By Blake Long/Special to the Journal
OXFORD – Justin Hamilton had his way in LSU’s Southeastern Conference opening win against Ole Miss, dominating the post and scoring 23 points with 16 rebounds.
In the second meeting of the season between the Tigers and Rebels, things were completely opposite for not just Hamilton, but for both teams than in LSU’s previous 26-point win.
Hamilton, LSU’s leading scorer, was held to a season-low two points and six rebounds in the Tigers’ 72-48 loss to Ole Miss on Saturday afternoon in front of 6,246 fans at Tad Smith Coliseum.
His only basket came with the game already out of reach on a two-handed dunk off an offensive rebound with 5:52 remaining in the second half.
“He completely dominated us (in the first meeting) and I think the kid has had an all league caliber year so we knew he was a huge key,” said Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy, whose team snapped a three-game SEC losing streak. “So we just tried to front him in the post and not allow him to have easy touches.”
It wasn’t just Hamilton who struggled on the offensive end for the Tigers.
LSU hit only four shots out of 23 attempts from beyond the arc and shot just 31 percent overall.
“We came in here thinking we already had the win and just didn’t come out with the fire,” said LSU guard Andre Stringer, a Jackson native. “It showed tonight. They wanted it way more than we did.”
Terrance Henry and Williams opened the contest with back-to-back three-pointers for the Rebels (16-12, 6-8) to set the tone.
“People just thought we were going to lay down, so we wanted to show we still had fight in us,” Henry said.
The jump shots fell early for Ole Miss as they built a 15-7 lead with the help of jumpers from Reginald Buckner and Williams by the second media timeout.
After missing the first matchup of the year between the Rebels and Tigers, Johnny O’Bryant made a quick impact. He scored five of LSU’s first nine points.
The Rebels clamped down on O’Bryant, a freshman from Cleveland, after that. He scored only four points the final 30 minutes of the contest to finish with nine points and 11 rebounds.
LSU’s greatest threat came in the middle of the first half. Down 22-9 with 9:37 to play following another Henry basket, the Tigers held Ole Miss scoreless for the next three-plus minutes.
LSU (17-11, 7-7) went on an 8-0 run in that span, which included a Stringer three and baskets by Chris Bass and Storm Warren, to cut their deficit to 22-17.
The Tigers could not get closer than that, making only three field goals the final seven minutes of the first half, and trailed 34-24 at the break.
The offensive struggles for LSU rolled over after halftime. They made only one basket the first seven minutes of the second half.
Ole Miss turned their defense into offense with a 9-2 run, led by Henry and Williams, in that second half span to up their lead to 43-30.
Henry scored 21 points and Williams added 18 points to lead the Rebels while Warren led LSU with 13 and Stringer 10.