BY BRENT GLASGOW
ORLANDO – After not making the Old Spice Classic championship game, it was important for Butler to exit Florida with a 2-1 record.
Instead, LSU accomplished that feat, as Anthony Hickey ripped a 3-pointer with three seconds left in regulation to force overtime, and the Tigers held on in the extra period for a 70-68 victory.
It was the second two-point loss in three days for Butler, which lost 69-67 to No. 5 Oklahoma State in Friday’s semifinal round.
“Give a lot of credit to LSU for how they executed down the stretch, the plays that they made,” Butler coach Brandon Miller said. “They played well, and at the end of the day, they beat us.”
LSU coach Johnny Jones praised his team’s effort against the tradition-rich Bulldogs.
“We knew Butler was a tough basketball team and would be a tough out for us,” Jones said. “I thought our guys did a great job playing through it all there at the end and finishing the game strong.”
Led by Johnny O’Bryant’s 17 points, LSU had four others with 12, and the Tigers’ bench outscored Butler’s 24-0. The Bulldogs’ list of available reserves was shortened by the disciplinary hold-out of Elijah Brown, Rene Castro and Devontae Morgan.
“That was my decision, and those guys understand why they didn’t get in the game,” Miller said.
“All of those guys will be back in practice when we start on Tuesday, and they will be expected to play in our next game.”
That game will be next Saturday, when Butler (5-2) hosts North Dakota (2-3) at 6 p.m.
Butler began red-hot on Sunday, as Kellen Dunham hit a 3-pointer to cap a 7-0 run to start the game. The Bulldogs led 14-6, and then went ice-cold.
LSU (5-2) hit three 3-pointers on Butler double-team switches, and the Bulldogs scored just four points over a nine-minute stretch as the Tigers took a 24-21 lead. Dunham turned it on just before halftime, with two 3s that gave Butler a 27-26 advantage at the break.
Butler outrebounded LSU 24-14 in the opening half, but shot just 11 of 34 from the field.
The teams traded scores and the lead in the first 10 minutes of the second half, and a 3-pointer by Dunham put Butler up 49-44 at the midway point. The Bulldogs held a seven-point edge with six minutes remaining, but LSU knotted back up at 56-56 with two minutes to go.
Alex Barlow nailed a 3-pointer to give Butler a 59-56 lead, but LSU’s Jarell Martin cut it to one with 15 seconds left. Erik Fromm followed with two free throws, which set up Hickey’s tying shot from the top of the key.
Khyle Marshall hit four straight free throws to give Butler a 65-63 lead in OT, but LSU finally took full advantage of its size and strength inside in the closing minutes, as eight of its final 10 points came from post players.
Dunham led Butler with 20 points, followed by Marshall (17), Kameron Woods (12) and Fromm (10). Woods led the Bulldogs with 11 rebounds, while the 5-foot-11 Barlow had 10, all on the defensive side.
Miller said the back-to-back narrow defeats should pay dividends in the end.
“As we move forward, being in close games like we’ve been in will help us,” he said. “But saying that, they can help you if you learn from them.
“Our goal from this tournament and these close games is to get better, to learn from these three games and continue to get better, and we’ll like where we are if we can do that.”