An explosion occurred Thursday night in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
No one was hurt, save maybe the egos of a few UNO Privateers.
In the overall scheme of things, LSU’s 91-62 win over New Orleans may prove relatively insignificant. That’s doubtful, though.
One game after LSU slogged past an undermanned Arkansas State team, putting away its second straight less talented, undermanned opponent away late in the game and mainly on the strength of Adam Miller’s shooting prowess in both that outing and the one prior against Kansas City, the Tigers did not have to reflect long or hard to realize their offense was severely lacking.
The stat sheet screamed it.
Only three players, in fact, scored field goals in LSU’s nine-point victory over Arkansas State.
Heading into Thursday’s game against UNO, LSU coach Matt McMahon flat out demanded his offense needed to step it up more than a notch, or even two.
It’s early in the season, and LSU is not playing anything near SEC caliber foes who are going to paint and taint the Tigers’ schedule once the calendar turns to December and January.
Having only an arsenal of Miller and two others, namely KJ Williams and Justice Hill, decorating the box score in the points-scored column simply was not going to cut it.
No one was more acutely aware of that than the reputable program-builder himself, McMahon, tasked with the unprecedented task of literally rebuilding a program from “ground zero,” as McMahon himself has characterized the task before him more than once up to this point.
Something drastic from the first two games of the season offensively had to change against UNO, a team which no one is ever going to confuse with an SEC one.
Still, it was imperative.
McMahon wanted chemistry to start taking root against UNO.
Chemistry is exactly what LSU exhibited and delivered.
Derek Fountain, a reserve forward who transferred to LSU from Mississippi State shortly after McMahon’s arrival in Tigertown, led the way as LSU absolutely blasted UNO, and manhandled the Privateers like it was nobody’s business.
LSU choked UNO out with a stifling man-to-man defense – which McMahon said was good but not great. But, in the end, it was LSU’s defense, he said, that truly lit offense’s fuse. Most importantly, in the process, LSU learned how to celebrate one another, and McMahon said he enjoyed that more than the score or anything else.
It was a happening. One that will more than likely resonate for the rest of the season.
That’s why McMahon relished it above all else.
Fountain scored 13 of his 15 points in the first half when LSU blew out to a big lead and this time, unlike its prior two games this season, never looked back.
LSU hits the road next week with a trip to the Caymen Islands looming next week. The Tigers will play three games in the Cayman Islands Classic starting next Monday with a 10 a.m. game vs. Illinois State.
Against UNO, Fountain did lead the way. But he was by no means alone.
LSU’s bench contributed a total of 51 points.
Fountain was 4 of 5 from the field and 6 of 6 at the free throw line, along with eight rebounds and seven of LSU’s 17 steals in 17 minutes. Justice Hill added 12 points, scoring in double figures for the third straight game
Meanwhile, Cam Hayes added 13 points in his first significant playing time as a Tiger.
Khaleb Wilson-Rouse led New Orleans (2-1) with a career-high 21 points with Tyson Jackson adding 14.
Early on, UNO jumped out to a 6-2 lead. It didn’t last. Someone lit the fuse about then, specifically Hill at that moment with a pair of 3-pointers. The fuse then detonated the bomb. LSU exploded – for the first time ever under McMahon.
Those two 3-pointers by Hill gave LSU the lead for good less than four minutes into the game.
That was followed in short order by 23-3 run that found the the Tigers up by 22 with five minutes left in the half.
At halftime, LSU still led by 22, 47-25. The Tigers made 13 of 16 free throws to the Privateers’ 1-of-5 and turned 15 turnovers into a 16-2 advantage in points off of those turnovers in the first half.
After shooting 41% in the opening half LSU hunkered down in the second half, shooting a sizzling 16 of 24 for 67%, and extended its lead to 34 points.
LSU has now won 27 straight games over Louisiana schools.
“I felt like we were a more connected team tonight,” McMahon said. “I enjoyed watching our players celebrate each other’s success. That’s something we want to continue to build.”
For his part, Hayes, a North Carolina State transfer, scored 13 points in 16½ minutes for the Tigers. Hayes had logged two total minutes of action before his personal explosion versus UNO.
Hill, who had a breakaway dunk off a turnover midway through the second half that sent the sparse crowd at the PMAC into an excited frenzy, said he was not surprised by LSU’s bench contribution against UNO.
“Like I said last time when we talked to the media, it’s going to take a few games for us to get it going,” Hill said. “Obviously, we came out tonight on the same page and played better as a whole group unit.”
“We had three really good days of practice this week,” McMahon said. “We’ve gotten better because we practiced better, more locked in, more engaged, more attention to detail.
“All those things are going to be really important to us as we move on through the season.”