Pardon LSU coach Matt McMahon if you happen to see him on the beach in the Cayman Islands about now, celebrating for an hour or two before he heads back in to begin preparing for Wednesday’s tournament championship game.
LSU turned its best performance of the young season, making it the tournament championship game, and beat a team returning three starters that lost by four points to UCLA in last year’s NCAA Tournament.
That’s a full day, especially in the Cayman Islands.
Following some brief beach action, McMahon and his unbeaten Tigers (5-0) will head back into the film room and the grease boards to game plan for either Kansas State or Nevada at 6:30 PM on Wednesday in the championship of the Cayman Islands Classic.
Both Kansas State and Nevada are also unbeaten so far this season.
Adam Miller got hot in the second half and scored 23 points to lead LSU past Akron, 73-58, on Tuesday. The Tigers rallied to outpoint and defensively stifle the Zips, 40-23, in the second half after trailing, 35-33, at half.
KJ Williams, who once again found himself in foul trouble early in the second half, added 19 points while point guard Justice “Juice” Hill chipped in 14.
Xavier Castaneda led Akron with 28 points and Sammy Hunter scored 13 points for the Zips (3-2).
But the story of this game was not only Miller heating up in the second half with Williams and Hill also rising to the occasion, the real story was once again LSU’s stout defense.
“The first half, we held them to 31% from the floor, but we were down two points, because we didn’t clean the defensive glass,” McMahon said. “And then the second half, we held him to 20% from the floor. We gave up two, two-point field goals the entire second half. I just thought our effort was tremendous. And then guys did a great job at executing down the stretch,” McMahon said.
A key point for LSU came with 11:56 to play in the game when guard Trae Hannibal grabbed a defensive board and hit Miller in transition. He threaded a pass that Miller turned into what appeared to be a no-look 3-pointer for a 49-42 lead, its largest of the game to that point.
“What most excited me about that was Trae Hannibal got the rebound, and he’s been making poor decisions in the open floor, and he really just simplified it all there and drew the help and kicked it out to an elite shooter for an open three,” McMahon said. “And that’s exactly what we needed there, with a six- or seven-point game, you want to stretch that out, and close the deal, and our guys were able to make the plays to do just that. That was huge. So, I hope that’ll get him back into it for us.”
With 7:44 to play, Miller took another transition feed, this time from Derek Fountain, and nailed another three to put LSU up nine, 58-49.
“Miller had the big transition threes in the second half that I think, broke the spirit of the Zips a little bit,” McMahon said. “And even though KJ got into foul trouble early in the second half, at about the 17-minute mark, once he got back in there, he was able to hit a couple of big baskets.”
It was another 3-pointer from Miller with 2:19 to play that put LSU up by 15 (69-54), this time on an assist from Hill, and basically finished off Akron.
On Wednesday, it’s back to the grinder, though.
Whether its Kansas State or Nevada LSU faces off against in the championship game, McMahon realizes it will be LSU’s toughest test of the season.
“But right now, because we got about two hours left of daylight, we got to get out on this beach here for a little bit, and then we’ll start preparation for tomorrow night.”