Seniors Aaron Epps (21) and Duop Reath (1) combined for 28 points in their home finale.
Gus Stark

Seniors Shine On Their Day In Victory Over MSU, 78-57

Kent Lowe (@LSUkent)
Kent Lowe (@LSUkent)
Communications Sr. Associate

BATON ROUGE – It started as a nice typical Senior Tribute Day for the LSU Basketball Team. Hugs, loud applause, presentations and a few teams as seniors Aaron Epps, Duop Reath, graduate transfer Randy Onwuasor and walk-on Reed Vial were honored.

It ended in one of the best overall Senior Days in recent times here at LSU as the Tigers were able to win a sixth consecutive home game in easy fashion, 78-57, over Mississippi State at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, and give walk-on Vial a chance to close out the afternoon on the floor making a three-pointer that led to the walk-on being mobbed by his teammates as the horn sounded and even earning him an invitation to post-game media.

Vial’s five points (he also cashed in two free throws prior to the trey as LSU point guard Tremont Waters did his best to get him the ball) was a footnote to an afternoon when LSU certainly played one of its better games in not only picking up its eighth top 50 RPI win, but its 11th straight dating back to last season when shooting 50 percent or better from the field.

Senior Epps again showed how much progress he has made under Coach Will Wade by scoring 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting (including 4-of-8 from the arc) with three rebounds in 24 minutes. Brandon Sampson showed some of his old spark getting 16 points on 4-of-7 shooting that included a trey and 7-of-7 at the line. He also had three steals in 24 minutes.

Tremont Waters had his fourth double double and fifth double figure assist game with 10 as scored 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting with 3-of-4 from the arc in 34 minutes and Reath closed out his regular season home career with 12 points and a team high eight rebounds.

LSU, with wins in the final six regular season home games, finishes at 17-13 and 8-10 in the league and will earn a first round bye and play on Thursday at 6 p.m. CT in the third game of the second round and for the second straight year they will play the opening game against Mississippi Stage after meeting the Bulldogs in the final game of the regular season. Alabama and LSU tie for ninth but the Tide won both meetings and puts LSU in the 10 seed. The Tigers were predicted to finish 14th in the preseason media polls. 

State dropped its second consecutive game to fall to 21-10 and 9-9 in the league. Lamar Peters had 14 points to lead the Bulldogs, while Q Weatherspoon had 12 and Nick Weatherspoon 11.

The Bulldogs had two three-point leads in the first six minutes of the game and that was about the end of their success although they made LSU battle for a good portion of the second half before LSU separated away.

LSU would eventually take the lead for good at 23-21 with 9:06 to go in the LSU half on a Reath jumper and then Sampson off a Brandon Rachal steal threw in a dunk, followed by buckets by Waters and Onwuasor and a free throw by Reath to make it a 30-21 advantage. At the half, LSU was up 37-32.

Mississippi State would cut the game to two, 47-45, six minutes deep into the second half on a Lamar Peters layup, but LSU countered on a Sampson jumper followed by three possessions with no points for the Bulldogs. Waters would hit a three to make the lead 52-45 with 11:59 to play. The lead pushed to double figures in the second half, 57-47, on a Brandon Rachal jumper.

It was Vial’s three-pointer that would make the game’s biggest margin for LSU as he took the pass from another walk-on Marshall Graves and put it through.

LSU finished the game hitting 51.9 percent (28-of-54) and 14-of-25 (56 percent) in the second half. The Tigers finished 11-of-23 from the arc, in the process topping the old single season team mark for threes with 234 (2012-13). LSU now has 241 treys for the season. LSU was 7-of-14 from the arc in the second half.

Mississippi State finished the game at 41.1 percent (23-of-56), but just 26 percent from the arc, making 6-of-23.

LSU had a 28-26 advantage in points in the paint and 18-12 in points off turnovers.

LSU is expected to leave for St. Louis either early or late Tuesday depending on first game date and time. The games will be broadcast on either the SEC Network or ESPN and all LSU games will be broadcast on the affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network.

