LSU coach Will Wade said winning was the best thing the Tigers could do to honor Pete Maravich on the 50th anniversary of him setting the NCAA All-Time Scoring Record.
That’s what they did Saturday morning in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, downing Ole Miss 73-63 in a more lopsided affair than the score showed. The win moved the Tigers to 8-0 in Southeastern Conference play for the first time since the 1980-81 season.
“Coach told us to go out there and have energy, so that was the biggest thing,” said freshman forward Trendon Watford.
Sophomore point guard Javonte Smart led the Tigers with 21 points, while senior Marlon Taylor and Watford had 13 points each on the day. Taylor notched a double-double, adding 11 rebounds.
LSU coach Will Wade said he was pleased with LSU’s defensive performance and that sophomore Emmitt Williams probably had one of his best defensive games. He had four blocks on the night.
Only two Rebels scored in double digits — guard Devontae Shuler with 28 points and guard Breein Tyree with nine points.
The Tigers dominated for the entire first half, leading 40-20 at halftime. Ole Miss went on multiple scoring droughts throughout the game, most notably late in the first half when the Tigers went on a 21-2 run over 8:39.
But the Rebels went on a 4-0 run at the end of the first half to build momentum going into halftime.
The start of the second half seemed to be trending the same direction, with Ole Miss cutting the Tigers’ lead to as little as eight at one point.
“We missed a few layups at the beginning,” Wade said. “This was different. The Alabama game, we shot a bunch of threes to start the second half. This game we still shot a bunch of shots inside. We missed some shots inside.
“Our ball-screen coverage – we let them get a little more comfortable where they had some cleaner looks to start the second half. I think it was a combination of both, but give Mississippi credit. They could have folded and not played well in the second half, but they came out ready to play.”
But LSU hit the gas again, in the latter part of the second half, as Smart and Taylor combined for 25-of-32 of LSU’s second half points. With senior Skylar Mays limited because of foul trouble, Smart took over the game in the second half.
“We just come out with energy,” Smart said. “There was a lack of energy coming out of halftime. They had some big shots. We just try to bring the energy to bring the team back up.”
Wade emphasized that the Tigers still have a long way to go and they are hoping to keep hitting their stride at the right time. LSU will continues with SEC play on Wednesday, Feb. 5 at Vanderbilt.
“We have a long way to go,” Wade said. “If we want to have a special season, we’ve got to be more dominant on both sides of the ball. We’ve got to value each possession more. We’ve got to be cleaner with what we’re doing. We’re in a good spot, but there’s a lot of time left, there’s a lot of season left and we’ve got to continue to improve and continue to get better. I think time will tell, basically, how much everything mirrors each other.”