By Andrew Alexander
It was 25 years ago that, in a rare non-conference matchup on February 3rd, No. 14 LSU welcomed the No. 20 Loyola-Marymount Lions to Baton Rouge for what was to become the most exciting and perhaps the greatest game in LSU basketball history.
Lead by head coach Paul Westhead and featuring electric seniors Hank Gathers and Bo Kimble, Loyola Marymount strode into Baton Rouge averaging 121 points per game, but giving up 108 a game as well.
The Lions would meet their match on February 3, 1990, running up against an LSU squad led by the legendary Tiger coach Dale Brown. Brown’s Tiger squad was led by sophomore sharp shooter Chris Jackson and was anchored by twin towers Stanley Roberts and Shaquille O’Neal.
After a back-and-forth contest that rewrote the LSU record books, the Tigers prevailed in overtime 148-141.
The SEC Network recently replayed the epic offensive fireworks show between LSU and LMU. Naturally I watched it, and here are the thoughts of a person witnessing the game for the first time, 25 years after the fact.
From the opening tip, it’s apparent that LSU has the ability to match the Lions up-tempo style of play. Near the midway point of the first half, the Tigers begin to out-run LMU, beating the Lions at their own game. 45-second shot clock? Give me a break! These teams barely needed ten seconds per possession.
The Pete Maravich Assembly Center (known as just the LSU Assembly Center then) lived up to its “Deaf Dome” moniker against Loyola Marymount. The crowd is audible in a way most LSU fans under the age of 30 will have a hard time imagining.
A much younger Senior Associate Sports Information Director Kent Lowe rocked a sweet mustache. Bring it back Kent! The high-top fade hairdo that most of the Tigers players are rocking needs to make a comeback too.
Halftime score is 72-58. I repeat, 72. To put that in perspective, LSU’s highest score this season was 93 points against Gardner-Webb in the season opener, and the Tigers are averaging just over 75 points per game in Southeastern conference play this season.
These teams were running so fast that at one point LSU freshman Maurice Williamson goes running after an errant O’Neal pass and ends up 15 rows into the stands past the baseline.
In the midst of the Lions’ offensive rally early in the second half, O’Neal grabs the rebound off a missed Jackson jumper and converts a wild circus shot layup while being fouled in the process. A sure fire turning point for the Tigers, O’Neal’s three point play electrified the crowd and helped stymie LMU’s comeback…for awhile.
Later in the second half, as the Tigers are hustling back on defense, LSU sophomore Vernel Singleton blocks Gathers’ shot, keeps the ball inbounds with a tip to O’Neal, who rifles it down the court to a streaking Williamson. Williamson spins past the lone LMU defender for the easy transition layup. Such a beautiful sequence is the near definition of poetry in motion on a basketball court.
LSU hit the 100-point mark with over eleven minutes left. Sheesh.
For most of the second half the Tigers survived wave after wave of LMU scoring bursts. In the last four minutes, both teams elevated its games, connecting on seemingly every bucket attempted.The Lions clawed their way back into the game and with less than a minute to play the score was knotted up at 134. Missed free throws by both teams sent the game into overtime.
OVERTIME! I don’t know how much more of this game I can take!
Enter LSU’s “Twin Towers.” Roberts and O’Neal shouldered the scoring load for LSU in overtime, scoring crucial buckets down the stretch. You can feel the pulsating intensity of the LSU Assembly Center crowd through the television set.
Williamson calmly nails two free throws and a transition layup to ice the game for LSU.
“L-S-U, L-S-U, L-S-U,” roars the crowd!
Deaf Dome indeed.
As I wipe the sweat from by brow and rehydrate, I think to myself, “they don’t make games like they use to.”