You honestly can’t ask much more from a season opener, let alone a brand new coach’s debut.
In addition to the lengthy list of changes the basketball program went through during the offseason, the PMAC itself had some notable improvements. I’ll be honest, I actually totally forgot about the new videoboard amid my excitement for the season opener. That videoboard is huge. And clean! The Bengal Brass Basketball Band is also pushed back into the middle level, right behind where they’ve been in years past. The student section, now named the Maravich Maniacs again (presented by Popeyes!), expanded to where the Bengal Brass was before.
Onto the actual game, the Tigers struck early and often, and led for the entire stretch of the game. There’s really no narrative or story for this game other than LSU...just...dominating their opponent. In basketball! I honestly haven’t enjoyed myself watching LSU Basketball for an entire game in...maybe ever. I realize it’s a season opener against a smaller, SWAC team, but some of these guys are giving too many reasons to get out here and watch a game. There’s some real, fresh talent on this team, and it all starts with freshman Tremont Waters.
Y’all. Tremont Waters looked unreal. His stat line of 27 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists, and 5 steals is impressive enough on paper, but you’ve really got to catch some highlights to really grasp how good he looked. The entire team looks quicker, more focused, and just...better with him on the court. His ability to shine while also making every one of his teammates better cannot be overstated, at least for this game.
Skylar Mays logged the second most minutes of the team with 23, and while he didn’t have the most flashy stats in the world, his ability to make his team look better was consistently apparent throughout the night. Mays only logged a 7/3/5 line, but had so many passes that led to scores, or great passes that completely fooled the defense but the shooter couldn’t convert. His and Waters’ knack for finding their teammates played a huge part in the 40 point blowout of the Braves, and will lead this squad to many more fantastic displays.
I could honestly go on and on about how each different player looked great, which just serves to state how well the team played as a whole. If you want to be REALLY nitpicky, LSU probably should have shot better than 16-24 from the free throw line, but I seriously doubt the largest opening crowd in the last twenty years went home with anything to complain about. Well, aside from only scoring 99. The Tigers out rebounded the Braves 35-26, out assisted them 18-7, and forced 16 turnovers to their 7. LSU shot 61.0% from the field, while holding their opponent to an embarrassing 39.0%. In addition to Waters, Duop Reath, Wayde Sims, and Brandon Sampson all scored double digit points.
Brandon Sampson was a specific topic for Coach Wade after the game. “I’ve been hard on him, and he’s really responded,” said Wade. “That’s why I put him in to start tonight. I was pretty tough on him in film sessions, I stayed on him, and the way he’s responded was important.”
“I think his game has gotten to the point where he doesn’t need to make shots to help us,” Wade added. “He deserved the start, and he played well tonight.”
The total attendance for tonight’s victory was announced to be 11,856, the largest opening game crowd in twenty years.
“Our goal was 11,500,” said Wade. “Kent (Lowe) slipped me the paper with 2 minutes left to show me the attendance, and that was the cherry on top.”
“It was a leap of faith to come tonight...hopefully they left feeling good.”
No more hoping, Coach Wade. Everyone felt good.
The Tigers have almost a full week to study film and improve even more for their next contest against Samford. That game will be Thursday, November 16th at 7pm in the PMAC. If you weren’t convinced to make it out tonight, you’ve got sixteen more opportunities.