Nashville, Tenn. --- No. 14 seed LSU (14-18, 2-16 SEC) escapes No. 11 seed Georgia, 72-67, in the first round of the SEC Men's Basketball Tournament on Wednesday at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.
An exciting second half set up LSU's revenge for its decisive regular-season loss to the Bulldogs as an efficient performance on the tournament stage kept them alive.
KJ Williams' 18-point, eight-rebound performance paired with double-doubles by Trae Hannibal (14 points, 11 rebounds) and Shawn Phillips (13 points, 10 rebounds) powered the Tigers' offensive efforts. Hannibal and Phillips marked their first double-doubles of the season as Phillips also recorded a career-high in scoring.
Five different Bulldogs scored in double digits with Braelen Bridges and Justin Hill at the forefront, logging 13 points each. Terry Roberts followed close behind with 12 points while racking up six rebounds as both Jabri Abdur-Rahim and Kario Oquendo scored 10 on the day.
The Tigers made an early move for the lead with a 7-0 run as Cam Hayes slammed one down and Adam Miller hit a 3-pointer to pull ahead, 11-7. Miller and Roberts exchanged triples and a back-and-forth offensive battle began.
LSU worked ahead once again as Phillips rained down on the rim and Justice Williams snatched the ball from Hill to lay one in, widening the gap with 5:40 remaining in the first half to 27-16.
Tyrell Ward joined in on the onslaught of slam dunks, stretching the Tigers lead to 12 at the halftime buzzer, 42-30.
The Bulldogs made a collective effort in the first half and their perfect execution (9-of-9) from the free throw line kept them in the game.
At the start of the second half, Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe and Bridges combined for an 8-2 run to close the gap to 46-38.
Abdur-Rahim drilled a 3-pointer and a pair of free throws before Bridges dropped in a layup to bring the Bulldogs within three, 50-47, with 11:26 to play.
Hannibal's jumper gave LSU a brief moment to breathe, but Bridges kept bringing the heat to keep it close, hitting a bucket to draw the Bulldogs within 53-50. Roberts snatched up a steal and brought it home with a punch, hanging from the rim as the Bulldogs looked to break the barrier. Bridges came through again from the free throw line, but Hannibal hit another jump shot to stay away, 57-54.
However, LSU's relief didn't last long as Abdur-Rahim tied it up at 57 with a shot from beyond the arc and 4:46 on the clock.
After a quick exchange of free throws that put Georgia on top, Miller swished a three and completed the four-point play to power the Tigers ahead, 63-61. LSU would add on two more pairs of free throws, but the Bulldogs were putting in work of their own. Roberts drilled a 3-pointer before Hill converted a layup for an and-one opportunity to tie it up at 67.
Georgia's timeout with 1:33 remaining was to no avail as Phillips came on the court determined to capitalize at the rim, providing a 69-67 lead. Williams continued to pile it on, dropping in a heavily contested jump shot, 71-67, with only 22 seconds left to play.
One final free throw by Hannibal sealed the Tigers' 72-67 victory over the Bulldogs and advanced them to the second round of the tournament.
LSU will face 6-seed Vanderbilt in the second round of the SEC Men's Basketball Tournament on Thursday at 7 P.M. ET. The game will be aired on SEC Network.
Georgia (16-16, 6-12 SEC) is eliminated from the tournament.