It was a defensive battle in the PMAC Saturday morning as LSU defeated Texas A&M 64-50 and the Tigers gained some needed momentum before the Southeastern Conference Tournament.
Fifty total points is tied for the least amount of points LSU has allowed this season.
“Fifty points is usually about a half for us,” LSU coach Will Wade said. “We did a good job at the point of attack. They have some guys a little limited so, that allowed us to help down on (Josh) Nebo. They basically have three guys who are prolific scorers.”
Sophomore guard Javonte Smart had 11 points in the first half and guided the Tigers through it, while senior guard Skylar Mays put the Tigers on his back in the second half with 19 points. Smart and Mays had 14 and 24 points on the day respectively.
Mays only had five points in the first half, but Wade said that Mays set the tone early with his defense.
“The majority of practice has been defense,” Mays said. “The biggest thing that we all did was compete out there. We took pride in it today. It shows that we’re capable and we’re going to build on it.”
The first half wasn’t all easy going for the Tigers though. Both teams went through scoring droughts of more than three minutes in the first half and both struggled from beyond the arc. Nine of LSU’s first 11 shots came from the three-point line, but only two fell. The Tigers finished the day shooting 10-for-31 from three, four of those makes coming from Mays in the second half.
Texas A&M hung around for most of the second half, cutting LSU’s lead to as little as seven. Mays then took it upon himself, hitting a three with 3:57 left in the game and then hitting Emmitt Williams in transition for a dunk to put LSU up 60-48 with 3:27 left.
“I thought we played with really good effort and energy and physicality,” Wade said. “We settled into the game. We initially wanted to make the game a little faster paced. I thought Skylar and Javonte played tremendously for us. I thought our whole team bounced back from a tough outing at Florida. It’s a good win and much needed win. I’m very proud of our guys and pleased with the effort.”
Despite a big win from the Tigers, the story of the day was the retirement of Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf’s No. 35 jersey at halftime. Formerly Chris Jackson, Abdul-Rauf played for Dale Brown’s Tigers from 1988-90.
“We appreciative of guys like Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf and what they’ve done for the game and how he’s opened doors for all of us and giving us the opportunity to go out there and represent the university” Mays said. “I wish we got to watch the whole ceremony, but I’m glad we got to win today.”