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POSTGAME: LSU 71, Memphis 61

Brandon Sampson returns strong for LSU, stifles late Memphis run

NCAA Basketball: Louisiana State at Memphis Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

After a hard fought battle in their first true road game, the LSU Tigers (9-3) beat out a strong Memphis Tigers (9-4), handing them their first loss of the season in the FedEx Forum.

The first half was a frustrating, rough back and forth battle between the teams. Neither could really establish a rhythm, just as one team would start to heat up on offense, the other got better on defense and vice versa. LSU felt like they played a really great game and set up a layup right before the half to take a lead, but Memphis used the six remaining seconds to return and tie it up before halftime.

The second half started slow for a moment, but LSU suddenly launched to maintaining somewhere between a 6 and 10 point lead for most of the second half, and for the remainder of the game. Not only did we have Tremont Waters playing at his incredible level, we had him passing to Brandon Sampson. Sampson’s back, and that was very evident in the second half. He would finish with 12 points.

Tre Waters, of course, showed why he’s one of the most dangerous offensive weapons in the country again. He led the team in scoring and assists, with 18 and 8 respectively. He seemed to be involved somewhere with every single score in the second half, even taking and hitting wild, Andre Stringer-esque three pointers. He is just a blast to watch.

Skylar Mays was yet again a defensive monster, a bit beyond his stats. He did have a great offensive game, finishing with 14 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists. His performance is evident enough with his stats, but he was just so great as usual on defense. Whoever he’s on always stalls. But on offense still, you can tell he missed the backcourt chemistry with Sampson.

If there’s anything to be worried about for this game, LSU yet again only shot 50% (8-of-16) at the free throw line, which is particularly frustrating because we know they can shoot free throws well now. We’ve seen it! It just needs to happen in big games and in unfamiliar environments. Missed free throws didn’t ultimately cost us the game, but it could’ve been put away long before it was if they would just make a couple front ends.

All in all, this is a fantastic, if not absolutely necessary victory to celebrate before the tough SEC schedule starts up next Wednesday. Now we know we can beat good teams, and now we know we can win games on the road. If for some reason an RPI boost will be talked about later this season, that’s a nice plus. But for now, that win is all about setting the right tone just before the season really ramps up. They’ve got to capitalize on this momentum and at the very least have a strong showing Wednesday against Kentucky.

The Tigers return to the PMAC to open up the SEC conference schedule on Wednesday, January 3rd. That game will tip off at 7:30pm, and will be televised on the SEC Network. If you’re one of the lucky thousands to snag a ticket for the game, be sure to wear gold, be loud, and just have a blast.