The LSU men’s basketball team ended the 2020-2021 regular season on a high note with a Saturday road victory over the Missouri Tigers 86-80.
The win improved LSU’s record to 16-8 overall and 11-6 in league place. That mark is officially good for third place in the SEC, and is LSU’s third consecutive year finishing inside the top-four of the conference; and for the first time in nearly 30 years LSU has won 10 or more SEC games in three straight seasons.
Saturday was a back and forth affair. LSU gave itself some breathing room in the first half with a 16-2 run that gave the Tigers an early 11-point lead. Missouri promptly answered back with a 20-9 run to close the first half and tied the game at 40 at the break.
The second half was even more tightly contested, with neither team able to really build a lead greater than six points. The two Tiger teams traded body blows during the first 19 minutes, but LSU was able to land the knockout in the blow in the last minute.
Tied at 80 with 1:20 to play, LSU scored the game’s final six points thanks to the trio of Cam Thomas, Trendon Watford, and Javonte Smart.
Thomas was once again lethal, scoring 29 points on an efficient 9-13 shooting. Thomas was also devastating from the free throw line, getting 12 attempts and hitting on 10. Watford was the second leading scorer with 19 points and 8 rebounds. But Watford was also called for a technical foul in the first half, which sparked Missouri’s game-altering 20-9 run.
Smart had a rougher go of things, needing 13 shots to score 13 points. Smart also had five turnovers to zero assists and was also 1-6 from three. Darius Days once again ran into foul trouble, fouling out of the game after only 25 minutes. In those limited minutes Days played exceptionally, scoring 12 points and grabbed nine rebounds.
LSU defended reasonably well. The Tigers held Mizzou to 37 percent from the floor and 30 percent from three. What kept Missouri in the game was their 34 free throw attempts and 25 makes; but when it mattered most, LSU played the kind of defense necessary to score a key road win and only allowed Missouri to make one of its final eight shots.
Saturday’s result was another Quad 1 win for LSU, improving the Tigers’ record to 4-7 in such games. LSU came into Saturday’s game 29th in the NET ranking and should move up a spot or two once all of the day’s games are final.
For LSU, the real season begins. The regular season has concluded and postseason play begins now. The Tigers will head to Nashville in a few days as the SEC Tournament’s three-seed and will play Friday in the quarterfinal round. LSU is a safe bet to make the NCAA Tournament, but a good showing in Nashville will help their bolster their resumé.