Freshmen Pace Basketball Past McNeese, 81-70
Director of Digital Media
BATON ROUGE -- Freshmen Antonio Blakeney, Brandon Sampson and Ben Simmons combined for 51 points, as the largest crowd for a LSU home opener since Shaq's swan song watched the Tigers beat McNeese State, 81-70, on Friday night.
The announced crowd of 11,697 was LSU's largest in a home opener since Nov. 22, 1991 (13,113 vs. Northeast Louisiana), the start of Shaquille O'Neal's third and final season as a Tiger.
LSU (1-0) scored the first 20 points of the second half to extend a 14 point advantage to 34 in less than seven minutes.
Blakeney overcame a slow start to led the Tigers with 22 points on 7-of-16 shooting, and completed his double double with 10 rebounds. His scoring total was the most by a freshman on debut since Johnny O'Bryant III scored 25 against UMass in 2013.
Sampson added 18 points including four three-pointers, while Simmons also posted a double double with 11 points, 13 rebounds, five assists and two blocked shots.
McNeese State (0-1) was held to 38.7 percent from the field (24 of 62), making just 5-of-23 three-pointers.
Jamaya Burr led the Cowboys with 18 points on 5-of-12 shooting including 7-of-7 from the free-throw line.
LSU led by as many as 34 after blitzing the Cowboys to start the second-half, though McNeese kept battling against the Tigers second line to get within 11 in the final 10 minutes.
The Tigers return to action Monday at 8 p.m. CT in the first game of the local round of the Legends Classic against Kennesaw State. The game, which is part of ESPN's Tip-Off Marathon, will be televised by ESPNU and broadcast on the LSU Sports Radio Network beginning at 7:30.
Both LSU and McNeese State came out cold from the field, making 4-of-14 shots in the first eight minutes as the Tigers led 11-10.
Blakeney shook off a 1-7 start with a three pointer from the left corner to give the Tigers a 22-16 advantage before Jalyn Patterson's dunk off a Tim Quarterman assist extended the LSU lead to eight and forced a McNeese State timeout.
LSU's first double-digit lead came at the 5:57 mark of the first half, 29-19, on a pair of Quarterman free throws.
Dunks by Blakeney and Simmons helped LSU score the final seven points of the half and take a 41-27 lead into the lockerroom.
The Tigers scored the first 20 points of the second half and never looked back, expanded its advantage to 61-27 with 13:51 to play. Sampson made three three-pointers during the deciding run.
McNeese State ended the game on a 32-13 run in the final 10 minutes against mostly LSU reserves.