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LSU Post Season Games - 1954
With all five starters returning, much was expected of the 1953-54 LSU Tigers.
  • But the main cause of the high expectations was All-American senior C Bob Pettit, who had led the Tigers to the 1953 NCAA Tournament semifinals and the #5 spot in the final AP rankings. What could he and his teammates do for an encore?
    If there ever was a player who did not rest on his laurels, it was Pettit. A fellow senior, G Benny McArdle, had witnessed the Baton Rouge native's improvement over four years. "I remember Bob looking like a young colt in his freshman year. He was falling down a lot, not very strong and not much stamina. But he had a soft touch when he shot and also had a few cute moves around the keyhole. What I didn't see then was a work ethic and determination to make good. He would work with the late Alvin Roy on a weight program to help him develop his strength and stamina. By his senior year, Bob was so strong that nobody could shove him under the boards or snatch the ball away from him. Along with the work ethic was a willingness, and I mean a willingness, to work to improve. He not only put in the time at practice, but he was always conscientiously working on his game - developing new moves and shots. Again, by his senior year he was doing more dribbling and driving from the outside and corners. ... I remember how he developed into a great rebounder. He rebounded almost as well as he scored and did both with a great deal of competence and confidence."
  • Coach Harry Rabenhorst scheduled some challenging opponents for his club's pre-conference schedule.
  • Starting as #10 in the AP poll, the Tigers defeated Kansas 68-63 December 12 to take the Jayhawks place at #5 nationally. Read the story of that game ...
  • A week later, the Wisconsin Badgers came to Baton Rouge and ended the Tigers' 30-game home winning streak 82-66 despite Pettit's 33 points.
  • LSU finished their non-conference play with a 6-2 record after losing to #12 Holy Cross 66-56 in the Sugar Bowl Classic.

After not playing the 1952-53 season because of NCAA sanctions, the Kentucky Wildcats returned to the court with a vengeance.

  • Adolph Rupp's squad, after winning all their non-conference games, roared through their SEC campaign 14-0. But LSU did the same.
  • How is that possible? The teams didn't meet because the schools could not agree on a site for the game.
  • Since there was no SEC Tournament that year, the teams met at Nashville for the SEC Championship and the conference's spot in the NCAA Tournament. The #1 Wildcats prevailed over the #8 Tigers 63-56.
    After the game, Rupp said, "The LSU Bengals were the best team we've played this season. They played us a great game."
  • However, Rupp declined the NCAA invitation against the wishes of his team because his best three players, Cliff Hagan, Frank Ramsey, and Lou Tsioropoulos, would not be allowed to participate because they were no longer undergraduates. Adolph wanted to finish the season 25-0
    Pettit and Hagan had leap-frogged each other for the single-game SEC scoring record during the season. Bob had set it with 50 against Georgia during the 1952-53 season. But Hagan dropped in 51 against Temple December 5. Pettit canned 60 against Louisiana College two nights later to reclaim the record.
    His 17 points in the SEC title game gave Pettit a 31.4 average for the season, which would have been good enough to lead the nation in most years. But Frank Selvy of Furman finished with 41.7 ppg.

