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Tigers Hold off Nicholls 86-80

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Thomas leads LSU in scoring once again

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

The LSU men’s basketball team had an unexpected 12 days off, but held off a frisky Nicholls State team Saturday afternoon 86-80 in the Tigers last game before SEC play begins.

LSU (5-1) was led, once again, in scoring by freshman Cam Thomas who scored a career-best 29 points. Thomas was 10-21 from the field and a perfect 7-7 from the free throw line. He added three rebounds and a pair of assists.

LSU was in a tricky situation Saturday. Not only had they been away from action for nearly two weeks, LSU was also without junior point guard Javonte Smart who had to miss the game due to COVID-19 protocols.

In Smart’s place, Will Wade turned to a pair of freshman guards Eric Gaines and Jalen Cook. Gaines got the start but was limited to only 15 minutes of play due to foul trouble. Cook ran point the rest of the way and did well, putting up 8 points, 4 assists and 3 rebounds off the bench.

But while LSU lost one starter, they got another one back.

Sophomore Trendon Watford, who missed the Tigers’ previous game against Sam Houston State with an ankle injury, was back on the floor and stuffed the stat sheet with 22 points, 9 rebounds, and a team-best 6 assists.

Nicholls gave LSU all it wanted, thanks in large part to the Colonels offensive rebounding. Nicholls grabbed 17 offensive rebounds compared to 10 for LSU and used those extra opportunities to score 18 second chance points. Nicholls also scored 42 points in the paint and got 35 points from its bench, led by senior forward Damien Sears. Sears had 20 points and 9 rebounds in only 23 minutes.

In a tight game in the second half was where LSU missed Javonte Smart most. Instead of having a third-year player running the Tiger offense, LSU had to rely on true freshmen and LSU had 10 second half turnovers. Fortunately for LSU, Smart is expected to be cleared to play Tuesday night in the conference opner against Texas A&M.