Will Wade didn’t like what Bob Marlin had to say in the build up to LSU’s clash with Marlin’s UL-Lafayette in round one of the NIT.
So he played video of Marlin’s press conference on a loop in LSU’s locker room before the game.
After the game, he gave a press conference of his own.
“We are about action,” he said. “Not talk.”
After 40 minutes of that action, LSU came out with a narrow win, motivated by Marlin’s comments and led by Duop Reath, who scored 26 points and secured 11 rebounds. It was Reath’s defense – four blocks and a pair of late game-clinching deflections – that helped LSU take a tight one.
LSU outscored ULL 46 to 28 in the paint, with Reath leading the charge. He did his damage offensively on 10-of-14 shooting, taking advantage of the Cajuns’ single coverage all game.
“It’s whatever the game gives me,” Reath said. “Tonight, it was just my night.”
LSU also got a shot in the arm off the bench from Skylar Mays, who battled a broken left thumb to score 11 points, eight in the first half. The sophomore was plus-24 in 31 minutes and helped overturn an early 10-2 deficit inherited in his first game not in the starting lineup.
“We started off slow, so I just came in and tried to bring energy,” said Mays. “As a competitor, you can’t let someone talk about you a certain way. You gotta come in and stand up for yourself. We did a good job of doing that today.”
Marlin spent the week bemoaning LSU’s role as host. He felt the Cajuns, with their superior RPI and record, should be the home team. He said LSU should schedule ULL more, and that Wade hadn’t returned preseason calls about a matchup.
“We aren’t scared of anybody,” Wade said after the win.
“I have no comment about what he said,” Marlin said. “He can run his program, I’m going to run mine.”
Aided by early Tiger turnovers, the Cajuns raced out to a 10-2 lead behind a pair of Bartley threes. Mays, coming off the bench for the first time this season, helped level things at 10 with a layup, a steal, and a dunk, and Waters gave LSU its first lead with a floater at the two minute mark of the first quarter. Mays made it a 12-2 run with another slam before ex-LSU commit Ced Russell sunk a deep three, ending the first quarter 18-15 in LSU’s favor. Of those Tiger points, 16 came in the paint.
Another Mays layup keyed an 8-2 Tiger run to stretch the advantage to 30-21 following a pair of Brandon Sampson free throws. Sampson’s layup gave the Tigers their first double-digit lead before Barley tossed in his third triple and a 33-26 tally, three minutes to go in the half. Sampson then slammed a Daryl Edwards miss, and Duop Reath hit a corner 3 to send LSU up 40-28 at halftime.
Reath opened the half with a layup, but behind a 13-4 run, the Cajuns sliced to just three, using back-t0-back Bartley 3s and a Johnathan Stove layup. Sampson slammed and sunk a 3 for a 51-45 LSU lead to stop the bleeding.
LSU would build its lead back to nine before the Cajuns cut it, once again, to three on a Stove three-point play. Reath drove left and finished for the Tigers first bucket in 2:30, and the senior followed with a three-pointer and a 59-52 Tiger advantage.
Sampson sunk two more free throws for a 61-53 score in LSU’s favor after three quarters.
Another Russell three helped the Cajuns get within three again. Reath’s baby hook and Mays’ corner 3 gave LSU eight points of breathing room with 6:38 remaining. Waters made it 11 with a layup after a series of Tiger blocks at the rim, courtesy of Epps and Reath.
ULL would cut it three on another Stove three-point play and Bartley jumper from the free throw line with 2:30 to go. Stroman’s layup after a pair of Cajun offensive rebounds made it a one-point game with 1:31 to go.
Waters knocked down two more freebies for a 75-72 Tiger edge with 1:16 left. Reath then hedged and knocked the ball loose from the Cajuns, and Edwards picked up the steal, hitting one of two at the line. Reath grabbed the ULL miss on the next possession and sunk his free throws for a 78-72 lead with 48 seconds left.
When Sampson knocked down two more 30 seconds later, Wade called timeout, barking at Marlin’s bench and landing both coaches technicals.
“I can’t remember what I said,” Wade said.
The win was LSU’s first ever home victory in the NIT, and the Tigers (18-14) move on to either face Utah on the road or UC-Davis at home.
“It was good to advance,” Wade said. “We’re about action, not talk here.”