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LSU hoops dominate early, hang on late for SEC opening win

7 months 1 week 2 days ago Tuesday, January 08 2019 Jan 8, 2019 January 08, 2019 11:13 PM January 08, 2019 in LSU Sports
Source: Associated Press
By: Brett Martel
Tremont Waters scored 19 points and notched one of his seven assists while sitting on the court, and LSU defeated Alabama 88-79 on Tuesday night.
  
Kavell Bigby-Williams tied a season high with 14 points, including a pivotal dunk with 1:19 to go, to go with a season high 13 rebounds and five blocked shots for the Tigers (11-3, 1-0 Southeastern Conference), who've won four straight and six of seven.
  
Ja'Vonte Smart scored 15 and Darius Days 14 for the Tigers, who led for all but two minutes while winning their 16th straight at home dating to last season - and snapping a five-game skid against the Crimson Tide.
  
Kira Lewis Jr. scored 15 for Alabama (10-4, 1-1), which saw its five-game winning streak snapped. Alex Reese had 12 points and Herbert Jones 10 for the Tide, which got as close as 79-75 with 1:46 left before LSU responded with Bigby-Williams' dunk and Marlon Taylor's put-back of a missed free throw.
  
Waters' baskets ranged from a deep 3 to a flamboyant driving scoop on which the 5-foot-11 sophomore used an outside-in flip of his right hand to bank the ball in from the left side of the hoop.
  
His sitting assist came with 2:41 to go when he went to the floor while being swarmed by defenders. But before Tide defenders could tie him up, Waters rifled an accurate pass under the hoop to set up Days' dunk.
  
LSU hit eight of its first 10 3-point attempts and took its first double-digit lead when Smart's 3 made it 37-25 late in the first half. That was part of a 14-5 run to close the half, capped by Days' 3 off the glass in the final seconds to make it 43-28 at halftime. Smart either scored or assisted on LSU's last 19 points of the first half.
  
Alabama did not get within single digits until John Petty Jr. was fouled by Reid on a 3-point attempt and made all three free throws to cut it to 70-61. Another free throw by Hall cut it to eight before the Tigers responded with four straight free throws, and Waters' deep 3 from the left wing pushed the Tigers' lead back to 13 with just less than five minutes left.
  
THE BIG PICTURE
  
Alabama: After shooting nearly 44 percent from 3-point range in a dramatic victory over No. 13 Kentucky last weekend, the Tide opened 2-of-11 from deep before finishing 7of 24 (29 percent) from long range. Tevin Mack, who hit six 3s and had 22 points against Kentucky, had six points against LSU and went 0 of 3 from deep.
  
LSU: The Tigers shot twice as well from 3-point range as their average of about 33 percent coming in, and showed a knack for responding every time Alabama tried to close the gap down the stretch. The Tigers, who are trying to re-establish themselves as a team worthy of the Top 25 ranking they held earlier this season, led for all but about two minutes of the first half. The Tigers' good shooting and overall balance also helped them withstand foul trouble that plagued standout freshman Naz Reid, who fouled out with 4:20 to go after scoring 7 points and grabbing a rebound.
  
UP NEXT
  
Alabama: Hosts Texas A&M on Saturday.
  
LSU: Visits Arkansas on Saturday night.
  

HEAR MORE FROM THE COACHES:

LSU Head Coach Will Wade

Opening statement…

“Great win. I thought the students were awesome. I thought that made a huge difference in the crowd, having the student section packed and into it. We appreciate them. We know some of them have class early in the morning, but we appreciate those guys coming out. It makes a big difference for us, especially on those weeknight SEC games where sometimes it’s harder for our fans across the state to get here. It makes a big difference when the students turn out like that, so hopefully they’ll continue to turn out for us. We appreciate them and it gives us some energy and our players feed off that.

Overall I thought the first half we played extremely, extremely well. I thought the defensive effort in the first half was about as good as we’ve had all year against a high-level opponent. The second half was a little more helter skelter. Their zone changed the game. We got stagnant against the zone. We didn’t move the ball the way we needed to against the zone. That’s my fault. I didn’t have us as prepared as we needed to for the zone. I thought Kavell (Bigby-Williams) was a huge difference maker in the game. Five blocks, a double-double. As a difference from last year to this year, having him. I said in the offseason if we would have had him last year we would have won more games. He was a huge difference maker tonight. We don’t win tonight without him. I thought our guard play was tremendous. I though Ja’Vonte (Smart) did a great job. (Darius) Days came in and gave us some extra sparks off the bench.  It was a total team effort which is what it takes in SEC play. It was good to get our first conference win.”

On Ja’Vonte coming off the bench for the first time and scoring or assisting on the final 19 points of the first half…

“I thought he was great. I thought having that big lineup out there in the end of the first half, I thought we guarded them really well with Ja’Vonte and Emmitt (Williams) and Skylar (Mays). I thought we were able to guard them really well and turn our defense into offense. He played really well. It’s probably the first time he’s come off the bench in six or seven years. Probably longer than that. I told him to sit with Coach (Bill) Armstrong and to get a flow of the game. He saw things better and had a little more pop to him. I was very pleased. I thought he played just a tremendous game, maybe his best game of the season. He’s worked really hard”

Alabama Head Coach Avery Johnson

Opening Statement…

“I want to congratulate Coach (Will) Wade. They were outstanding tonight.  They were full of energy and did a nice job of protecting their homecourt.  They came out in the first half and shot the ball extremely well.  A couple of bank threes, you know that is how you get rewarded when you play hard.  They were energized, we did a nice job on (Naz) Reid in the first half but they had other guys especially (Ja’vonte) Smart as well as (Darius) Days who came off the bench.  A magnificent job by LSU as they were the better team tonight.  I give our team credit, we did fight back a little bit and in the second half we found a line-up that had some continuity and chemistry as well as competitive spirit and fortunately we were able to cut the lead down.  Then (Tremont) Waters threw a baseball pass, he should be on the baseball team at LSU.  He threw a left-handed curveball that split the trap and the catcher caught it, it was a strike.  Give them credit, we’ll just have to bounce back and get back to work.”

On LSU’s improved personnel from last season….

“I just think even though Reid did not score as much, he is a handful inside.  Obviously, I know Ja’vonte Smart as he played for one of my college teammates so I have been watching him for a long time.  And they have guys like Days and (Emmitt) Williams coming off the bench and giving them energy.  I think we are a much better team than we showed tonight and we need all of our guys to show up and play and it is my job to get them ready.  Also, as far as Tremont Waters, his body has changed.  It looks he is a little stronger this year.  He is not getting knocked off his spot as much this year and his balance is better. He split a couple of our traps so they are a much better-looking team.

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