The LSU basketball team is now just one of two unbeaten teams in Southeastern Conference play, and it became so by playing like one of the league’s best teams in a 89-67 victory against South Carolina Saturday evening.
The Tigers (14-3, 4-0 SEC) used a dominant post presence and forced turnovers to jump out to a lead that was never in doubt as it handed the Gamecocks (9-8, 4-1) their first loss in almost a month.
The win extended LSU’s winning streak in the PMAC to 17 games, the fifth longest home win streak in program history, and Tremont Waters’ six assists put him over the 300 mark for his career, making him the 12th player in program history to reach that milestone.
Waters served as the lifeblood of the Tigers, tallying 12 points and a pair of steals while running the offense and setting the tone on defense.
“(When) you have a point guard like that who is that special… I’m a huge fan of is,” said South Carolina coach Frank Martin. “He is very difficult to cover. He is difficult to guard when you play well, and when you don not play well, you get embarrassed.
Martin referred to the game as “a thorough butt whooping,” adding that he doesn’t recall ever coaching a game in which his team has been out-rebounded the way the Gamecocks were Saturday night.
The Tigers had 49 rebounds to South Carolina’s 29, by far their best rebounding margin of the season.
“It’s been good in conference,” said LSU coach Will Wade. “We did a great job. We had 15 offensive rebounds which was really, really good. We did a good job of limiting them to one shot most of the time.”
The Tigers limited South Carolina six offensive rebounds despite the Gamecocks missing 36 shots on the game.
LSU had six players score in double-digits with Naz Reid and Emmitt Williams leading the way with 15 points apiece.
Williams and Kavell Bigby-Williams contributed double-doubles, with Williams bringing down 13 rebounds and Bigby-Williams tallying 21 points and 11 rebounds.
The Tigers didn’t go on an prolific runs in the first half to build a 20-point lead. They just dominated both sides of the ball for much of the period, out-rebounding the Gamecocks 24-14 and forcing 10 turnovers while only committing six on its way to taking a 48-28 lead.
South Carolina all-SEC forward Chris Silva was taken out of the equation early in the game due to foul trouble. He only played five minutes in the first half, allowing the Tigers to dominate the post and build a substantial lead.
“We needed to have a working margin with (Silva) in foul trouble,” Wade said. “It would not have been good if that thing was under 10 with him in foul trouble.”
LSU didn’t slow down at the start of the second half, either, building that lead to 63-36 points at the first media timeout with more dominant rebounding and play in the paint.
Wade was visibly fired up going into the timeout as his team made a statement against an opponent with a propensity for completing second-half comebacks.
“The first five minutes of the second half, that’s why I was pretty fired up,” Wade said. “We got the lead up to (27). As soon as it got to 15 (points), I was going to whack a timeout. I felt like if we let them get it down to one of those marginal numbers they were able to work back from before, that we’d give them confidence and we wouldn’t stomp them out.”
Silva fouled out of the game in the second half having played only eight minutes in which he managed to tally seven points and three rebounds.
Freshman A.J. Lawson led the Gamecocks with 18 points and five rebounds. He shot 7 for 15 from the field.
The Tigers will get back in action Wednesday at 6 p.m. when they host Georgia in the PMAC with hopes of remaining unbeaten.
Now with four SEC wins under their belt after a dominant week in which it dominated No. 18 Ole Miss and South Carolina, LSU has positioned itself to make an appearance in the AP Top 25 poll for the first time since the Nov. 19 poll released ahead of the Tigers’ appearance in the Advocare Invitational Tournament.