By CODY WORSHAM | Tiger Rag Editor
Johnny Jones has had prettier wins.
LSU knocked off North Florida 78-70 on Friday night, but the Tigers’ third win of the season wasn’t a work of art.
“It was a grind game for us,” said Jones.
The two teams combined for 46 fouls, 34 turnovers, and 25 missed free throws. There were three players fouled out, two bench warnings, and two double fouls — one a double technical that fouled out two players at the same time.
But, most importantly for LSU, there was only one winner.
“One of those games you try to keep playing better as the game goes and try to correct those mistakes you’ve been making,” said Antonio Blakeney, who led all scorers with 20 points (8-of-18 FG, 1-of-6 3FG, 3-of-7 FT). “I’m just happy we got the win.”
Brandon Sampson fired in 16 points, including 10 in a row during a critical stretch to overcome an early second half deficit. His back-to-back 3s with 16 minutes to play gave LSU (3-0) a lead it would not relinquish.
Brandon Sampson 3 breaks the tie game. LSU never trailed again. Sampson had 10 straight in a 10-2 LSU run. pic.twitter.com/WkKimSybOn
— Cody Worsham (@CodyWorsham) November 19, 2016
“That’s the beauty of this team,” said Jones. “We’ve got guys — especially on the wings, with Brandon Sampson and Antonio Blakeney — who are prolific scorers. Anytime, they can go off.”
Duop Reath and Aaron Epps added 17 and 14 points, respectively. Jalyn Patterson provided 8 assists off the bench and held reigning Atlantic Sun Player of the Year Dallas Moore to two second half points.
“Jalyn played with a sense of urgency on the defensive end of the floor against a very talented guard,” said Jones. “But I can’t give all the credit to him. I thought our post guys did a great job giving help off of screens.”
Despite controlling most of the first half, LSU held just a one point lead at the break. LSU led by as much as nine on Blakeney’s pull-up jumper at the foul line with 4:24 left, but the Ospreys closed the half on a 7-0 run, trimming the deficit to 34-33 on Aaron Bodager’s 3-pointer with less than a minute left.
Plagued by foul trouble on the wings and displeased with the shot selection of those on the floor — LSU closed the half shooting 1-for-9 from the field — Jones turned to both of his walk ons, Marshall Graves and Reed Vial, to close the first half. LSU was also outrebounded 25-13 in the first 20 minutes. No Tiger had more than two first half rebounds, and LSU managed just two second chance points in the half.
“That’s too many second chance opportunities,” said Jones. “We had too many guys expecting somebody else to get it.”
UNF came out firing in the second, hitting 6 of its first 9 shots. Two Bodager 3s and a Banks putback put them up 47-44 with 15:38 to play. LSU hit its first four shots, but turned the ball over three times to concede the lead.
But Sampson went on a 7-0 run of his own and scored 10 straight for the Tigers, his second straight triple breaking a 49-49 tie. Four straight from Epps pushed LSU’s run to 14-4 and its lead to 56-49 with 11:53 remaining.
“Just letting the game come to me,” Sampson said of his spark. “Just trying to be patient. When I got open looks they got me the ball. And I think I took good shots.”
LSU stretched the lead to 10 — 64-54, on Blakeney’s corner 3 at the 7:06 mark — thanks to a staunch defensive attack that held North Florida without a field goal for more than three minutes. An Epps jumper with 6:28 to go gave LSU a 12-point lead, as the Tigers bore down on the defensive end, despite some offensive hiccups that included 14 turnovers and 10 missed free throws.
“We know there are going to be night we’re not going to be as fluent offensively and make shots,” Jones said. “We’ve got to make sure we’re tough enough on the defensive end of the floor.”
They were, though North Florida didn’t go quietly. Chris Davenport (16 points, 11 turnovers) hit a three to get his team back within single digits. That shot sparked a 9-1 run and pulled North Florida within 67-63 with less than four minutes to go.
But Blakeney and Sampson teamed up to score 8 of the game’s next 11 points to put things away.
“Antonio Blakeney delivered really well after the four minute mark there, when we needed basket,” said Jones.
LSU is off to the Bahamas next week for the Battle 4 Atlantis. They’ll open the tournament Wednesday at 11 a.m. CST vs. Wichita State.
“We did what this team needed to do in the first three games we had,” said Jones.
- Jalyn Patterson’s 8 assists were a career high. He previously had 7 as a freshman against Auburn.
- Jones praised the play of junior big man Elbert Robinson, who had 5 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block, and 1 steal in 10 minutes. “I’m pleased with how Elbert Robinson played tonight in the 10 minutes he provided for us,” Jones said.
- Jones said Craig Victor will be available for LSU’s matchup with Wichita State on Wednesday. Victor gave a halftime speech in the locker room — described only by the players as “fiery” — before the coaches arrived.