No one expected it to be a breeze, least of all first-year LSU coach Matt McMahon.
It did not matter who the opposition would be, McMahon knew the real work would be only the beginning.
You cannot expect a 40-point blow out when you’re starting from scratch.
That proved to be the case on Wednesday night.
McMahon unveiled his completely reconstructed team and the Tigers opened the 2022-23 season with hard-fought 74-63 victory over Kansas City before a crowd of 9,339 at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
In the end, McMahon succeeded, thanks in large part to Adam Miller.
Miller scored 18 points, including four three-pointers in nine attempts in his first game in an LSU uniform. Fifth-year senior KJ Williams added a double-double, 13 points and 14 rebounds, while senior point guard Justice “Juice” Hill also scored 13 points and had seven assists.
The good news for LSU is it won.
The not-so-good news?
LSU made it more difficult on itself than it had to be, McMahon said.
“Sure beats losing,” McMahon said. “Obviously, would have liked to have played better, but as we know this is the first time for this group playing together in this setting and we are going to be a work in progress there.”
LSU could never pull away from or put away Kansas City, despite not trailing the entire game. The Tigers outshot the Kangaroos 42-33%, outrebounded them 45-38, and despite building a 16-point lead in the second half. Ill-timed turnovers and mental mistakes hurt them most.
It also didn’t help LSU only shot 69% from the free throw line.
Kansas City fell (0-2) had opened their season on Monday night with a 59-56 loss to Division II Lincoln University.
LSU led by nine points twice in a rough first half, but only led 34-32 with 1:46 left.
LSU managed a 41-34 halftime lead only because McMahon called a timeout with 3.4 seconds before halftime to draw up an inbounds play to try to ignite his team. It appeared to work because Hill broke free and took a pass from Justice Williams before launching a 45-foot three-pointer that banked in at the buzzer.
Early in the second half LSU looked like it was beginning to pull away. But it never happened.
LSU went up 48-36 with 18:17 left to play in the game when Miller knocked down another 3-pointer, but the Tigers still let the Kangaroos hang around, and eventually, they almost came all the way back.
Miller hit another three-pointer with 12:04 to play to put the Tigers up by 16, but Kansas City hung in and with 5:47 left to play left managed to cut LSU’s lead down to five points.