LSU got Southeastern Conference play to the start it wanted as it used deadly accuracy from the 3-point line and physical defense to take down an Alabama team that came into the game hot Tuesday night at the PMAC.
The Tigers (11-3, 1-0 SEC) came away with a 88-79 victory, putting the an end to a more than month-long win streak by the Crimson Tide (10-4, 1-1) in their first win against Alabama since 2016.
LSU led for most of the first half, but it really built its lead in the final four minutes of the period in which the Tigers hit four 3-pointers to take a a 43-28 lead into the break.
“The first half, we played extremely, extremely well,” said LSU head coach Will Wade. “The defensive effort in the first half was about as good as we’ve had all year against a high-level opponent.”
Emmitt Williams got the run started with his first career 3-pointer after a behind-the-back bounce pass from Ja’vonte Smart, who proceeded to hit back-to-back 3’s a couple minutes later.
Darius Days then capped the half off with a 3-pointer from the top of the key that bounced off the backboard and through the net as time expired.
The Tigers led by as many as 19 points in the second half, but Alabama slowly chipped away at that lead until it got back within single digits late in the game to make things interesting.
The Crimson Tide cut LSU’s lead to with less than two minutes to play, but that was immediately followed up by a dunk from Kavell Bigby-Williams.
The Tigers needed a big game from Bigby-Williams, and he came through with a double-double with 14 points and 13 rebounds. He also had five blocks.
Bigby-Williams’ playing time has fluctuated this season, largely due to matchup problems that arise when LSU plays much smaller teams who can take advantage of his lack of mobility.
That hasn’t bothered him, though.
“It’s not really about how many minutes you play,” Bigby-Williams said. “It’s about how productive you arein the minutes you play. I just have to go out there and be productive The minutes could increase or decrease and I will still give the same effort.”
Avery Johnson said the Crimson Tide just had no answer for Bigby-Williams, who tallied more than a third of the Tigers’ boards for the night.
“It wasn’t just blocking shots, it was some of the offensive rebounds he got that kept (possessions) alive,” Johnson said. “We had a stretch where we cut the lead down, and he tipped one in or kept the ball alive. They kept our defense on a lot longer.”
Tremont Waters also had a standout night, tallying 17 points, 7 rebounds and four rebounds while shooting 6 for 9 from the field and hitting both 3-point shots he took.
On one play late in the game he ran into a trap and lost control of the ball, sending a number of players to the floor.
From the ground, Waters somehow managed to regain control of the ball, find Darius Days wide open under the basket and heave a pass to him from about 30 feet away for an easy dunk that re-extended LSU’s lead.
Johnson praised Waters’ performance and his improved strength after the game, saying he made tough passes look difficult all night that kept the Crimson Tide off balance.
“He should be on the baseball team at LSU,” Johnson said. “He threw a left-handed curveball that split the trap and the catcher caught it, it was a strike.”
LSU also got a big game from Smart who came off the bench for the first time this season to great results.
Smart hit three 3-pointers int he first halfand finished the game with 15 points, five assists and four rebounds.
The game came after a bit of a slump in his last few contests, and he said seeing the lid come off the rim early gave him a heap of confidence that carried over until the final whistle.
“It felt good to help us get the lead (with my first 3 of the half),” Smart said. “Then with my last shot (of the half), it just felt like it was going to go in, so I helped the team with my confidence.”
Alabama point guard Kira Lewisled the Crimson tied with 15 points despite shooting 3 for 11 fromt he field and 1 for 6 from the 3-point line.
Alex Reese continued his streak of good games against the Tigers off the bench with 12 points and four rebounds. Herbert Jones also had 10 points.
The Tigers will return to action Saturday when they travel to Fayetteville, Arkansas, where they will take on the Razorbacks as they look to win their first road game in more than a year.