By CODY WORSHAM | Tiger Rag Editor
It took a half of basketball for Duop Reath to see a double-team on Sunday.
By then, it was too late.
Reath, who came off the bench for the second straight game, scored a career-high 30 points on 13-of-17 shooting, and freshman guard Tremont Waters came up a rebound shy of a triple-double, as home-standing LSU (5-2) won wire-to-wire over UNC-Wilmington, 97-84.
The Seahawks (2-5) benched star forward Devontae Cacok for the first 20 minutes, and Reath took advantage, scoring 19 of his points by halftime, mostly against single-coverage.
That brought just one thought to mind for the senior forward: “It’s going to be a long night for them,” he said.
And it was.
“We wanted to establish Duop inside early on,” said head coach Will Wade. “We knew we would get some one-on-one post touches in there. Duop did a great job of keeping balance and being able to score the ball.”
Reath and Waters did the heavy lifting for LSU in the first half, with the latter breaking open a relatively tight affair after a moment of heat from the bench. Wade picked up his first technical as head coach when officials hit Waters with an offensive foul. After Jordan Talley, who finished with a team-high 22 for UNC-W, sunk the free throw to make it a 33-26 LSU lead, the Tigers roared back with a 19-10 run to close the first half. Waters scored or assisted on 13 of those points, including a dazzling display of crossovers preceding a dish to a dunking Reath and a 52-36 halftime lead.
“Tre wanted to play a little faster,” said Reath. “He sped the game up. That’s his game. We told him, ‘Hey, keep doing it.'”
For Waters, the conclusion of each half is critical, a focal point in practice to be carried over into games.
“Those last six minutes, we always work on that in practice,” Waters said. “We call it a six-minute game. That’s what we always work on. We knew what we had to do.”
Wade wasn’t exactly proud of the technical, declining to comment much on it, other than to note: “I would say that I didn’t earn that one.” He was proud, however, of his team’s response.
“Our guys said, ‘We got you.’ They did a good job picking it up. It shows we’ve got a connected team, a team that cares.”
LSU’s first-half defense was stellar, holding the visitors to 35.3 percent shooting, but Cacok’s return helped open up the UNC-W offense. The Seahawks outscored LSU 48-45 in the second half. They would get as close as eight on a pair of Talley jumpers, but Wade got another spark off the bench, this time from junior guard Daryl Edwards, who buried a triple through a foul, sunk the free throw, and locked down Talley for the remainder of his on-court time. Just two of his 22 points came in the final eight minutes.
“I thought Daryl Edwards changed the game in the second half,” Wade said. “His four-point play was huge. He did a good job guarding Talley during that time as well. Really proud of Daryl.”
For the game, LSU limited UNC-W to 42.6 percent shooting and won the battle on the boards 40-29. That’s a pair wins in a row for LSU since returning from Maui, and a good result off an 11-day break for finals exams, but a difficult test against 8-1 Houston looms on Wednesday,
“Funky things can happen out of exams, so I thought our guys handled business,” Wade said. “Good win, but we’re going to have to play a lot better on Wednesday when we play Houston. They’ll be the best team we’ve played since Notre Dame.”
- Waters said he knew he was a rebound away from a triple-double, thanks to his teammates on the bench, but couldn’t quite get that last board. When it was suggested that he miss a shot on purpose to snag one last board, he shook his head no. “Mess up my shooting percentages.”
- Skylar Mays scored 12 of his 14 points in the second half and needed just six shots to reach those 14 points.
- LSU outscored UNC-W 48-18 in the paint.
- Reath’s 30 points were seven more than his previous career high of 23. He also took a career high 17 field goal attempts.
- Skylar Mays on second half defense: “We don’t talk enough. I’ll take ownership of that, and I’m sure Duop would as well. We have to be leaders and take ownership on both sides of the ball.”
- Wade on Tremont Waters: “The one where he threw it behind his head probably wasn’t the best decision. We’ve got to live with what he does. But he did a lot of really good things. That play late in the shot clock late in the game…you can’t coach that. I was hoping he’d grab that rebound late in the game.”
- Wade on lineups: “They didn’t play the two bigs down there like they usually do. We game planned for two bigs. We played our smaller lineup a little more than we thought we might have to.”
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