It wasn’t the most convincing win on LSU’s schedule, but the Tigers capped off its nonconference slate with a 81-69 victory against a pesky ULM team that wouldn’t go away Friday night in the PMAC.
The Tigers (10-3) led for most of the contest, but the Warhawks (7-5) kept their deficit manageable all night, going on a run to real LSU back in every time it seemed the flagship school was about to run away with it.
LSU’s game plan early on seemed to be to allow freshman forward Naz Reid to do work in the post as the Tigers opened both halves by feeding him in the post and letting him use his size to his advantage.
ULM didn’t have anybody who could effectively match up with him one-on-one, allowing him to earn his first double-double of the season as he picked up his 10th rebound less than four minutes into the second half.
Reid finished the game shooting 7 for 10 from the field for 19 points and 12 rebounds, including five offensive boards. He also recorded four blocks.
” thought Naz Reid played his best game of the year,” said LSU coach Will Wade. “I thought he was awesome. Coming into the game, the last four games, Naz was shooting 19-29 from two. He’s done a really good job of getting in there and finishing in the paint.”
After coming off the bench in the Tigers’ previous two games, Tremont Waters got his 11th start of the season as LSU head coach Will Wade elected to play small to start things off.
“Coming in to the game, Coach Wade said I was going to be a difficult matchup because they have pretty much all guards and their big man can play the three,” Waters said. “I felt like I did a pretty good job. I wasn’t perfect.”
Waters had a field day on defense in the first half, picking up seven steals in addition to his nine points and five assists that put him on triple-double watch by the halftime break.
“Being a pest on defense, that’s really my identity,” Waters said. “I have to make that my identity, and everything else will fall into place.”
Waters wasn’t as statistically productive in the second half, but he helped facilitate LSU’s offense effectively and aided the Tigers as they finally pulled away from the Warhawks late in the game.
He finished the game with 11 points, 10 assists and eight steals in 34 minutes on the floor. He secured a double-double with an alley-oop to Emmitt Williams in the final minute of the game.
Ja’vonte Smart entered the game on a bit of a slump, and that continued through the early part of the game as he missed the first seven shots he took against ULM.
But something clicked in the second half as he hit three shots, including back-to-back 3-pointers, allowing him to finish the night with 10 points.
“I thought Javonte (Smart) played really well in the second half, which we needed,” Wade said We need to get him back going. I thought he played well in the second half.”
Despite getting that coveted 10th win in nonconference play and improving as a team over the last few games, Wade said the Tigers still have plenty of work to do.
What worries him most is the rebounding, which he attributed more to technique than effort.
The Tigers outrebounded a much smaller ULM team by just one board Friday night, and they gave up 13 offensive rebounds. Wade said that will ultimately lead to LSU’s demise if the trend continues.
“The stat sheet when we lose our next game, is quite simply we’ll get outrebounded and we won’t create enough steals and force enough turnovers to make up for the rebounding differential,” Wade said. “There’s not enough possessions. That’s what’s coming. We’re not just going to be able to swipe the ball from somebody 12 times, and when that happens, we’re going to have more turnovers than they have
“We’re going to get outrebounded, and our steals are going to be down. The numbers don’t work. We’re not going to have enough possessions to win the game.”
Still, Wade had plenty of positive things to say about the Tigers’ nonconference performance.
He cited the defense as markedly approved, especially first-shot defense which he considers elite.
He also said he liked his team’s culture and the way the Tigers play together.
“We got a close group,” Wade said. “They want to play for each other. Like tonight, it wasn’t really Kavell (Bigby-Williams’) night, but he was really into it on the bench. We got a good group in terms of that.”
The Tigers will now take an 11-day break to focus on the most important part of their season: Southeastern Conference play.
LSU will kick off its SEC schedule Jan. 8 when it hosts Alabama in the PMAC.