NICEVILLE, FLA. — Sophomore forward Tari Eason came off the bench to tie a career high with 20 points, including seven points in overtime, powering LSU to the championship of the Emerald Coast Classic with a 68-63 overtime victory past Penn State.
The Tigers, who improved to 6-0, will face the winner of the Wake Forest-Oregon State game in the championship game scheduled for a 6 p.m. start Saturday
“We are going to have to win games like that,” said LSU coach WIll Wade. “That’s how it’s going to be in the SEC and in these types of games. I thought our guys did some good things but we need to continue to clean up some of the details.”
Eason added nine rebounds for LSU which won the rebounding battle, 42-35.
Senior guard Sam Sessoms recorded his fourth career double-double and his first as a Nittany Lion with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Penn State senior Myles Dread and transfer Jaheam Cornwall both posted season highs in points with 11 and 9, respectively.
Neither team owned a lead bigger than five points in regulation.
The Tigers had a 7-0 run to erase a 44-40 deficit before Cornwall hit a corner three to tie the game at 47-47.
From there, LSU would extend its lead to as much as five again before Sessoms came roaring back, scoring the next nine points for the Nittany Lions, to give his team the 56-55 lead with 48 seconds left.
LSU went down the floor and Xavier Pinson hit a three to take a 58-56 advantage with 35 seconds remaining.
Pinson finished with 15 points.
Penn State’s Seth Lundy came up with the put-back layup to tie the game at 58-58 with 0.6 second to play to force overtime
LSU scored the first six points of overtime for its largest lead of the game. The Nittany Lions got as close as 64-63 following a basket by Sessoms, but LSU was able to close out the 68-63 win.
“It was a great atmosphere,” Wade added. “Our fans were awesome and it was like a home game with as many as we had. Hopefully, we will have that and some more for our game tomorrow. It was just a really good atmosphere.”
Penn State held LSU almost 20 points below its season-scoring average of 85.4 points. The defense also held the Tigers to just a 34.8 percent (24-69) clip from the field and 16.7 percent from beyond the arc (4-24), far below their respective season averages of 50.0 and 38.4.
The Nittany Lions had three players in double digits, having done so in four of five games this season.
“Playing LSU was a challenge for ussaid first year Penn State coach Micah Shrewsberry. “We were a little undermanned and short in terms of bodies and size. And what LSU does best is what we are not good at right now, in terms of getting people off the glass and not turning the ball over. This is a great chance for us to get better and get ready for the rest of the season.”
“It was a great atmosphere. I was here two years ago with Purdue when they played VCU and Tennessee was here. It was an unbelievable atmosphere then too. It wasn’t just the fans that the teams brought, it was the local fans too. They love basketball here in Florida. Don’t let people fool you that they just love football. They love basketball here too. There are good basketball players here and there’s knowledgeable fans here too. This environment will get us ready.”
Penn State, which fell to 3-2, committed a season-high 16 turnovers.