Without its leading scorer, Tennessee trounces LSU 81-65
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Tennessee withstood the absence of its leading scorer and delivered a huge blow to LSU's NCAA Tournament hopes.
Armani Moore had 17 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists Saturday as Tennessee won 81-65 over LSU to hand the Tigers their most lopsided loss of the season. Tennessee (13-14, 6-8 SEC) played without Kevin Punter Jr., who had a walking boot on his right foot Saturday after getting hurt two nights earlier in a loss at No. 14 Kentucky.
"It just shows there are a lot of guys who have talent on this team," Moore said. "I think they made a statement tonight that they can score the ball and do some other things as well. We've just got to keep on pushing and make sure that this Tennessee team keeps on playing for something."
Punter averages 22.2 points per game and entered the day as the 10th-leading scorer among all Division I players. Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said after Saturday's game that Punter had a right ankle injury and that his status was day to day.
LSU also was missing its top player, at least for the first few minutes.
Ben Simmons was out of the Tigers' starting lineup for the first time all season, though the freshman standout still played 36 minutes and had 21 points and nine rebounds. He also had eight turnovers to match his season high.
LSU coach Johnny Jones said Simmons didn't start because "we had to address some academic stuff with him earlier in the week."
"This is just one of the attention getters for him," Jones said. "We're hopeful that this will help get him focused and concentrated on what he should be doing."
Antonio Blakeney had 20 points and seven rebounds for LSU, which lost for the third time in four games. LSU (16-11, 9-5) played the entire second half without starting guard Keith Hornsby, who went scoreless in 12 minutes before getting hurt. Jones had no immediate update on the nature or severity of Hornsby's injury.
"We've just got to do some soul searching and make sure that we dig down deep and see if (you're) part of the problem or you're part of the solution," Jones said.
Moore made sure LSU's slide continued Saturday. The versatile senior, who also had four steals and two blocks, was three assists away from the second recorded triple-double in Tennessee history. Since Tennessee started keeping track of assists as an official statistic in 1968-69, the only Volunteer to post a triple-double is Tyler Smith with 12 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists against UNC Asheville on Dec. 3, 2008.
Moore was part of a balanced attack for Tennessee as plenty of players picked up the slack with Punter out. Robert Hubbs III had 19 points and seven rebounds. Shembari Phillips had 13 points and Detrick Mostella added 10 points.
LSU: Simmons entered the day leading the SEC in rebounding (12.0) and ranked third in the conference in scoring (19.3) and fourth in assists (5.1). Since the SEC began keeping track of assists in 1968-69, no player has finished a season among the top five players in the league in all three categories.
Tennessee: The Vols are 12-2 at home and 1-12 away from Thompson Boling-Arena. Tennessee is 1-9 in true road games and 0-3 at neutral sites.
BAULKMAN OFF BENCH
Punter wasn't the only notable absence from Tennessee's starting lineup. Devon Baulkman didn't start for the first time all season after injuring his left shoulder at Kentucky. Baulkman had nine points and four assists in 24 minutes off the bench.
Mostella and Hubbs replaced Baulkman and Punter in the starting lineup.
Simmons had totaled seven turnovers in the four games leading up to this one before having eight Saturday. ... Tennessee shot 64.5 percent (20 of 31) from the floor in the second half. ... Saturday's game drew a crowd of 19,721 for Tennessee's largest home attendance of the season.
LSU: At Arkansas on Tuesday.
Tennessee: At South Carolina on Wednesday.