Duop Reath, Craig Victor lead interior attack in LSU’s dramatic 75-65 win over Charleston

By CODY WORSHAM | Tiger Rag Editor

Duop Reath finished LSU’s 75-65 win over Charleston with three blocks, but it was the fourth — after the horn had sounded — that told the story of the night as much as any play in the 40 minutes prior.

Reath, who matched his career high with 23 points to go with eight rebounds, rose high to reject a dunk from Charleston forward Chevez Goodwin that wouldn’t have counted, putting an exclamation mark on the 10-0 run the Tigers (8-2) used to close the victory.

“I’m always trying to bring the energy every night defensively,” said Reath. “I’m trying to block everything that goes up.”

“We’re going to play for 40 minutes or however long it took,” added LSU head coach Johnny Jones. “I guess he was thinking it was however long it took. That’s just the competitive spirit he has in him that he continued to play on. That gets us excited. We like to play to the whistle. I guess he was playing to the second whistle. We like how he competes.”

“That’s a good way to end a game,” added Craig Victor, who tallied his fourth career double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds.

It was yet another tight win for LSU down the stretch. Charleston (8-3) tied things at 65 with 1:48 to play on the last two of Joe Chealey’s 23 points. Brandon Sampson, who finished with 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting, keyed the clinching run with a running bank shot, and after Jalyn Patterson’s floater banked in high off the glass, Sampson added a final layup for the dagger, the last of his many driving shots.

“Last game I didn’t shoot so well,” said Sampson. “So I didn’t try to shoot the ball as much as I did. I just started going inside, I started feeling better just going to the rack. I got really comfortable with that.”

The Tigers closed both halves well, ending the first and starting the second with a 16-2 run spanning 5:14. Jarrell Brantley’s layup for the guests with 2:31 to play in the first half gave Charleston a 32-31 lead, but Reath and Victor teamed up for 10 of the Tigers’ next 16 to build a 13-point LSU lead with 16:53 to play. That was exactly according to LSU’s game plan: attack the nation’s No. 8 scoring defense from the inside out.

“I really liked the play of our post guys,” said Jones. “They’re showing some consistency there. Loved the unselfishness of this team, in terms of our guards, who are great scorers. The way they shared the basketball, tried to stick to the game plan, getting paint touches in there early…it was a great team win.”

Jones, in particular, praised LSU’s leading scorer on the season, Antonio Blakeney, who finished with just 7 points on 8 shots but matched a career high with 10 rebounds. Blakeney also came up with a big 3 late to break a 60-60 deadlock.

“The game plan was to try to punch the ball inside,” said Jones. “He did that, and he affected the game in other areas, defensively, and he had eight rebounds at halftime. Second half, he didn’t press trying to score, and when we had to go to him down the stretch, he came back with a big 3. We called his number, and he delivered for us.”

Charleston dug in down 13, forcing an array of Tiger turnovers. LSU finished with 16 on the night, and Charleston scored 17 points off of them. But LSU only coughed the ball up once in the final eight minutes, and they knocked down all nine of their second half free throws, with Victor hitting four in the final minute to seal the win and set up a showdown of 8-win teams on Thursday against Wake Forest (8 p.m., ESPNU).

It was the block that didn’t count, however, that had Victor excited the most.

“You can’t teach that,” Victor said of Reath. “I know his background, I know where he comes from. That’s expected out of him. You can’t teach that. Just to see the clock go off — I wanted him to do that. I’m like, ‘Man, please don’t give up this bucket.’ It kinda gives us a boost of confidence going into the next game, knowing that’s the last play. They don’t get to see the ball go in the rim. Defensively, we’ve been preaching defense, defense.

“I’m proud of him for blocking that shot.”

 

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