BATON ROUGE, La. -- In front of a strong home crowd,, it looked like LSU had Tennessee dead to rights on Senior Night.
The Tigers (17-12, 7-8) raced out to a 31-16 lead in the first half on Wednesday against the Volunteers. But that big lead evaporated into a 60-60 tie, a sloppy overtime period and an eventual 74-69 loss.
Starting right out of halftime, Tennessee, led by guard Jarnell Stokes, clawed back into contention. Behind Stokes' 18 points, the Volunteers (17-13, 9-6) forced overtime with a spirited second half effort that saw them outscore the Tigers by 11 points.
"Tennessee has a level of physical and mental toughness that's been impressive all year long," LSU coach Trent Johnson said. "It's a tough loss … Probably the toughest loss we've had all year."
Too much in OT: Stokes got the Vols to overtime with a remarkable 90 percent shooting performance from the field, as he hit on 9-of-1o shots. But once the teams got to the extra period, an unlikely duo stepped up for Tennessee.
Tatum connected on a big 3-pointer to open the scoring, while Golden added a 3-point play of his own, with a layup and a foul shot in crunch time.
Golden, who had five points in regulation, finished with 14 and went to the line to convert seven free throws to ice the win.
Hamilton's return: After he put up a putrid two points in Saturday's loss to Ole Miss, Justin Hamilton bounced back to lead the way against the Volunteers.
Hamilton led the Tigers in scoring with 17 points and added nine rebounds. The Volunteers didn't make nearly the effort to double-team him as Ole Miss did, and Hamilton said he simply had to take advantage of his one-on-one looks.
The junior brought the PMAC to its feet as the game wound to a close. With 15 seconds remaining, Tennessee forward Jeronne Maymon attempted a short jumper to grab the lead, only to have Hamilton stuff the shot and recover for LSU.
The Tigers had the ball with 10 seconds remaining with a chance to win, but Anthony Hickey missed a running layup and the game went to overtime.
Senior fight: The Tigers flew out of the gates in the first half, and a lot of it had to do with some obvious emotional energy from the LSU seniors.
Yours truly wrote, earlier this morning, that the seniors would need to show up for LSU to grab a win, and they roared out of the gates.
Malcolm White, who has only averaged 3.2 points per game this season, scored seven points in the first half. The senior forward eventually tapered off, but that emotion to start the night brought a healthy PMAC crowd to life.
Fellow senior Storm Warren followed White's lead in the early going and chipped in six first-half points and finished with eight.
The strong start allowed the Tigers to build a their 15-point lead.