Ben Simmons scores 43, and LSU overcomes early deficit for high-octane 119-108 win over North Florida

Ben Simmons was tired of losing.

So he made history, and got a win while he was at it.

After three straight LSU losses, Simmons helped the Tigers overcome a 14-point first-half deficit on Wednesday night against North Florida, scoring 43 points (15-of-20 FG, 13-of-15 FT), grabbing 14 rebounds, and adding 7 assists, 5 steals, and 3 blocks in a 119-108, record-shattering win over the hot-shooting visitors.

Simmons became the first major conference player in 20 years with a 40-10-5-5 game, scored the most points at LSU since Shaquille O’Neal dropped 53 in 1990, and, most importantly, helped his team snap a three-game losing streak.

“I’m tired of losing,” said Simmons, who surpassed his previous career high of 23 points in the second half alone. “Nobody likes losing, especially not at home. (The losing streak) gave us more energy, so it fueled the fire.”

Tim Quarterman and Josh Gray each scored 20 points and dished out six assists, while Aaron Epps (14 points) and Jalyn Patterson (11) rounded out five starters reaching double figures for LSU (4-3), which shot 64.3 percent (45-of-70) from the field as a team.

Beau Beech and Dallas Moore each scored 31 for North Florida (6-3), combining to sink 11 of the guests’ 19 made threes.

North Florida led 56-48 at the half, behind 22 from Beech, who hit 6 of 7 from downtown. Falling into a familiar pattern of landing in early deficits, the Tigers trailed by as much as 14, but rallied back to within three on a Gray layup with 3:02 left in the half.

“Our guys did a tremendous job of fighting in the first half to stay connected in the game and not letting them get away from us,” said Johnny Jones, who described the feeling of watching North Florida sink shot after shot as “almost depressing.”

Fortunately for Jones, Simmons soon took over, scoring 14 straight – the last six points of the first half and the first eight of the second – for LSU, as the Tigers pulled within two, 56-54, just 69 seconds into the final period. Moore’s three pointer with 14:59 remaining put the guests up by seven, but LSU responded with a 16-4 run spanning just 2:19, a remarkable explosion on offense fueled by tenacious defense to generate quick baskets. LSU scored seven layups and dunks during that stretch to build an 80-75 lead with 12:29 left, the last two points on a thunderous Quarterman slam served up by Simmons.

“I think we pushed the ball a lot more in the second half,” said Quarterman. “We got there on the fast break and got rebounds. Ben posted early and often. He got the ball down low. Josh made a couple of drives. Aaron was finishing around the rack. We did it as a team tonight and it felt good.”

LSU would never trail again. North Florida cut it to one on Beech’s three pointer with 11:11 to play, but Epps scored four of LSU’s 76 points in the paint on consecutive trips, and the Tigers used a 77.1 percent shooting effort in the final 20 minutes to pull away, posting an unheard of 1.578 points per possession in the second half.

“In the second half, we were patient,” said Jones, “got the ball inside, utilized our size and quickness in the paint.”

Simmons was particularly dominant in the second half, with 25 points on 9-of-10 shooting and a perfect 7-of-7 at the line. Unlike past games, where he’s played outside-in, driving from the perimeter, Simmons planted on the post and feasted against smaller defenders, fouling out two of them.

“I definitely felt like they couldn’t really stop me in the post,” said Simmons. “They helped me build my confidence by throwing me the ball. Once I had it, I knew where I was going.”

The win sends LSU into the finals break with a much-needed win, and they’ll look to pick up where they left off on Dec. 13 at Houston. After a three-game losing streak, Simmons knows getting a string of wins will be key to where LSU finishes the season.

“I’m not used to losing three in a row,” he said, “and I haven’t lost three in a row in a while. It’s good that I’m able to come here and experience these three losses. The losses help us build as a team. I see that we are getting better every day. As long as we are winning and getting better then I’m happy.”

