LSU used a dominant start of the second half to run away from St. Mary’s and pick up a much-needed 78-74 victory at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday night.
The Tigers (8-4) opened the second half shooting 6 for 6 on its way to a 16-2 run that pulled them away from the Gaels (7-5) to bounce back from a frustrating loss to Houston earlier in the week.
Head coach Will Wade shook things up before the opening tip, opting not to start sophomore point guard Tremont Waters for just the second time in his career.
The move seemed to be the spark Waters needed as he put together one of his best performances of the season, shooting 7 for 12 for 18 points and dishing out 3 assists with just one turnover.
Marlon Taylor – who started in Waters’ place – also benefited from the lineup change, making several big plays throughout the game with his athleticism, including a defended 3-point shot that helped put the Gaels away in the closing seconds.
Taylor finished with seven pints, two rebounds and a block.
The Tigers led by as many as 15 points in the second half, but in a final stretch that felt like deja vu, St. Mary’s shrunk that lead down to two in the final minute of the game.
But LSU held off with some good defense and free-throw shooting down the stretch.
Jordon Ford led the Gaels with 21 points on 8 for 17 shooting form the field, while Jordan Hunter shot 7 for 8 for 15 points with a game-high six rebounds.
LSU defended St. Mary’s 3-point attack well for most of the night, limiting the Gaels to 6 for 17 shooting for the contest.
The Tigers will return to action on Friday when the come back to Baton Rouge for a showdown against No. 23 Furman in the Pete Maravich Center for their penultimate nonconference game.