By CODY WORSHAM | Tiger Rag Editor
Down three at home, Tremont Waters had a tough look at a game-tying three and missed.
That was on Wednesday, against Kentucky.
Texas A&M would not be so lucky.
With his team trailing 68-66 and three seconds to play, Waters took an inbounds pass and hoisted a contested 30-footer. He found nothing but the bottom of the net, and LSU knocked off Texas A&M 69-68 on the road in dramatic fashion.
“Going into those kind of situations you have to know you have to make it,” Waters said. “You can’t second guess on not being able to make it. After he [Coach Wade] drew it up, I kind of talked to myself and was clapping walking into the court. I just said to myself that I was going to make it and ended up making it.”
Waters scored 21 points, 15 after the break, and six in the last 12 seconds, to lead the way for the Tigers. He also grabbed five rebounds and handed out four assists as LSU (10-4, 1-1 SEC) matched its win total from all of last season and won its first SEC game under Will Wade.
LSU initially had more time to fire off an attempt at a game-tying shot or winner. Wade drew up a set off of a free throw miss by Tyler Davis, but the Aggie defense, ranked sixth nationally in efficiency entering the game, “mucked it up,” in Wade’s words. So he called timeout, called another play – “Flyer” – and let Waters do the rest.
“(Waters) made a great play,” Wade said. “He just made a big-time shot.”
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The Tigers did not lead for the final 9:20 until Waters’ three, which followed an even deeper one the possession prior. It was 68-63 A&M after Tyler Davis (19 points, 12 rebounds) scored four straight when the freshman point guard pulled up and buried a 30-footer with 12 seconds left.
Davis missed the ensuing free throws, and LSU advanced the ball into the frontcourt before calling Flyer and watching Waters sink the winner.
“To have Tre to hit two big shots like that in the last 12 seconds of the game was just gigantic,” Wade said. “Very proud of our players. We hung in there. When you do that sometimes, you get fortunate.”
LSU opened the game on a 10-0 run, getting half of those points from Skylar Mays, who hit his first two shots after a 2-for-11 outing against Kentucky. He would finish with 11 points and 6 assists.
“I thought we set the tone at the beginning to jump out to that 10-0 lead,’ said Wade. “That let them know, ‘We’re going to be here and play.'”
The Tigers started the game with a turkey – three stops in a row – against an Aggie team short three major contributors in Robert Williams III, Admon Gilder and Duane Wilson. But the Aggies regrouped and scored the next 12 points, locking down on defense and forcing LSU into seven straight misses and scoreless for 6:25 before Aaron Epps – 11 points and 8 rebounds on the night – hit a three from the right wing to put LSU up 13-12.
The defenses dueled the rest of the half, as neither team was particularly effective shooting the ball. The Tigers hit just 35 percent of their first-half attempts, but got back-to-back 3s from Waters and Duop Reath (9 points, 10 rebounds) in the final two minutes to enter the locker room ahead 29-28. They held A&M, meanwhile, to just 31 percent shooting and 1-of-13 from deep.
Each team found its offense in the locker room – or lost its defense. A&M hit its first five shots of the second half, while LSU hit its first four. Daryl Edwards gave the Tigers a spark with five quick points out of the break, and his 3 with 10:45 left, plus Mays’ free throw seconds later, tied things at 48.
The Aggies pulled ahead by as much as five on a Savion Flagg corner 3 with 7 minutes left, but LSU answered every punch. Waters knocked down a pair of free throws, then Mays found Epps for a corner three to tied things at 57 with five minutes remaining. Waters then matched a three from Tonny Trocha-Morelos with one of his own from the top of the key to sqaure the score at 60 at the 3:17 mark.
A&M scored the next four, a J.J. Caldwell tip in pushing their advantage to 64-60, but Mays dialed up a critical three to pull the Tigers within one with less than two minutes to play, setting the stage for a wild finish.
“It was a fun moment,” Waters said. “My teammates were yelling at me and I got a lot of punches to the head and back; it is all part of the game. I am glad we came out with the win and were able to execute what the coach said and get the win.”
LSU is back in action on the road Wednesday at Arkansas.