STATS

NOTES

  • LSU’s 119 points tonight were its most since a 127-104 win over George Mason on Dec. 3, 1994.
  • LSU shot 64.3% from the field tonight, its best FG performance since Jan. 14, 2006 vs. Tennessee (64.6%).
  • LSU has won 36 of past 37 when reaching the century mark since 1989-90.
  • LSU made 45+ field goals for 1st time since Jan. 15, 2003, vs. Centenary. Since 1966-67, LSU has never lost w/ 45+ FG’s (37-0).
  • LSU had 27 assists, its most since March 1, 2003 at Tennessee. #LSU has won its past 23 games w/ 27+ assists since 1977.
  • The 43 points by Ben Simmons was the most by an LSU player since Shaquille O’Neal scored 43 points vs Northern Arizona on Dec. 28, 1991. The last time someone scored more was Shaquille O’Neal who scored 53 versus Arkansas State, Dec. 18, 1990. The last LSU player to score 40 or more in a game was Tasmin Mitchell who had 41 at Mississippi State on Feb. 11, 2009.
  • Simmons is the second player to have 30 or more in the Johnny Jones era. Johnny O’Bryant III had 30 at South Carolina, 2/14/13.
  • LSU has now won 17 straight when shooting 50 percent or more from the floor.
  • According to ESPN, Simmons is the fourth freshman in the past 20 years with 40 points and 10 rebounds in a game. The others are Jared Sullinger of Ohio State (2010-11); Michael Beasley of Kansas State (2007-08)(3 times) and Tyler Hansbrough of UNC (2005-06)
  • He is also according to @ESPNCBB the first major college player to have a game of 40-10-5-5 in the last 20 years. He is two blocks shy of a first ever college basketball 5 by 5.
  • According to the SEC Office, Simmons’ 43 points by an SEC player since Arkansas’ Rotnei Clarke had 51 against Alcorn State on Nov. 13, 2009.
  • Second time in the Johnny Jones era that LSU has scored more than 100 points.
  • UNF’s 19 3-pointers were the 2nd-most vs. @LSUBasketball in #LSU history. Kentucky had 20 on March 5, 1995.
  • LSU allowed most points in a victory since Dec. 20, 1990, when to beat Loyola-Marymount, 122-114.
  • North Florida’s 56 points are the most in a 1st half vs. LSU since Jan. 16, 1996 (86 by Kentucky). Ospreys made 10 three-pointers.

QUOTES

LSU vs. North Florida
December 2, 2015

LSU HEAD COACH QUOTES

Head Coach Johnny Jones

Opening Statement…
“We knew going in that this was going to be a tough basketball game. North Florida is a tough matchup for anyone. They were in the NCAA tournament last year. They had got all of their guys back and are one of the top three-point shooting teams in the country. Tonight, they didn’t disappoint. Our fans weren’t disappointed, I don’t think, by that display out there. I thought as a team that our guys did a tremendous job of fighting in the first half to stay connected in the game and not allowing them to get away from us. In the second half, we had to shift a couple of things defensively, which was beneficial for us. In the second half, we also were patient, got the ball inside, utilized our size and quickness in the paint. Our guys did a good job of closing the game out at the free throw line. It was a big win for us. It’s one we are really excited about against a very quality team that we know we will probably see this year in the NCAA tournament again because of their play. It was probably one of the best three-point shooting performances I’ve seen by a team during my coaching.”

On being a part of such a high-scoring game…
“The only game that this even comes close to is probably Loyola-Marymount. They had some guys on that team that were excellent shooters in the way that they ran and pushed the ball up the floor. This team, they try to defend. They try to make you play up over top. They switch their defense. They switch their coverage to try to keep you off-balance in terms of scoring. What you want to do is make sure that you are patient and don’t get in a three-point shooting contest with them because they will utilize your miss and get out on a break. Those guys run to the line. They feed off of that. Our guys did a good job of making baskets. We had to shoot 77 percent in the second half to keep them off balance and force them to have to take the ball out of the net to make sure they didn’t have a fast break.”

