By CODY WORSHAM | Tiger Rag Editor
Tremont Waters has been in Daryl Edwards’ ear all season.
On Wednesday night, the message was delivered.
Edwards scored 15 points off LSU’s 43 bench points, including 10 in the first half, knocking down 3-of-6 from three and finishing a game-high plus-25 in 25 minutes in the Tigers’ 84-60 win over UT-Martin in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
“I’ve been telling his big-headed self, when he comes in the game, don’t do anything different,” said Waters, who finished with eight points and 10 of LSU’s 22 assists. “Just shoot the ball. He finally listened to me.”
Edwards checked in with LSU trailing 9-4, after the Tigers (4-2) missed their first six three-point attempts against an active UT-Martin matchup zone.
By the time he went back to the bench, LSU led 33-18, and he’d knocked down a pair of triples, a pair of twos, and handed out three assists.
“Just making the right play, that’s all I’m focusing on,” Edwards said. “Making simple plays. I was happy to be open, so I just took open shots.”
He wasn’t the only Tiger to heat up after a slow start. As LSU’s defense locked in – the Tigers’ held the Skyhawks scoreless for four minutes and to misses on 12 of 13 shots after a 4-of-5 start – Skylar Mays caught fire, hitting all four of his threes on the night in the final 5:30 of the first half. Mays scored 16 of his 18 before the break, two from Edwards drive-and-kicks and two from Waters’ dishes, including a behind-the-back dime and a halftime buzzer beater good for a 41-24 Tiger lead after 20 minutes.
“Really proud of Sky,” head coach Will Wade said. “He’d been a little tense the last couple of games. He’s such a good kid. He wants to do everything perfect. He’s a perfectionist. That’s what makes him great. I told him the other day, ‘Relax. Trust your instincts. Trust your work.’ He did that, and he deserved that. He took great shots..ten toes to the rim, wide-open HORSE shots basically.”
Mays was more proud of LSU’s defensive effort. While not perfect – the Tigers allowed UT-Martin to connect on 50 percent of their shots after halftime – it was an improvement on several lackluster effort in Maui. LSU scored 29 points off 18 turnovers, grabbing 13 steals.
“We didn’t do too good of a job out there, even in the Michigan win,” Mays said. “We didn’t meet our standards defensively. We’ve just got to keep working at it and make sure that’s a focal point of how we play.”
The Tigers’ bench outscored the Skyhawks’ 43 to 11, and LSU turned 18 UT-Martin turnovers into 29 points, while turning it over just seven times themselves. The visitors cut the deficit to as little as 12 after a 9-2 run midway through the second half that featured three makes from beyond the arc, but the Tigers settled in, shooting 53 percent from the field themselves. Duop Reath scored nine of his 15 bench points after the break to pace LSU’s second-half output.
Wade still had some bones to pick. He wasn’t happy with LSU’s rebounding – the teams tied with 33 each – or that they shot only 60 percent from the line. He also nitpicked at some shot selection, saying the Tigers hit 9-of-17 catch-and-shoot 3s but 1-of-13 on all others.
There was plenty to be pleased with, too, though, most importantly, the victory.
“Our ball screen defense was better today,” Wade said. “It wasn’t like a sieve. We were able to at least stop some folks today. That was progress.”
- Wade said he started Aaron Epps at the 5 because “he can hedge a ball screen.” Epps scored 6 points and grabbed 8 rebounds, including 6 on the offensive end.
- LSU’s first guard off the bench was walk-on Marshall Graves. Wade says while other players offer “fake hustle” – running around with energy but little direction – Graves gives more steadiness, being in the right place and being where he’s told when he’s told to be there. Graves scored 6 points and hit both of his three-point attempts, and Wade said he’d like to see the sophomore seek his shot more aggressively.
- Off a scorching 39-point outing against Marquette, Waters couldn’t find his shooting stroke on Wednesday, scoring 8 points on 2-of-10 shooting and 1-of-7 from three. But his 10 assists were a career-high. “It was just a feel for the game,” he said. “I score when I have to score, but the majority of my role is to make plays for my teammates, and that’s what I feel like I did tonight.”