By JAMES MORAN | Tiger Rag Associate Editor
There’s a new 6-foot-10 Aussie netting double-doubles for LSU on the hardwood these days — albeit one without an entourage that included his own documentary film crew.
Junior college transfer Duop Reath scored a game-high 23 points on 9-of-13 shooting, pulled down 14 rebounds and blocked three shots in his official LSU debut.
Led by Reath and 17 points from fellow forward Aaron Epps, the Tigers clamped down on the perimeter after a sluggish start defensively to take down Wofford 91-69 in Saturday’s season opener at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
Trailing at the intermission, LSU dialed up the defensive intensity and took the lead with a 24-5 run early in the half, holding sweet-shooting Wofford scoreless for a stretch of four minutes in the process.
Wofford opened the half 3-of-17 from the field (17.6 percent) as LSU built its lead to double-digits. The visitors scored just 26 points on 21.2 percent shooting in the second half after converting on 53.1 percent of field goal attempts in the game’s first 20 minutes.
“It was really about staying connected,” LSU coach Johnny Jones said. “Realizing those guys are going to make shots, but we had to try to run them off the 3-point line and not allow them to continue getting in a rhythm and getting away from us.”
LSU won the rebounding battle 41-34, a figure which included 17 offensive rebounds that contributed to the Tigers scoring 25 second-chance points. Reath led the way on an afternoon when LSU netted 50 points in the paint.
“We had a size advantage, so we’ve got to learn to take advantage of that,” Reath said. “We’ve got to crash the offensive rebounds aggressively.”
The big man attributed the credit to the work of freshman point guard Skylar Mays, who scored 10 points and dished out six assists without committing a turnover in his collegiate debut.
“I thought Mays, our quarterback, having six assists tonight and no turnovers, I thought was really good,” Jones said. “He got some easy scoring opportunities for our post guys and then he did a great job coming off of screens.”
Mays appeared to settle in as the game went on after blowing a pair of open looks at the rim. He was an efficient 5-of-9 shooting the ball and created two steals that led to easy buckets.
“Just getting those jitters out,” Mays added. “I just tried to keep playing and make up for it on defense.”
Jones also credited Jayln Patterson, LSU’s other primary ball handler, for coming off the bench and “changing the tempo” of the game. He added the “battle” between the two guards to be LSU’s primary point guard remains ongoing.
LSU’s big men and bench kept the Tigers in the game as Wofford built an early lead from behind the 3-point line.
The Terriers connected on 7-of-13 attempts from downtown, capitalizing on some lackluster defense on the perimeter. By comparison, Wofford shot just 1-of-9 from 3-point territory in the second half.
LSU still trailed 37-28 shortly before halftime. Freshman forward Wayde Sims, who finished his own debut with 13 points, made a pair of 3-pointers early to keep the deficit manageable.
Three driving layups from Mays and a pair of clutch 3-pointers from Epps got LSU 43-39 at the break. Epps led all scorers with 13 points on 5-of-7 shootings in the first half.
“Teammates kept on giving me looks,” Epps said. “And I was open, so I just let it fly.”
Double-figure scoring contributions from Epps, Mays and Sims kept LSU rolling despite an uncharacteristically off-game from leading returning scorer Antonio Blakeney, who managed 10 points on 2-of-11 shooting.
LSU (1-0) will be back in action on Tuesday night to take on Southern Miss (1-0) at the PMAC.