On Ben Simmons’ 43 points in the second half…
“It was huge coming out of the locker room to get quick scores right there in the paint. That set the tone for how we were going to play in the second half. Our guys played with a lot of energy. Ben (Simmons) did a great job of posting, running to the paint area, getting touches in there, which was a big difference for us. Generally, he gets caught out on the perimeter, driving, forcing the collapse and getting his teammates shots. He was able to force them to have to play him in there, kick it out to guys who had their face-ups. When they didn’t, I thought he did a good job of finishing inside.”

LSU PLAYER QUOTES

Point Forward Ben Simmons

On the up-tempo game…
“I’m tired of losing. I just wanted everyone to get energy and try to play as a team and get the win. Overall, we did that.

On three losses in a row…
“No one likes losing and especially not at home. It gave us more energy so it fueled the fire a little bit. I know everyone else is tired of losing and everyone is picking it up and contributing.”

On starting the second half fast…
“It just gives us confidence. I had a lot of confidence going in, but I trust them to win as a team. We moved the ball and did what the coaches wanted us to do.”

On getting Aaron (Epps) going…
“It helps a lot for me because I know he can knock down the three-point shot. He can drive and take off because he is athletic. He is a player that when he is hitting shots it’s big for us.”

On getting aggressive for the ball…
“I definitely felt like they couldn’t really stop me in the post. They helped me build my confidence by throwing me the ball. Once I had it, I knew where I was going.”

On getting the win going into finals….
“It means a lot. I’m not used to losing three-in-a-row and I haven’t lost three in a row in a while. It’s good that I’m able to come here and experience these three losses. The losses help us build as a team. I see that we are getting better every day. As long as we are winning and getting better then I’m happy.”

Tim Quarterman

On the up-tempo game…
“I think we pushed the ball a lot more in the second half. We got there on the fast break and got rebounds. Ben (Simmons) posted early and often. He got the ball down low. Josh (Gray) made a couple of drives. Aaron (Epps) was finishing around the rack. We did it as a team tonight and it felt good.”

On taking the three away from them…
“We tried to run them off the line often. They had some great shooters out there tonight. We knew going in that their whole team could shoot. They got a couple of looks early. They shot a lot of tough three’s tonight. We ended up getting the stops we needed in the end.”

On enjoying his time on the court…
“It was just fun. Our home crowd got into it a lot. We got out on fast breaks and got a couple of dunks. Our home crowd was really feeding us with a lot of energy tonight. We didn’t have a lot of energy while we were on the road. Their energy lifted us tonight. We picked it up tonight. It was big for our team.”

On defending their outside shooting…
“They were shooting off high hands. Coaches told us to keep going at them and making them drive the ball. At the end of the day, they made a lot of tough jumpers. That’s the type of team they are. We got stops when we needed it and it was big for us.”

On the change in the lineup…
It was big for us. Josh (Gray) and Jalyn (Patterson) put pressure on the ball full court extended. They didn’t go deep into their bench. I think Josh and Jalyn wore the guards out tonight. They didn’t let them get easy looks. It helped us out a lot as a team.”

On getting Ben (Simmons) the ball…
I just told him to run the court hard and I was going to look at him. He ran the court extremely hard. When he posts up down there, not a lot of people in the country can stop him. We just wanted to get him the ball down there and get easy touches around the rack. That was big for us instead of taking shots early. We wanted him to drive it into the pain and let him create opportunities for us.”

Josh Gray

On defending Dallas Moore…
“I want to give all the glory to God for coming out and performing the way I did. It was a team effort. I felt like their point guard averages 20 points and shoots it well. The key was locking them down and being aggressive. We were just being aggressive the whole game.”

The key to his performance…
“I was just tired of losing. It was a team effort. We had on our mind to protect our home court. I was just playing for my teammates and giving them everything I have. The opportunities opened up tonight.”

On his confidence…
“My confidence was sky high and I just wanted to make plays for my teammates.”

On starting the second half fast…
“We were down in the second half because we ended the first half by giving them free-throw opportunities. We just wanted to come out and get stops and make plays in the beginning of the second half. We did that and I think it got the crowd into it early. It lifted us at the end.”

