LSU got one step closer to its first SEC Tournament title in 40 years with a second round 74-68 win over the 12th-seeded Missouri Tigers Thursday in Tampa Bay.
While the final margin of victory was just eight points, the game was never really in doubt. LSU led by as many as 23 points but that was reduced down to eight because LSU once again was a little too careless with the ball.
“It’s a good win. Any time you can win in the tournament is a positive,” Will Wade said. “Obviously, we had some major lapses in the second half, but I thought Missouri played extremely, extremely well. Caused 24 turnovers, which was good. We still turned the ball over way too much, but we got to get that corrected. We’ve got to; we have a really good Arkansas team that’s had our number this year coming up, and so we have to get it corrected.”
In total LSU had 19 turnovers but 11 came in the second half. Missouri would turn those into 11 points and make LSU play its best players longer than Wade would have liked to with the quick turnaround.
“I do think having to play today is to Arkansas’s advantage because you have to play so hard to beat them, and we had to play seven, eight guys today some major minutes,” Wade said. “But we’ll go back and we’ll prepare.”
Turnovers aside Thursday was a pretty dominant win for LSU. The Tigers had two different 23-point leads, one in each half. LSU shot 56 percent from the floor and got the best game from freshman center Efton Reid, 12 points, in quite some time.
Tari Eason led all players with 19 points in his usual sixth man role. Eric Gaines also had a strong showing off the bench with 11 points and had a pair of assists and blocks. Xavier Pinson scored 11 points against his former team and was a perfect 4-4 from the free throw line, while Darius Days went for 16 points and seven rebounds.
Up next for LSU is a trip to the SEC Quarterfinals where Arkansas awaits. The Hogs have been a thorn in LSU’s side as they swept the season series but LSU just as easily could have won one or both games.
Tipoff will be about 25 minutes after the conclusion of the first quarterfinal match, Auburn vs. Texas A&M, with ESPN carrying the game. The winners of these two games will play each other on Saturday.