By CODY WORSHAM | Tiger Rag Editor
In the first unofficial game of the post-Ben Simmons era at LSU, the Tigers counted on the contributions of another 6-foot-10 Australian en route to victory.
Junior college transfer Duop Reath racked up 26 points, 13 rebounds and 4 blocks in his LSU debut, leading six Tigers in double figures for a 113-80 exhibition win over Reinhardt on Monday night in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
Reath knocked down 12-of-19 attempts, using a six-inch height advantage over the biggest starter from the NAIA opposition to score with a combination of jump hooks, slam dunks, and mid range jumpers.
“I had the size advantage,” Reath said. “All I had to do was finish over them.”
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“Some of our guards were bigger than their bigs,” added sophomore guard Brandon Sampson, who had an efficient 19 points on 8-of-9 shooting, including 3-of-3 from 3. “Knowing he was running the floor, we were just trying to get the ball to him.”
Reath scored 20 of his 26 in the first half, as LSU overcame a sloppy start to race out to a 23-7 lead on a layup from Antonio Blakeney with 13:12 left in the first half. Blakeney finished with 17 points and 9 assists, looking to facilitate for others as the team’s second point guard behind freshman Skylar Mays in the absence of Jalyn Patterson.
“He did a good job of making extra passes and plays from the point,” LSU head coach Johnny Jones said. “That’s a plus for us, and an area we want to help him to continue to grow.”
Reinhardt used the three-point shot to stay close. The guests hit eight of their 13 triples in the first half. Four in a row trimmed the LSU lead to just eight, 31-23 on a Elijah Hirsh deep ball and a Bridges mid-range jumper with 9:14 to play.
“We were not aggressive enough,” Jones said. “You have to get in the guys’ wheelhouse and try to make them uncomfortable. We allowed them to get in a rhythm in the first half.”
LSU’s defense soon buckled down, though, sparking a 22-4 run, hitting eight layups in a row while holding their guests to 1-of-8 shooting. Aaron Epps cleaned up the boards, grabbing 10 of his 12 rebounds in the first half, and a Wayde Sims 3 with 6:09 left in the half put LSU up 45-24 to cap the surge.
Sims, who finished with 11 points and 9 rebounds, was one of several standout freshmen. Kieran Hayward poured in 12 points on 3-of-4 shooting from 3, while Mays, starting at point guard in Patterson’s absence, totaled 15 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists.
“Skylar did an excellent job running the point for us,” said Jones. “His first time in college, he did a good job of handling himself. He has a great basketball IQ, made plays, and defensively he continues to progress.”
His fourth assist put LSU up 26 late in the first half, but the Tigers struggled with turnovers — 21 on the night, in total — and allowed Reinhardt to cut the deficit to 19 at the half, 57-38.
“Some of it was just careless plays,” said Blakeney. “We just have to take care of the ball and make easy plays instead of the tough plays.”
The trends of the first half carried over into the second. LSU dominated inside but struggled to defend the three-point line. Sampson, after a shaky first half, caught fire, scoring 15 of his 19 after the break. He hit a three from each corner to put LSU up 82-54 with 11:18 to play, and LSU finished the night 8-for-14 from deep and 59 percent form the field.
“We know we have a lot of shooters,” said Sampson. “Everybody that shoots the ball on the team is real confident about it. We shot the ball real well, and I think it’s only going to get better.”