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GAME RECAP: No. 21 LSU 83, Auburn 78

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Tigers overcome 16-point first half deficit to push past Auburn 

NCAA Basketball: Auburn at Louisiana State Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

In what’s becoming all too typical fashion, the Tigers of LSU were in a hole early, but dug themselves out of it to hold off the Auburn Tigers 83-74 Saturday afternoon in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

The Tigers slow start was owed to poor shooting from the field coupled with Auburn shooting absurdly well from three. Auburn, who came into today’s game hitting 11 three-pointers a game, hit 11 of 19 in the first half alone. Of their 41 first half points, 33 came from behind the line. LSU was able to go into the half down three thanks to pounding the Auburn defense inside, offensive rebounding, and a timely Tremont Waters three as the first half buzzer sounded.

The first half was a game of trading LSU twos for Auburn threes. Auburn scored 33 points from three while LSU had nine; but LSU scored 22 points in the painted area while Auburn could only muster six. Though LSU and Auburn share a similar mascot name, their style on the court couldn’t be more different and the teams played to a virtual stalemate.

Auburn shot the ball well from three in the first half but couldn’t sustain that same 58 percent clip in the second half. LSU and the crowd inside a raucous PMAC cranked up the intensity and the Tigers held Auburn to 5-19 from three in the second half.

LSU on the other hand was able to replicate and improve upon their first half success: LSU grabbed 15 offensive boards, was able to outscore Auburn 18-1 on second chance points, and the three-ball started to slide toward the Tigers’ favor highlighted by Tremont Waters getting loose for three threes.

When the final buzzer sounded the score showed a longer, more aggressive LSU team was the more physical group than Auburn. The Tigers grabbed 22 offensive rebounds, had 38 points in the paint, scored 29 second chance points and made more free throws, 18, than Auburn attempted, 13. LSU was also the aggressor on defense, causing Auburn to turn it over 19 times and scoring 31 points off those turnovers.

For LSU, Skylar Mays had a welcome return to form Saturday afternoon with 20 points. Tremont Waters had a bit of an inefficient night from the floor, needing 17 shots to score 19 points, but the four three-pointers he made couldn’t have come at a more opportune time. Waters also managed 10 assists and kept his hands active on the defensive end and forced three steals. The Tiger front court of Naz Reid, Kavell Bigby-Williams and Emmitt Williams provided a presence in the post that Auburn had no answer for and combined for 24 points and 25 rebounds.

As for the current state of things with LSU, the Tigers keep rolling along. The Tigers now own a 19-4 record and are 9-1 in conference play. February was shaping up to be LSU’s toughest month of the season and the Tigers are 2-1 through three games. But Will Wade and company have not yet navigated entirely through this treacherous month. Next up for LSU? A a Tuesday night road trip to Lexington to take on a top-five Kentucky team.