Jalen Cook is the real deal and LSU is clearly a different team with him on the floor.
In only his second game back in an LSU uniform, Cook led the Tigers with 17 points in an 87-66 win over Lamar on Thursday night at the PMAC.
Cook also pulled down five rebounds and dished out five assists while only committing one turnover as LSU (7-5) had more assists than turnovers as a team.
Carlos Stewart had his best game since transferring to LSU this season. The Baton Rouge-native scored 16 points including four 3-pointers.
Jordan Wright added 15 points and Will Baker had 12 points.
Ja’Sea Jackson led Lamar (5-7), who also had four players score in double figures, with 14 points.
Jakevi Buckley and Terry Buckley added 12 points each for the Cardinals while Chris Pryor scored 10 points.
LSU coach Matt McMahon said prior to tip off that LSU had its best week of practice this season and he gives Cook’s mere presence and leadership on the floor credit for the improvement along with the improving health of the team.
“I just think he makes the game easier for everyone,” McMahon said. “Our spacing is a lot better when he’s on the floor. And I think he’s really doing a good job of finding guys for open looks.”
LSU never trailed in the game and the Tigers’ largest lead was 30 points with 10:52 left to play at 68-38 on a Stewart a 3-pointer.
“Loved our energy and effort on the defensive side of the ball tonight,” McMahon said.
“I thought our guys really came out locked in and played with a lot of intensity on that end of the floor. We forced 15 turnovers in the first half and had 10 steals, I just thought our overall effort there was terrific. It really brought a tear to my eye seeing 18 assists and only 11 turnovers. To be positive there, I know we got sloppy there at the end of the game, but, overall, a good win for us. A good way to go into the break.”
LSU next plays on December 29 when it hosts Northwestern State at 7 pm in the PMAC before opening SEC play on January 6 at Texas A&M.
“A stat that has really hurt us early in this year is points off turnovers, it’s been a very negative stat for us and at halftime it was 15-to-0 in our favor, so not having the self-inflicted wounds on our offensive end and then on our defensive end, being able to some tempo and some mismatches,” McMahon said.