The Tigers didn’t make it easy on themselves late in the game, but—for a night at least—the LSU men’s basketball team (19-8, 10-4) have righted the ship, and picked up a much needed win over the South Carolina Gamecocks (16-11, 8-6).
Sophomores Darius Days and Javonte Smart each scored 18 points, freshman forward Trendon Watford had a 15 point, 10 rebound double-double and senior guard Skylar Mays tacked on 13 points. Saturday was LSU’s first win in nearly two weeks, and puts the Tigers in good position to clinch a double-bye for the SEC Tournament beginning March 11.
LSU used 16 first half points from Days and 11 from Mays to build a seven-point halftime lead. LSU led by 10 with just under five minutes to play before the break, but Carolina used a late 8-0 run to get the score within two points. But Days scored five points in 17 seconds to give LSU some breathing room.
The second half was largely in LSU’s control. The Tigers led the Gamecocks by as many as 19 points and did so by taking a page out of Carolina’s playbook: playing tough defense. While LSU was its usual efficient self on the offensive end, it was unusually tough the first 15 minutes of the second half, as Carolina shot 23 percent over that stretch.
LSU’s poor defense made an unwelcome appearance over the final five minutes, and the Gamecocks cut a 19-point lead down to four before Javonte Smart iced the game with a pair of free throws. LSU wouldn’t score a field goal over the game’s final 5:11, but compensated by making nine free throws to seal the game.
LSU was the aggressor Saturday, getting to the free throw line 31 times and scored 30 points in the paint. But LSU wasn’t quite up to its standard rebounding the ball, the Tigers lost the rebounding battle 43-41 and the Gamecocks used 20 offensive rebounds to score 23 second chance points.
With four games to play in the regular season, LSU is in a good spot for the upcoming SEC Tournament. The Tigers remain tied for second in the SEC with Auburn, are a game up on Florida and are two games ahead of South Carolina, Texas A&M and Mississippi State for a top-four finish and double-bye in the SEC Tournament.
LSU’s road trip continues Wednesday night, as the Tigers travel to Gainesville to play the Florida Gators.