NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Trendon Watford scored 24 points and Darius Days added a double double, as the LSU men's basketball team defeated Ole Miss in the SEC Tournament quarterfinal late Friday, 76-73.
The victory was the 1,600th in LSU men's basketball history, but more importantly its first in the SEC Tournament since 2016.
LSU will face No. 2-seeded Arkansas in the SEC Tournament semifinal on Saturday at approximately 2:30 p.m. CT. The game will be broadcast on the LSU Sports Radio Network beginning at 2 p.m., with the telecast slated for ESPN.
Arkansas defeated seventh-seeded Missouri in the SEC quarterfinal on Friday, 70-64. LSU and Arkansas split a pair of regular-season meetings, with the home team winning each game.
With Smart and Thomas struggle from the field in the first half, it was Watford (11 points) and Days (10 points) who led the Tigers to a 29-27 halftime advantage.
A 13-2 run midway through the first half gave LSU a 20-13 lead with 9:21 remaining. But the Tigers cooled from the field and committed three turnovers during a five-minute scoring drought that allowed Ole Miss to stay close.
Neither team eclipsed 40 percent shooting in the opening 20 minutes.
Behind Days' fast start to the second half, LSU extended its advantage to 11, 40-29, less than three minutes into the period. But Joiner and the Rebels answered with a furious rally, making 7-of-8 shots including three three-pointers to earn a 51-46 lead with 11:17 to play.
Thomas, who had made 3-of-15 shots to start the contest, made his first three pointer to regain the lead for LSU, 56-55, with 8:42 remaining.
Thomas' second three pointer came in transition on a pass from Smart less than two minutes later, as LSU extended its advantage to 63-58 at the final media timeout behind 6-of-7 shooting.
Despite 1-of-8 shooting, Ole Miss pulled within one possession, 67-65, at the free throw line as the game crept under two minutes to play.
A three pointer by Ole Miss senior guard Devontae Shuler narrowed the Tigers' advantage to 69-68 with 68 seconds to play. Following an LSU timeout, Days made his three triple of the evening to put LSU back up four, 72-68, with less than a minute left.
A steal by LSU freshman guard Eric Gaines resulted in a layup by Watford that put the Tigers up six, 74-68, with 28 seconds remaining. After a quick three pointer by Joiner, LSU was able to advance through the Ole Miss press before Thomas was fouled with 12 seconds remaining. The freshman made both to ice the victory.