The LSU men’s basketball team rallied from seven points down after three quarters and six points in the final few minutes for a 86-82 win over Puerto Rico Monday afternoon at the Imperial Ballroom of the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas.
The exhibition game was the first of three the Tigers will play in the Bahamas with the second game set for Tuesday at 3 p.m. CT against a squad from the Bahamas.
Tyrell Ward, who played the majority of his 22 minutes in the first half as coach Matt McMahon played a lot of different combinations, had 19 points on 6-of-9 shooting and 3-of-6 from the arc. Vanderbilt transfer Jordan Wright and Daimian Collins, a transfer from Kentucky, had 13 points each, while Baker and Wilkinson scored 11 apiece. Pacheco led Puerto Rico with 20 points, while Jordan Cintron added 15.
“I was thrilled to see some of the leadership and the response from some of our older guys there in the fourth quarter,” LSU coach Matt McMahon said. “The third quarter was arguably the worst quarter in the history of Bahamas basketball. Finding a way to respond to that, I thought Mwani Wilkinson hit two huge threes for us, Daimion Collins hit a huge three. I loved our unselfishness on the offensive end of the floor. 20 assists on 29 baskets, we moved and shared the ball. The problem is the turnovers and illegal screens cost us a lot of possessions. Overall, it was a great experience for our guys to learn from: the positive response in the fourth quarter, the energy and effort in the first half and to learn from the tragedy of the third quarter.”
LSU played without Jalen Cook, Derek Fountain and Jalen Reed. The Tigers also lost freshman guard Mike Williams to a knee injury six seconds into the game.
LSU had built a 20-point halftime lead, 50-30, while shooting 64% from the floor (18-of-28) and making 7-of-12 three-pointers (58 percent). At the same time, LSU was holding Puerto Rico to just 34% (11-of-32) from the field and 4-of-16 from the arc.
But in the third quarter, Puerto Rico was able to capitalize on LSU mistakes, including several calls for illegal screens, eventually tying the game at 53-53 with 4:44 left in the third quarter, outscoring LSU 23-3 at that point in the 10-minute session and eventually outscoring the Tigers, 35-8, to take a 65-58 advantage to the final 10 minutes.
In the fourth quarter, Mwani Wilkinson went from corner-to-corner to hit back-to-back threes to give LSU a 68-66 lead. But Puerto Rico spurted back out in front when leading scorer Georgie Pacheco hit a deep three and was fouled to make it 72-68 with 5:58 to play.
The lead ballooned to 80-74 and the Tigers were still down 80-76 when Collins hit a three and then made a lob dunk off a pass from Will Baker to give LSU the lead briefly at 81-80 with 1:23 to play. Puerto Rico came back to take an 82-81 lead on two free throws with 1:07 to play.
Baker again dumped it low to Collins who scored to give LSU what would be the lead for good at 83-82 with under 40 seconds to play. On the ensuing possession, the Tigers stole and tried to run the clock down. Tyrell Ward was fouled with one second on the shot clock and 13.2 on the game clock and made both free throws and Puerto Rico was unable to rally from there.
LSU outscored Puerto Rico 12-2 to close the game.
LSU shot 29-of-51 for the game (57 percent) and made 10-of-18 from the arc. LSU was 18-of-25 at the free throw line, 11-of-14 in the final 20 minutes. The Tigers outrebounded Puerto Rico, 42-30.