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February 21, 2009Marcus Thornton scored 25 points and No. 23 LSU clinched the Southeastern Conference West Division while snapping Auburn's four-game winning streak, 79-72 on Saturday night.
Bo Spencer and Tasmin Mitchell each scored 14 for LSU (23-4, 11-1 SEC), which won its eighth straight overall, 11th straight in the SEC and earned a first-round bye in the conference tournament.
Korvotney Barber scored 19 points and Tay Waller added 17 for Auburn (17-10, 6-6), which played LSU to a 60-60 tie with just over 6 minutes to go before Thornton's 3 put LSU in front for good.
Chris Johnson and Garrett Temple each scored 12 for LSU, with Johnson also grabbing eight rebounds and blocking four shots. LSU outrebounded Auburn 41-29.
Trailing by eight early in the second half, Auburn rallied to take a 56-52 lead after consecutive jumpers by Waller with about 10 minutes to go. Gritty putbacks by Mitchell and Quintin Thornton tied it, however, and LSU did not trail again.
After Barber's jump hook tied the score at 60, Marcus Thornton scored seven of LSU's next nine points, helping LSU to a 69-64 lead with 2:24 left.
Auburn pulled to 71-68 on Barber's offensive rebound and dunk, but Lucas Hargrove missed a 3-point attempt that could have tied it with about a minute to go and Waller later missed a rushed, off-balance 3 as LSU began to seal the win by making eight free throws in the final minute.
Returning from a two-game absence because of a left ankle sprain and playing with a brace, Spencer had seven quick points and LSU took an 18-8 lead on Thornton's left wing jumper. Auburn quickly responded with a 10-2 run on baskets by five different players, pulling to 20-18 Brendon Knox's layup.
LSU held the lead throughout the first half, going up 36-29 after Mitchell spun into the lane for a hook shot.
Stealing a pair of risky cross-court passes, Auburn closed out the half with a pair of fast-break baskets, the second a roundhouse jam by Hargrove to cut it to 36-33 by halftime.