 

NORTH FLORIDA HEAD COACH QUOTES

Head Coach Matthew Driscoll

Opening Statement
“Obviously when you score 108 points you feel like you are going to win the game, but to their credit, they’re the ninth-fastest team in America. When they get downhill, especially with (Ben) Simmons being the lead guy, they’re so hard to guard only because he’s unselfish. If he were a selfish being, they would struggle because he wouldn’t get all those calls, and he would be out of control. You can guard against him differently, but because they have so many guys that can shoot the ball and he’s so unselfish, he is hard to guard. He’s hard to guard. I’ve coached in the Big 12. I’ve coached against (Kevin) Durant. I’ve coached against (Michael) Beasley. I’ve coached against Blake Griffin. I coached in the ACC when Duke was at its pinnacle and when Maryland won a championship while I was there. Durant is the best talent I’ve ever seen. Ever. I’ve never seen a more talented dude than Durant, but this dude (Simmons) guards. This dude rebounds; this guy gets steals and his IQ is off the roof, and I’ve never seen a more complete package than this particular person. His least talent is his greatest talent. He knows he can’t shoot right now; he knows he can’t make shots right now, so instead of taking shots, he’s doing what he does. When you don’t let what you can’t do get in the way of what you can, you’ll get better. He doesn’t have to show squat; he’s going to be the number one player in the (NBA) Draft. All he has to do is keep playing like this and not try to be what he’s not. His overall game and his overall talent is as great as I’ve ever seen. Durant was the best offensive player. Not even close. But I’m talking about the overall talent (for Simmons). Wow.”

On his team’s performance and how they came in and played tonight….
“For our seniors, this is their 20th Power 5 (game). Someone asked me that the other day. (LSU) lost to (College of) Charleston, and they’re going to be mad. Who cares? You think our guys care? Our guys don’t care. You go play Illinois and you beat Illinois. You go play Louisville and give them a heck of a game. This is what we got to do. Our guys aren’t afraid to play against anybody.”

On the play of guard Beau Beech…
“He’s obviously one of the best talents that has ever played at our school. He’s a Preseason Player of the Year. He’s a 6-9 guard which makes him tough to defend, and because he can stretch the floor and shoot so deep, it makes it even harder (to guard him) as you saw, but I love five assists and only one turnover. I thought that was really good. I did a bad job, and it’s not the guy’s fault. Any time you ever score 71 points in a half and you shoot 77 percent, it’s the coach’s fault and not the player’s. I should have changed more; I should have done something to muck the game up and make the game uglier instead of letting it be like an NBA game. All the NBA scouts that were here, they thought they were watching their own team play. I did a bad job. Our guys put themselves in a chance to win, and I did a bad job not making adjustments in the second half to give them a better chance.”

NORTH FLORIDA PLAYER QUOTES

Guard Beau Beech

On his and the team’s mindset coming into the game…
“I mean as a team we are always expecting to play our game. We plan to play fast and shoot lots of threes. We tried to execute as best as we could while staying within our system. Dallas (Moore), Trent (Mackey), Chris (Davenport) were just finding me. Once I hit the first one, I guess they knew before I did that I was hot. They kept finding me in good spots. Everyone on our team has confidence in each other, we feed off that.”

On scoring 108 points on the road…
“We really like to play fast, mostly because we have a lot of guys who are able to shoot the ball. Also Dallas is one of the best players in the country in my opinion. He’s so fast and good at distributing the ball to us shooters. We love to get up and down the court quickly and we made a lot of shots tonight. I can’t say 108 is too typical for us, but our pace gives us the chance to.”

On what went wrong defensively in the second half…
“It’s really frustrating. We definitely let them get into too much of a rhythm. We stayed with our game plan defensively, but (Ben) Simmons is a great player. You can honestly make a list of all the great players they (LSU) have. They also really executed their game plan well. Lots of credit to those guys though. Looking back we might have been able to make some more changes, but there wasn’t much wrong with our performance tonight. We did exactly what we wanted to do this game. They were just able to execute a little better than us tonight.”

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