    L-R: Cliff Hagan, Adolph Rupp, Lou Tsioropoulos, Frank Ramsey
So the Bayou Bengals traveled to Iowa City IA to represent the SEC in the round of sixteen.
  • Their opponent would be at-large entry Penn State, which had defeated Toledo 62-50 in the first round of the 24-team tournament. The Nittany Lions were known for their zone defense.
  • LSU would be hampered by the leg injury that captain and playmaker McArdle suffered early in the Kentucky game. His outside shooting prevented opponents from surrounding Pettit in the pivot with three men. Bennie would play but was not at full speed.
  • Penn State's 6-5 C Jesse Arnelle had a reputation as one of the best in the East thanks to his outstanding hook shot.
LSU started strong.
  • Well prepared against the zone, the Tigers executed several fast breaks to jump out to a six-point lead. At that point, PSU coach Elmer Gross ordered a full court press that befuddled the Tigers the rest of the contest.
  • Still, LSU led 24-14 in the first minute of the second quarter only to have the Keystone State surprises fight back to take a 34-32 lead at the half.
  • Like almost every other team LSU had faced, the Lions had no answer for Pettit, who led all scorers with 34 points and grabbed 24 rebounds. But they shut down the rest of the Tigers, with F Ned Clark having the second-most points - 10.
  • The Bengals held leads of two or more points three times during the third quarter. But Penn State went in front 54-51 on a jump shot and then a tip-in by Ed Haag in the final minute of the period and never trailed again although LSU pulled even at 59 four minutes into the last quarter.
  • That's when the Lions ratcheted up their pressure, causing turnovers that helped them take a six-point lead. Excellent foul-shooting, especially by Jack Sherry who hit 9-of-11, preserved the 78-70 victory.
  • Arnell was PSU's high man with 24.
  • Despite Pettit's short range baskets, the Tigers shot just 35.3% from the floor. McArdle, playing with a heavily taped right leg, hit only 2-of-10, and F Don Belcher, usually a deadly jump shooter, had a poor night from the corner.

The Tigers brought the best two-year reign the school had enjoyed to that point (44-3 in regular season games) to a close with a consolation clash against Indiana, which lost to in-state rival Notre Dame 65-64.

  • 10,000 fans saw LSU outscore the Hoosiers by one in the first quarter (17-16), by one in the second quarter (16-15), and by one in period three (13-12).
  • But IU came alive in the final period, outscoring LSU 30-16 to beat the Tigers for the second year in a row, 73-62.
  • FT shooting made the difference in the game. LSU was whistled for 31 fouls to just 21 for Indiana. Ned Clark and Bob Freshley fouled out and Pettit, Belcher, and McArdle had four apiece.

The game was essentially a battle of big men. Centers Pettit and Don Schlundt repeated their duel from the year before. Neither got much scoring help from his mates.

  • After Bob's 27 points, no one else cracked double digits, with Don Sebastian and Norman Magee each getting nine. At one point, Big Bob scored 20 points in a row for LSU.
  • Schlundt topped Bob by two while only one other Hoosier had as many as 10.
  • Penn State ended Notre Dame's 18-game winning streak to make the Final Four for the only time in school history.
    Pettit ended his LSU career with 1,916 points (27.4 ppg) and 1,039 rebounds (14.8 rpg).


Bob Pettit


Harry Rabenhorst


Pettit rebounds in SEC title game vs Kentucky


Ned Clark and Pettit try to snare rebound from Hagan


Jesse Arnelle


Elmer Gross


Jack Sherry

Return to Basketball Magazine

Tiger Den Basketball Archives – I
Tiger Firsts: Basketball Team | LSU National Champs | Joe Adcock | Pistol vs UCLA | Eddie Palubinskas | Dazzling Debut: Chris Jackson | Tiger Firsts: Final Four | Dale Brown Takes Over

Tiger Den Basketball Archives – II
BR Sports Academy | Four Little Points | Harry Rabenhorst | Shaq's 30-point SEC Game | Maravich's Freshman Circus | First AP Poll Ranking | The Dark Knight Strikes | Ricky Blanton | Tigers Are Back!

Tiger Den Basketball Archives – III
"Most Bizarre Set of Circumstances I Ever Saw" | Joe Dean | The Cow Palace | Still Playing at 41 | Pioneer | "It's the socks, Pete!" | Largest Deficit Overcome | Maravich Is for Real

Tiger Den Basketball Archives – IV
"Little Giant" | Shaquille O'Neal | Pete Breaks His Own Mark | What a Difference a Day Makes | When Lexington Went Wild over Beating the Tigers | Superdome Sizzlers

Tiger Den Basketball Archives – V
Pistol Pete Invades the Big Apple
Memorable Games: Kentucky 1978
Profile: Bobby Lowder
1938 SEC Tournament

Tiger Den Basketball Archives – VI
First Visit to the Big Apple
Don't Look Ahead
Profile: Bob Pettit I, II, III, IV
Pete's Farewell
Redemption

Tiger Den Basketball Archives – VII
Season in Time: 2005-06

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