Watford helps LSU overcome Mississippi 76-73 in SEC quarters

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Trendon Watford scored 24 points, including a key tip with 23 seconds remaining, Cameron Thomas added two late free throws for 18 points and No. 3 seed LSU held off No. 6 Mississippi 76-73 Friday night in the final Southeastern Conference Tournament quarterfinal.

The Tigers (17-8) faces second-seeded and No. 8-ranked Arkansas in Saturday’s semifinal. Ole Miss (16-11) awaits its postseason fate.

LSU appeared to take control with a 40-29 lead early in the second half before Ole Miss rallied with a 22-6 surge over 6:19 for a five-point lead. The Tigers responded with a 19-7 run featuring two 3-pointers by Thomas, including the go-ahead 3-pointer with 6:51 left.

LSU led 69-63 before the Rebels rallied within a point on Devontae Shuler’s 3-pointer with 1:17 remaining. Darius Days (20 points) answered with a big 3-pointer followed by Watford’s basket to make it 74-68, which proved critical when Jarkel Joiner hit a 3 to cut the lead in half.

Joiner then fouled Cameron Thomas, who made both free throws to seal LSU’s hard-fought victory, the 1,600th in school history. The Tigers followed a 1-of-6 start from long range to make 6 of their final 14. They also hit 9 of 10 from the foul line after a 2-of-6 start.

Joiner scored 21 of his 26 points after halftime for the Rebels, who had sought their fourth consecutive victory and avenge a 75-61 loss to the Tigers on Jan. 9. Romello White added 20 points for Ole Miss, who won the boards 42-37 but allowed LSU to shoot 52% in the second half.

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