The LSU men’s basketball team avoided an upset at home by the University of New Orleans, but after a slow start, the Tigers finished strong to defeat the Privateers 90-54 Tuesday night in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
“It was a slow start,” said junior forward Emmitt Williams. “As you can see, basketball is a game of runs. We started off kind of slow, but as you see we sped up.”
Two Tigers notched double-doubles by dominating in the paint — sophomore forward Williams led all scorers with 18 points and added 10 rebounds and fellow forward Darius Days had 12 points and 10 rebounds.
The two accounted for 30 of LSU’s 52 points in the paint.
“Emmitt played very well,” Days said. “Then I came in the second half and I did alright. He played very well this game. The whole team played very well. Everybody played well and was just doing their job. That’s what Coach (Wade) preaches to us in practice, just do your job and everything will be okay.”
Freshman Charles Manning Jr. got his first start of the season in place of fellow freshman Trendon Watford. Manning had 13 points on 6-of-8 shooting, while Watford had 18 points off the bench.
Coach Will Wade said they wanted to start Manning to matchup up with guard UNO Damion Rosser, who didn’t end up playing because he was in a boot. Ultimately, both Watford and Manning performed in the switched roles.
“We out-smarted ourselves,” Wade said. “ We were going to be in a little bit of a mismatch and do some different things. We’d been preparing to start Manning. It’s just one of those deals where I felt like we needed to stick with what we had worked on. I don’t like to do stuff in a game that we haven’t worked on.”
It was a back and forth affair early on in the PMAC as the Privateers gave the Tigers a scare. UNO led by as much as six points in the first half before LSU finished the half on an 18-4 run to lead 38-30 at halftime.
The Tigers picked up where they left off, opening the second half on a 6-0 run. LSU’s shooting significantly improved in the second half, going from 48.5 percent to 62.1 percent from the field and 9.1 percent to 40 percent from three-point range.
“The coaches got on us at halftime just telling us to bring the energy,” Manning said. “(UNO) was playing tougher than us. So playing tougher, the coaches were harping on that a lot.”
The Tigers finally put the game out of reach midway through the second half when Aundre Hyatt hit his first career three-pointer to give LSU a 70-48 lead going into a media timeout.
Hyatt was 0-of-11 on every other three-pointer he had taken this season.
“That was big this game because he is a big part of the team,” Manning said. “Just giving him confidence and building his confidence and knowing he can play at this level on the team and help us.”
Wade said he was especially happy with the way the Tigers were able to move the ball in and our of the paint.
He was pleased with sophomore point guard Javonte Smart, who is getting more and more comfortable in the position.
“I thought (ball movement) was good,” Wade said. “We shared the ball well. We had 21 assists on 31 made field goals, which means we shared the ball and the guys are looking for each other. I thought we did a very, very good job of that. We have an unselfish team and they’re doing a nice job of keeping the ball hopping.”