Despite a late second half surge by the opposition, the LSU Tigers defeated the Alabama Crimson Tide 88-79 for their first conference victory of the season. The Tigers improve to 11-3 (1-0) while the Tide fall to 10-4 (1-1).
Through the first half, the Tigers shot an incredible 8-of-10 from behind the arc, headlined by a trio from each of Darius Days and Ja’vonte Smart. The Tigers ended the second half with Days’ third three pointer, creating much fun for many.
The Tigers went to halftime leading 43-28 despite Naz Reid contributing nothing in his seven minutes. Reid went straight to the bench after his second foul, and would eventually foul out of the game. After the crowd was treated to the magical wonders of Quick Change, Alabama would have to change and adjust their approach to stay in the game.
Change and adjust they did. After finding themselves down by as many as 19 points a few minutes into the second half, the Tide switched to a zone defense. Over the course of about the next five minutes, LSU only made one shot from the field.
Alabama would claw back over the last ten minutes of the game, frustrating the Tiger offense and forcing the defense to make mistakes. It got physical, it got sloppy, and it became a game of free throws after it seemed LSU was ready to run away with it.
After a pair of free throws by Riley Norris, the Tide had successfully chipped LSU’s lead down to 4 points with less than two minutes left in the game. Thirty seconds later, the reliable Kavell Bigby-Williams slammed a dunk down, and Alabama was never able to answer. Marlon Taylor also grabbed a rebound from his own missed free throw and scored, but that was just lagniappe.
Kavell Bigby-Williams was easily the MVP for the Tigers tonight, this may have been a loss and a bad one if his rim protection wasn’t available. The 6’11” senior scored 14 points, but it was his 13 rebounds (5 offensive) and 5 blocks that made the difference. He had to sit out last season’s two games against Alabama as a transfer, and I can’t help but think those might’ve gone differently had he been available.
Tremont Waters led scoring with 19 points on 9 shots and added 4 rebounds and 7 assists. One of his assists, noted by Alabama Coach Avery Johnson below, found a wide open Darius Days under the rim while Tre was about thirty feet away being double-teamed while laying on the ground.
“Then Waters threw a baseball pass, he should be on the baseball team at LSU,” said Johnson. “He threw a left-handed curveball that split the trap and the catcher caught it, it was a strike.”
“Also, as far as Tremont Waters, his body has changed,” Johnson added. “It looks like he is a little stronger this year. He is not getting knocked off his spot as much this year and his balance is better. He split a couple of our traps so they are a much better-looking team.”
Ja’vonte Smart and Darius Days scored 15 and 14 points respectively, each scoring a trio of three pointers in the first half. Smart had one of his best games as a Tiger, adding 5 assists to his stat line in his first career appearance from the bench.
“It’s probably the first time he’s come off the bench in six or seven years. Probably longer than that,” Coach Wade spoke of Smart. “I told him to sit with Coach Armstrong and to get a flow of the game. He saw things better and had a little more pop to him. I was very pleased. I thought he played just a tremendous game, maybe his best game of the season. He’s worked very hard.”
The Tigers will hit the road this Saturday to take on the Arkansas Razorbacks in Bud Walton Arena. The Razorbacks are currently 10-3 (1-0) with wins over Indiana and Texas A&M, and are an early two point favorite against the Tigers.