Head Coach Will Wade will review the 2017-18 season on Monday at the final Tipoff Luncheon delivered by UPS at the L’Auberge Casino at the Bon Temps Buffet. The buffet opens at 11:30 a.m. and the program starts at approximately 12:10 p.m.

SEC Tournament Seeding
March 7-11, 2018
St. Louis, Mo.

Seed, Team, Record
1. Auburn 13-5
2. Tennessee 13-5
3. Florida 11-7
4. Kentucky 10-8
5. Missouri 10-8
6. Arkansas 10-8
7. Mississippi St. 9-9
8. Texas A&M 9-9
9. Alabama 8-10
10. LSU 8-10
11. South Carolina 7-11
12. Georgia 7-11
* 13/14. Ole Miss 5-12
* 13/14. Vanderbilt 5-12

* game played late Saturday; winner is No. 13 seed; loser is No. 14 seed

LSU Basketball vs. Mississippi State
March 3, 2018

LSU HEAD COACH WILL WADE

Opening statement …
“It was a good win. It was about as well as it could go on Senior Day, obviously being able to play Reed (Vial) at the end, get him in the game to make a few free throws and that three-point shot. It can’t go much better than that when you are trying to honor your seniors. I thought Duop (Reath) and (Aaron) Epps played well. Duop set the tone early with setting the ball screens and making easy layups. Epps hit the big threes toward the end to help us pull away. Tremont (Waters) did a good job controlling the game, and I thought (Brandon) Rachal was the difference maker for us defensively.”

On senior Reed Vial’s three-point basket …
“It’s what you want. We started him. We at least wanted him to have that moment. We wanted to have a big enough lead to put him in at the end. It shows how close our guys are. They wanted to make sure he got a look and make sure he got a shot. For him to bury it, that was great.”

On Brandon Sampson’s performance …
“He was awesome. This is what we have been trying to do. He was really, really good today. I have to go back and watch the tape, and I hesitate to say this without watching. This is about as well as we have played in a while. They scored 57, but they hit some tough shots. They hit some tough shots. I thought it was as well as we have guarded and executed the game. (Brandon) Rachal did a nice job. (Brandon) Sampson played… That’s how we need him to play, expect him to play. He was very, very good today defensively and offensively. He got the loose ball right there in front of us and did a great job.”

On the team’s chemistry at the end of the regular season …
“We’ve grown. Sometimes as a coach you wonder how much have you gotten through to them. How much have you done? I’ve always done something the night before the seniors’ final game. We do some stuff … Some of my teams it’s been pretty emotional. I told my ops guy, my ops guy Nelly (Nelson Hernandez) has been with me ... He’s my guy. I told him, ‘I don’t know how this is going to go tonight.’ When we were walking into the hotel last night I said this could be a real dud. Usually it’s a great night for the guys. It’s emotional. You get a lot out of it. I’m worried about our guys. This could be a dud. It was one of the best ones we’ve had. I told Nelly when we walked out, ‘Man, we’ve made quite a bit more progress probably than we thought.’ They’ve been taking in a lot more than we thought. They really care, maybe more than we thought. They care about each other, and I thought today was a crescendo of that. Hopefully, we can carry over how we played today into St. Louis next week.”

LSU PLAYER QUOTES

G Tremont Waters

On his excitement of sending the seniors out with a win …
“For me as a point guard, to pass to Reed (Vial) and he get fouled is a feeling that you can’t really describe. Obviously he didn’t play much all season, but he does a lot of things off the court to help the team and the coaching staff. It was just a good feeling for the whole team to get it out to Reed. He scored five points in two minutes. The GOAT.”

F Duop Reath

On setting the tone early …
“I feel like it was our teammates trying to get us going early. This is our last home game. Shout out to them giving us the ball.”

F Aaron Epps

On if he was more excited making his three’s or seeing Reed Vial hit his …
“Definitely Reed. It is always good to see your teammates help the team out. That was big for him so I was happy for him.”

On the emotions of being a four-year player playing in his last game …
“I was just happy. I felt like people saw all the work that I put in. I just went out there and showed it. It was definitely fun.”

