LSU hits 20 win mark with win over Texas A&M
BATON ROUGE – On an afternoon when the crowd at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center welcomed back a star to watch his jersey be unveiled from the rafters of the building, a senior LSU star of the present day helped lead the Tigers to a 64-50 win over Texas A&M Saturday.
Senior Skylar Mays in his next-to-last home game for the Tigers had 24 points, on 7-of-12 shooting with four treys and 6-of-6 at the free throw line to go with eight rebounds, three assists and two steals. Javonte Smart had 14 points with three treys. The pair had six assists and one turnover.
At halftime of LSU's win, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf returned to the floor of the Maravich Center as his No. 35 jersey was retired joining Bob Pettit, the late Pete Maravich, Shaquille O'Neal and Durand "Rudy" Macklin who had had their numbers and/or jerseys retired for men's basketball. Pettit, Maravich's wife Jackie and Macklin joined Abdul-Rauf on the floor for the ceremony and O'Neal sent a congratulatory message from the Inside the NBA studios in Atlanta.
Coach Dale Brown narrated a video on Abdul-Rauf and his two years at LSU from 1988-90 and on the court were several members of the teams that played with him along with Coach Brown and Abdul-Rauf's children.
Abdul-Rauf was a two-time SEC Player of the Year, a two-time first-team All-America selection and scored 1,864 points in two seasons, including 965 in his freshman season. He averaged 30.1 points a game in 1988-89 and both the points and average for his first year are NCAA freshman records. Abdul-Rauf, who will turn 51 in early March, has just signed for another season with the Big3 League.
The Tigers with the win are now 20-9 on the season and 11-5 in the Southeastern Conference. With Florida's loss in the game at Tennessee Saturday afternoon, the Tigers have moved back into third place, one game ahead of Florida. LSU's magic number to clinch a double bye and a top four see for the SEC Tournament is one LSU win and/or loss by teams behind LSU.
It marked the third time in the last 27 seasons that LSU has won 20 games in back-to-back campaigns. LSU won 28 games last year to go with 20 this year and went 20-22 in 2014 and 2015 and 20-27 in 2005 and 2006.
A&M falls to 14-14 and 8-8 in the league. Savion Flagg hit five three pointers in scoring 17 points to lead LSU, while Josh Nebo had 11 points.
It was a day when LSU had its fewest turnovers of the season, 4, but hit 10 threes in the game. LSU had its fewest points in the paint, 16, but countered by getting a 12-2 advantage in points off turnovers as A&M lost it 13 times.
The Aggies got out 3-0 on the Tigers, but LSU scored the next eight points to go up 8-3 and a lead they would not lose the rest of the way. LSU would built as much as a 13-point first half advantage and led 28-20 at the half. Neither team shot particularly well in the first 20 minutes as A&M was 7-of-23 from the field and LSU was 11-of-33.
After LSU opened up a 12 points advantage four minutes into the second half, the Aggies were able to cut the game down to seven points five different times over the next 10 minutes. But each time, the Tigers needed it, Mays came through with big shots, scoring 19 points in the second half.
After A&M cut the lead to seven at 55-48 with 5:54 to play, the Tigers outscored the Aggies, 9-2, for the final 14-point margin.
LSU also got eight points from Darius Days, seven points from Marlon Taylor (who started for the first time this season) and six points from Trendon Watford.
The Tigers will play their final road game of the regular season on Wednesday night at 6 p.m. against Arkansas in Fayetteville (SEC Network, LSU Sports Radio Network) before finishing the regular season at 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 7, against Georgia at the Maravich Center. The senior tribute ceremonies for LSU will be held prior to that game.