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LSU Post Season Games - 1979
The great Bob Pettit led LSU to SEC championships in 1953 and '54 and back-to-back NCAA appearances.
  • For the next 25 years, the only post-season appearance by the Tigers came in 1970, Pete Maravich's senior year, when LSU was invited to the NIT.
  • Dale Brown, an unknown assistant coach at Washington State, took over the LSU program in 1972.
  • After a 14-10 season his first year, the Tigers didn't enjoy a winning season until 1976-77 when they finished 15-12.
  • With improved recruiting, they rose to 18-9 the next year.

At long last, the Tigers broke through in 1978-79, winning the SEC regular season title with a 14-4 record.

  • Included was the school's first victory in Lexington and a second triumph over Kentucky at home. LSU rose to #5 in the AP poll.
  • Seeded #1 in the SEC Tournament, which was reinstated that year for the first time since 1952, the Tigers lost to Kentucky in the first round.
  • Despite that, Brown's 22-5 club, called LSU's "best team ever" by Sports Illustrated, was rewarded with an invitation to the 40-team NCAA Tournament.
    Brown had been without talented sophomore Rudy Macklin since he broke his foot in the second game of the season. And he suspended outstanding F DeWayne Scales (19.3 ppg and 9.1 rpg) after the SEC tournament game. An agent urged Scales to change his style of play in order to enhance his NBA marketability.
    G Jordy Hultberg noticed the change in DeWayne's play against UK. "Every time he rebounded, rather than passing the ball to (G) Ethan Martin or myself to start a fast break like we'd done all year long, he would dribble the ball upcourt. We realized somebody had gotten in his head." Said Brown, "I suspected something was wrong when DeWayne didn't take his first six open shots against Kentucky's zone. We'd beaten that zone easily before."

Given a bye in the first round, LSU traveled to Bloomington IN to play Appalachian State, the champion of the Southern Conference, in the second round.

  • Bobby Cremins' Mountaineers boasted the best record in the Mideast regionals, 23-5. A native of the Big Apple, Cremins had three NYC products on his club.
    Two years later, Cremins would begin a 19-year career at Georgia Tech.
  • Brown said, "Both teams have something to prove. Appalachian is out to make a name for itself, which a victory certainly would do. We just want to prove we can come back - regroup."
The Tigers became the winningest team in school history by dropping App State 71-57.
  • Following the game plan, LSU pounded the ball inside to 7' Rick Mattick, 6'9' Greg Cook, and 6'9" Lionel Green. The trio combined for 35 of the Tigers' 71 points. "We're just not used to all that height," said Cremins.
  • The Mountaineers hung in for the first eleven minutes, when the lead changed hands four times.
  • "Their 2-1-2 was giving us trouble," said Brown. "But all of a sudden, they went to a 1-3-1." So Brown swapped Cook from his usual low post to the foul line and sent Mattick into the game to form baseline bookends with Green. The Tigers reeled off eight in a row to lead 25-17 and never looked back.
  • The Tigers went to a full court press. Brown: "We knew we had to press, and we had to use nine people. We used a 1-2-1-1 zone press, and we fell back into a 2-3 zone. Both were very effective." Cremins agreed. "I thought the press was a major part of the game. It really broke our backs."
  • LSU led 31-20 at the half despite shooting just 37%

The Tigers regained their shooting touch in the second half, hitting over 65% from the field.

  • The biggest lead was 53-33.
  • Mattick led the Tigers with 14 points while Lionel Green contributed 13.
  • In all, nine different Tigers scored.

LSU moved to the Sweet Sixteen to meet Michigan State in Indianapolis six days later.

  • Jud Heathcote's Spartans, the #2 seed in the Mideast region, were led by Earvin "Magic" Johnson, a "towering" 6-8 sophomore G who made first-team All-America. He averaged 16.1 ppg, 7.4 rpg, and piled up a school record 229 assists. He had already been offered a $1 million contract over six seasons by the Kansas City Kings of the NBA. He declined but was expected to sign after the next NBA draft.
  • Senior F Greg Kelser led MSU in scoring for the third straight year with an average of 18.1 ppg. He was also the squad's top rebounder with 8.3 rpg and top shot blocker with 27.
  • The Spartans won 11 of their last 12 games.

LSU assistant coach Art Tolis, who scouted the Spartans, thought they had a weakness the Tigers could exploit.

  • "They're a very suspect man-to-man team. Their guards are not very quick. Their guards, in fact, could not start for us."
  • Tolis was obviously not considering Johnson as a guard, who was often referred to as a point-forward because of his height. "He's a phenomenal passer and dribbler - a great showman. And his passing abilities made Kelser the kind of player he is."

Michigan State deployed an "arm-waving, swarming 2-3 zone defense" that stifled the Tigers.

  • LSU wanted to take an early lead and force the Spartans to switch to man-to-man. But that didn't materialize.
  • Mattick made two driving baskets to give LSU an early 4-2 lead, but he committed his second foul trying to cut off Magic driving down the lane and left the court a little over three minutes into the game.
  • Leading 17-13, the Spartans reeled off 16 straight points before LSU finally scored with 3:03 left in the half.
  • To make matters worse, Brown got a technical foul for ragging and official. While the teams walked off the floor at halftime, Dr. Marty Broussard, LSU's trainer, got a technical from the same official.

The second half began with Johnson shooting two free throws. A basket on the ensuing possession made the score 40-19.

  • But LSU fought back. With Hultberg finding the range, the Tigers sliced the deficit to 48-36. But the Spartans countered with 11 in a row and coasted to an 87-71 triumph.
  • Hultberg led all scorers with 25, one more than Magic. But no one else on LSU had more than 12 points.
  • MSU enjoyed an overwhelming advantage at the foul line: 27-of-36 compared to 9-of-13. "We shot 13 free throws to their 36," said Brown, "but we were in a man-to-man defense. You naturally pick up more fouls in a man-to-man. We had planned to use a zone, but when we fell behind we were forced out of it - which is another indication of how they controlled the game."
  • Brown was unhappy about the two technical fouls although he said they were "not the difference in the game." For the first one, he said, "I did not swear. I did not raise my voice. I just told him, 'I don't feel we're getting good game out of you. The other two seems to be working together. I haven't had a technical foul in 42 games, but if you don't start calling them, I'm going to come out on the floor and embarrass you.' He said, 'That'll be a technical.'"

Michigan State won the national championship in a memorable final game against Indiana State and its future Hall of Famer Larry Bird.


Dale Brown


Rudy Macklin


DeWayne Scales


Jordy Hultberg


Ethan Martin


Rick Mattick


Greg Cook


Art Tolis


Magic Johnson drives.
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LSU Post Season Games

1953 | 1954 | 1970

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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