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Behind the Box Score: South Carolina

Defense, free throws help LSU eek out a win against the Gamecocks

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

It wasn’t pretty, but LSU strung together its fourth straight win Saturday evening against a frisky South Carolina team.

Never apologize for a win, that’s my motto. LSU easily could have tapped out when South Carolina got back up by eight but the Tigers kept grinding until they wrestled the lead away from the Gamecocks. Now LSU has set themselves up for a massive game Tuesday night as Alabama visits the PMAC with first place in the SEC on the line.

3:38: The amount of time LSU led

Carolina jumped on top of LSU and infuriatingly kept giving LSU the stiff arm every time the Tigers went on a run. It felt like the Gamecocks had an answer for each and every one of LSU’s runs, that was until...

7:57: South Carolina’s field goal drought in the second half

LSU turned up the defensive intensity. Offense hasn’t been a problem in the Will Wade era, but defense has always left a little to be desired. But LSU has played some pretty stout defense as of late.

The Tigers held Ole Miss and Arkansas to 35 percent shooting and when they had to make stops against South Carolina, they got them. Carolina ended the game hitting only one of its final 13 shots. If LSU really has taken strides defensively, they can be a problem for a whole host of teams.

32: LSU’s free throw attempts

The recipe for a comeback in basketball: making stops and getting to the free throw line. LSU did both in spades, Cam Thomas and Trendon Watford particularly. Watford and Thomas both shot 10 free throws, and made nine.

I’m really impressed with how Cam Thomas can manufacture points. Most players Thomas’s age would keep shooting worse and worse shots to get themselves out of a slump. Thomas had a rough night from three, but compensated by getting to the line. That maturity will serve him well when he gets to the NBA.

6: LSU’s bench points

Fortunately for Will Wade he has four legit scorers in his starting five and at least one of those players is on the court at all times. But only getting six points from your reserves is cause for concern—especially in this COVID world we’re living in. We’ve seen Javonte Smart have to be held out of a game because of COVID concerns, but that was during the non-conference play. What happens if Smart, Thomas, Watford or Darius Days has to miss a game or two, can you count on the bench to fill that void?

2: LSU’s currently in second place in the SEC with a chance to move into first with a win tomorrow night. Can’t ask for much better than that.