LSU opens SEC play with win over Tennessee behind sharp shooting Smart
KNOXVILLE, Tennessee – The LSU men's basketball team opened Southeastern Conference play with an impressive 75-64 win over Tennessee Saturday at Thompson-Boling Arena.
The win upped the Tigers to 9-4 and 1-0 in the SEC and more importantly, gave the Tigers a 10-game road winning streak in league play dating back to last year when LSU was a perfect 9-0 on the road.
The 10-game road winning streak equals the third longest SEC road winning streak in school history.
LSU now comes back to the Pete Maravich Assembly Center for home games this coming Wednesday and next Saturday.
LSU withstood a shooting barrage at the beginning of the game which led to nine first-half threes by the Volunteers, rallied from nine down to take a one-point lead at the half, then shot 57 percent in the second half to pull away to as much as a 16-point advantage.
The Tigers' Bayou Backcourt of Baton Rouge natives Javonte Smart and Skylar Mays led LSU with a combined 38 points and eight assists. Smart, who scored 29 points last year at home against Tennessee, again had another good game against the Vols.
The sophomore scored 21 points as he hit 7-of-13 field goal attempts and 5-of-9 from the arc.
Senior Mays hit for 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting, hitting both three-point attempts.
Trendon Watford had nine second points to finish with 15 points and eight rebounds on 5-of-10 shooting and 5-of-6 from the line.
LSU for the game shot 28-of-60 from the field (46.7 percent) and 10-of-21 from the arc (47.6 percent). LSU was 15-of-26 overall and 4-of-8 from the arc in the second half. LSU was 12-of-14 from the free throw line.
Yves Pons and transfer Santiago Vercovi, who was just cleared by the NCAA to play on Friday, led Tennessee (8-5, 0-1) with 18 points each. Josiah-Jordan James added 15 points. Tennessee made nine three-pointers in the first half, finished 13-of-26 from the arc and 24-of-60 for the game (40.0 percent). Tennessee was 3-of-5 from the line.
Tennessee outrebounded LSU, 34=33 for the game, but second chance points were even at 10-10. Darius Days of LSU led all players with 11 boards, six offensive in the contest.
LSU had a 32-18 advantage in points in the paint and took advantage of 14 Tennessee turnovers for a 19-9 advantage in points off turnovers. For the second straight game, the Tigers were under 10 turnovers with eight for the game.
Tennessee would jump out to 15-7 and 20-11 leads in the first seven minutes before the Tigers began to get things stabilized and cut into the margin.
The game swung in the final two minutes of the first half after Tennessee took a 37-31 lead. Mays was able to drive the lane for a dunk to make it 37-33. After a Tennessee turnover, Smart was fouled and made two free throws to make it 37-35 with 48 seconds to go.
The Vols missed a three-point shot on the other end and LSU got the rebound and on its ensuing possession, Smart nailed a three with 14 seconds left to give LSU the lead at intermission, 38-37.
Tennessee took its final lead on the opening possession of the second half on a Pons jump shot to go up 39-38, but LSU answered right back on a Trendon Watford bucket in the paint. That would give LSU the lead for good at 40-39. Tennessee missed a three, Mays countered with a bucket on the other end to give LSU a three-point advantage at 42-39.
LSU would push the lead to eight at 51-43 on a Days paint bucket with 14:10 to play and the lead reached double digits for the first time at 59-49 two minutes later on a Smart jumper. Tennessee was never closer than seven points the rest of the way.
LSU will face Arkansas on Wednesday night at the Maravich Center at 8 p.m. on ESPNU and the LSU Sports Radio Network. Tickets for the game will be available during normal business hours through Wednesday at 5 p.m. at the LSU Athletics Ticket Office and online at LSUTix.net. The Tigers also host Mississippi State next Saturday (Jan. 11) at 7 p.m.
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