl has won six of the nine games his team played against LSU. At Tennessee, Pearl had a 5-3 record against LSU.
RARE BACK-TO-BACK LOSSES
For the first time this season, LSU lost two games in a row. LSU followed each of its five previous defeats with a victory. It had been almost an entire calendar year since LSU lost consecutive games. Texas A&M and Arkansas handed LSU back-to-back losses in mid-February last season.
OFFENSE COMES AROUND
Auburn had been struggling on offense in SEC play. Auburn averaged 64 points in its first eight conference games. For just the second time this season, Auburn scored more than 71 points against a SEC opponent. Auburn beat Missouri 85-79 on Jan. 10.
LSU will play host to Alabama on Saturday.
Auburn will play host to Ole Miss on Saturday.