The Tigers of LSU came into tonight’s game against Texas A&M controlling their own destiny for at least a share of the SEC championship. They left still in control.
The Tigers (23-5, 13-2) swept the season series with Texas A&M (12-14, 5-10) beating the Aggies 66-55 Tuesday night in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
“We set the tone early with our defense,” Will Wade said after the game. “We came out of the gate really guarding. We won the game I like to win the game: 40 points in the paint.”
The Tigers were able to get all five starting players in double figures. Javonte Smart, starting in place of Tremont Waters, led the Tiger attack with 17 points. Naz Reid and Kavell Bigby-Williams each had double-doubles, 18-11 and 10-11 respectively, and Marlon Taylor and Skylar Mays each scored 10.
LSU played their best first half in weeks, going into the break leading 36-20. LSU lead by as many as 20 points at one point in the first half, 33-13, while holding A&M to 22 percent from the floor.
“Our guys prepared well,” Wade said. “We guarded well. We had a mature way about us.”
LSU absolutely punished Texas A&M on the interior with 40 points in the paint. Naz Reid and Kavell Bigby-Williams nearly had double-doubles in the first half alone with 10 and 8 and 7 and 5 between the two.
“We didn’t want to come from behind,” Reid said. “We just wanted to start off with a great start.”
While the three-ball wasn’t kind to LSU in the first half (0-8), LSU was able to compensate by knocking down 12 of 13 free throws, spearheaded by Skylar Mays going a perfect 4-4; Mays finished the game 7-8 from the line. The Tigers ended the night shooting 2-19 from three, but 18-21 from the line. The Tiger’s also got zero points from the bench but Wade wasn’t alarmed by the bench production nor the threes not falling.
“This is how we played at VCU,” Wade said. “We just kind of grinded you like this. I’ve been a part of plenty of games like this.”
The Tiger defense was stout in the first half, holding A&M to 25 percent from the floor, 15 percent from three and forced 10 turnovers. LSU was able to create 15 points off those 10 turnovers including several slam dunks from Mays and Marlon Taylor.
The Aggies were able to cut into the Tiger 16-point halftime lead, and outscored LSU by six in the second. A&M was able to get within 10 before a much needed Javonte Smart basket. That would be the closest the Aggies would get to the Tigers for the rest of the night.
The win clinched a top-four finish for LSU in the SEC regardless of how the remaining three games play out. LSU earns a double-bye in the SEC tournament and won’t have to play till Friday March 15 in the SEC Quarterfinal round. The Tigers still, of course, are in control of their own destiny to clinch at least a share of the SEC regular season championship.
The Tigers next game will be on the road at Alabama on Saturday.