By CODY WORSHAM | Tiger Rag Editor
Skylar Mays has been a creator most of his career; Brandon Sampson, a scorer most of his.
On Thursday night, the two flipped roles, each scoring 20 points to fueled LSU’s offense in a 105-86 shootout victory over Samford in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center that left Will Wade only displeased with his team’s defensive effort heading into Monday’s matchup with Michigan in the Maui Classic.
LSU (2-0) shot 60 percent from the field and 95 percent from the free throw line but allowed Samford (1-2) to knock down 15 3s, including 11 after halftime, part of a 58 point second half effort from the Bulldogs.
“Second half was just terrible,” Wade said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a team give up 58 points in a half. That’s what you should give up for the game. Really disappointing. Our point of attack defense. Our ball screen defense. The amount of threes we gave up. Just terrible.
“I was embarrassed. I couldn’t get off the court quick enough. That was embarrassing. If that doesn’t improve, it’s going to be a long trip out West.”
It was a tale of two halves for LSU’s defense. The Tigers gave up just 28 points in the first half and held Samford to 39 percent shooting from the field and only four made three-pointers. Those numbers rose to 57 percent shooting and 11 threes on 18 second half tries.
“Huge difference,” said Mays. “Just a lack of discipline. Not being engaged. Understanding we were up and taking that for granted. Against the elite teams, that’s not going to work. It’s unacceptable.”
The offense was acceptable, if not enough to offset Wade’s defensive ire. Mays, LSU’s top returning assister from a season ago connected on 6-of-11 shots, including a watermark 4-of-7 from 3. Sampson, meanwhile, added career-highs in rebounds (8) and assists (7).
“I take pride in creating for others,” Mays said. “That’s something I’m passionate about. But, I like to get a bucket every now and then.”
Sampson did most of his damage early without putting the ball in the hole, scoring just six first half points but contributing with four rebounds and four assists.
“Just doing all the little things, that helped me get going offensively,” he said. “Finding guys in open spots, driving the lanes, making the defense collapse, and going to the glass – that really got me going.”
Tremont Waters, coming off the bench due to an ankle injury Wade labeled “pretty messed up,” had eight of LSU’s 29 assists, the most by a Tiger team since a 30-assist effort against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in 2002. LSU turned the ball over just nine times and got three others – Wayde Sims (13), Duop Reath (12), and Brandon Rachal (10) – into double figures scoring.
Demetrius Denzel-Dyson’s 21 points led Samford, including 15 of Samford’s 58 second-half points.
Mays doubled his seven points from LSU’s opener in the first half alone. After missing his first two shots, he drove the length of the court for a layup to put LSU up 21-9, before moving beyond the arc for the rest of the period. His first three extended the lead to 15 with 10 minutes left in the first; his second, two minutes later, made it 18, and his fourth, seconds before the halftime buzzer, pushed LSU head by 21, the Tigers’ largest advantage in the first 20 minutes.
In the meantime, Sims carved the Samford zone from the inside out, scoring 9 first-half points, and Sampson activated all-action mode, with 6 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists before halftime.
On the other end, LSU used active hands to force 11 first-half turnovers and closed out hard on Samford’s three-point shooters, holding them to 4-of-11 shooting from beyond the arc to start.
The Tigers quickly extended their advantage to 27 on the second Daryl Edwards three of the night. Samford found its touch from deep, however, hitting four of its first five from three out of the locker room, and cut the deficit to 78-60 on a Denzel-Dyson triple with nine minutes remaining. Aaron Epps, in his first action, countered with six straight points, all quickly negated by a pair of Samford 3s.
LSU’s lead seesawed from high teens to low twenties as both teams traded trifectas down the final stretch. A high-flying slam from Sampson put LSU up 97-74 with 3:23 to go, and Jeremy Combs put the Tigers over the century mark with a late layup.
An inability to get stops late, though, left a sour taste in everyone’s mouth, Wade’s most of all.
“It takes a complete game to beat good teams,” Wade said. “We’ve yet to play a complete game, and we got a really good team coming up Monday. It’ll be a long night.”
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