G Reed Vial

On hitting the last shot of the game …
“That is all my teammate. Everyone knows when I get in the game, they will try to get me the ball which isn’t really my thing. I will do it if I have to do it. Just going in and Sam (Brandon Sampson being the first one to jump on me, is special.”

G Brandon Sampson

On the journey from last year to now …
“It was a lot of learning that we took out of last year. I think we corrected a lot of those things and it gave us a little bit better go-ahead for this season. I think it was just a lot of learning that we took from last year and applied it to this year.”

MISSISSIPPI STATE HEAD COACH QUOTES

MISSISSIPPI STATE HEAD COACH BEN HOWLAND

Opening statement …
“Credit LSU, they played very well today. I thought they shot the ball from three extremely well. We were late getting there on some of their pops. I thought that (Aaron) Epps was particularly good today, and he was a real problem for us. I thought (Brandon) Sampson gave them some big minutes off of the bench. We were down five at halftime, and I thought we could have played a lot better than we did in the first half. I felt good about our chances in the second half. We came out and played pretty well for the first three or four minutes, but credit to them. We struggled to defend them all day, and we struggled to score against their defense.”

On why he thought they struggled to score against LSU’s defense…
“We didn’t get inside enough. We only got to the free-throw line seven times today. You’re not going to win many basketball games when you only get to the line that much. Now we weren’t forcing them to foul. We had to get it inside more and attack the rim more. When we got inside, we tried to flip it up rather than jump-stop to try and draw some fouls. They did a good job, and they have length, but they only blocked one shot. It’s not like we were getting to the rim a lot.”

On if he thought the team had less ball movement as the game went on…
“I thought as the game went on, we missed some good shots. We had some open looks that would have really helped us from three. We only shot 6-of-23 from three, and that’s not good enough. I would say that a number of those shots were decent looks that we just didn’t knock down. I’m hoping that the rest we’re going to get the next few days will help us get our legs back a little bit. After the grind of the regular season, we need these two days to focus on their academics and resting.”

On what he sees from Will Wade’s ability at LSU…
“I think all the way around they’re doing a good job. Defensively they have improved a lot, and I think they’re doing a good job with their shot selection. They’re doing a great job recruiting. I think he’s doing a good job in all facets here at LSU. He’s got a lot to sell here because of their great tradition and history. For those two big guys, I agree with Lamar (Peters). I think they’ve done a nice job for them all year long and this is a team that can make some noise in the SEC Tournament. Their guard play is very good and I think Sampson as a junior now has really stepped up. They have a nice team and they have really evolved. We have to bounce back now though. It’s all about our ability to bounce back after two really disappointing losses. We will have a very tough first-round opponent, and if we’re fortunate enough to win, we’d play the number one seed in the entire SEC Tournament. We’re excited about that challenge. I think it will be good for our players to get away because a whole new season begins next week in St. Louis.”

MISSISSIPPI STATE PLAYER QUOTES

G LAMAR PETERS

On what went wrong this week …
“I think we weren’t as locked in as we were earlier when we were getting our victories. I think that has played a big role in our success lately, we haven’t been as focused as we have before. We’re going to try and pick it up going into the SEC tournament and try to put some games together. Sometimes you find yourself getting comfortable when you’re winning and you’re not preparing the same way, not working, and not having the same amount of focus. I felt like we haven’t been having our best practices lately. So we are just going to keep working and keep grinding out, because I think we have a special team.”

On the difference between this LSU team and last year’s …
“They have a great point guard, in a freshman Tremont Waters. Skylar Mays has been stepping up playing a big role and I credit their big men. I feel like they have two special big men in (Aaron) Epps and Duop (Reath). They have a special team and a lot of talent and they showed that today.”

On staying in front of Tremont Waters
“He’s very quick and talented. He’s smart. He sees plays some people don’t see and I credit him for that. He had 10 assists and two turnovers, that’s big time. He ran his team today and was the better point guard and his team got the victory.

G QUINNDARY WEATHERSPOON

On the problems they had on defense ...
“We were just having breakdowns with them slipping so much and our big men not being able to get back to the slips. The guards had to stunt on the pop, leaving men wide open. I feel like we weren’t fast or hard enough to rotate.”

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