Despite the recent poor showing on the road, the LSU Tigers closed out their regular season on a very strong note with a rout of SEC rival Mississippi State Bulldogs to snag their sixth straight victory in the PMAC. The Tigers improve their record to 17-13 (8-10) after outclassing the now 21-10 (9-9) Bulldogs.
Of course, the story on Senior Day has to be about the seniors, and they came through big for their squad in their final PMAC appearance. All four seniors started the game, and all four scored points, including walk-on Reed Vial. It was a special moment for Vial, who was pulled early from the game after his start. Once the Tigers got a solid grip on the lead late into the game, Vial checked in again, almost immediately nailing two free throws. After he hit the first one, freshman Tremont Waters could be seen jumping as high as possible with joy. Vial later hit a three pointer to draw the loudest cheers from his crowd all game.
Duop Reath, a JUCO transfer who joined the team last season, finished the game with 12 points and 8 rebounds. His rebounding efforts helped the Tigers to yet another rebounding victory, as they led the Bulldogs 33-28. Grad transfer Randy Onwuasor scored a couple points with a pair of rebounds in his last 15 minutes in the PMAC.
One of my all time personal favorite Tigers, Aaron Epps, played his last game in the PMAC today as well. The senior from Ball, Louisiana tied for the team lead with 16 points on four three pointers, and snagged 3 rebounds as well. After his last three pointer, Epps was taken out of the game for the final time as a Tiger to a thunderous, well-deserved standing ovation. It’s not often scholarship players letter for a full four years in basketball, so a story like his is one to cherish for many years to come.
Aside from the seniors, Brandon Sampson and Tremont Waters led their team to this tremendous blowout of a very good team. Sampson took seven shots from the free throw line and stepped away perfect, tying Epps to lead his squad with 16 points. Waters hit three of his signature long three pointers to finish with 14 points, and rounded out his fourth career double-double with 10 assists.
“Sometimes as a coach you wonder how much have you gotten through to the kids,” said Coach Wade, reflecting on his first season in Baton Rouge. “They’ve taken in a lot more than what we thought. They care about each other. Hopefully we can carry over how we played today over to St. Louis.”
The Tigers will have to wait for the rest of the SEC to finish their games to determine whether they’re playing in the first or second round of the SEC Tournament next week. With today’s win, LSU has quadrupled their conference win total from last season, and against a much tougher SEC. Regardless of whatever postseason opportunities await these Tigers, no one can deny this season in context was a huge success. Be sure to catch their next game in the SEC Tournament in St. Louis.