It took a bit for LSU to get in a rhythm, but once it did Incarnate Word didn’t have much of an answer as the Tigers jumped out to a big lead and never looked back on their way to a 91-50 win in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
LSU (7-2) went up by 10 twice early in the first half, but both times the Cardinals (5-6) came back and got within a bucket of the the Tigers.
“We had some poor possessions, we turned the ball over and we just didn’t do what we needed to do,” Wade said of the sluggish start. “They played a match-up zone, so it took us a minute to adjust to that.”
UIW hung around for much of the first half, but LSU finished the half on an 18-2 run to take a 51-29 lead into the halftime break.
Skylar Mays sparked the run with seven unanswered points before Ja’vonte Smart took over and scored the next nine LSU points.
LSU reserve Will Reese scored the last bucket of the half with a layup in transition to put the Tigers up 22 at the break.
Smart and Mays took the game over at a time of need for the Tigers, as LSU had four players with at least two fouls with more than five minutes remaining in the half.
Mays said he could feel a lack of energy from the Tigers, and he decided to try to take things into his own hands and attempt to give LSU a much-needed spark.
“Yeah I got a little aggressive,” Mays said. “I saw we were kind of, not necessarily trading baskets, but it was kind of like there was a seal on the rim. I wanted to take my shot and take shots I was comfortable with. They were able to fall in and we were able to get going from there.”
The big run didn’t go unnoticed by Wade, either.
“I was really proud of Skylar and Ja’vonte,” Wade said. “I thought they carried us in the first half. … Overall, we have a lot of room to improve, and we have a big week ahead of us. That was a big win coming out of exams. Sometimes those aren’t the easiest ball games.”
From there, the Tigers ran away with an easy and convincing victory.
Smart finished the game with 16 point, five assists, three rebounds and two steals while committing no turnovers. Mays finished the game with 14 points, four steals and five rebounds.
Naz Reid also looked solid when he wasn’t dealing with foul trouble. He came out strong in the second half and finished shooting 7 for 8 from the field wfor 16 points to go along with three assists, three steals and seven rebounds.
“I’m in the vast minority — I know everyone else thinks he hasn’t been playing well — but he did some of the same stuff today,” Wade said. “He tried to take a charge, he got a block, he dove on a loose ball in front of their bench, I mean damn. He takes good shots for the most part. Sometimes they’re just not going in. Today they went in.”
Reid has been nursing an ankle injury that he got prior to the Tigers’ game against Louisiana Tech on Nov. 16.
Reid said the ankle still isn’t at 100 percent, but the performance against UIW gave him confidence moving forward.
“Coming off an injury is hard, but playing through it today is going to help me in the long run,” Reid said. “It’s getting better. It’s not 110 percent, but it’s getting better. I was able to get through it today and practice on it.
“It feels like I’m getting back into a rhythm. I couldn’t do it without my teammates.”
Kavell Bigby-Williams came off the bench for the Tigers, but that didn’t keep him from posting his first double-double of the season with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
The win marked the last game before a nine-day stretch in which LSU will face some of its toughest opponents of the non-conference schedule.
The Tigers travel to take on Houston on Wednesday before hitting the road for Las Vegas for a neutral-site game against St. Mary’s. LSU will then return home for a game against No. 25 Furman on Friday, Dec. 21.