LSU guard Skylar Mays (4) and Tennessee forward Kyle Alexander, behind, dive for the ball.
Associated Press

Men's Basketball Falls to Tennessee, 84-61

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

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee – The LSU Tigers, forced to play with just nine players in uniforms on Wednesday night here at Thompson-Boling Arena, stayed within striking distance of No. 18 Tennessee for 30 minutes before falling, 84-61, in the final game of the first half of the SEC season.

LSU falls to 12-9 and 3-6 in the league entering a Saturday home game at 2:30 p.m. against the University of Arkansas at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. The game will be televised on the SEC Network and broadcast on the LSU Sports Radio Network affiliates. Tickets are available online at LSUtix.net.

Tennessee is now 16-5 and 6-3 in the SEC, two games behind league leader Auburn.

The Tigers got another strong game from Duop Reath who had 21 points in 31 minutes of play, while Randy Onwuasor was in double digits for a second straight game with 10 points in 26 minutes. Aaron Epps had nine points and a team high seven rebounds, while Tremont Waters had seven points and three assists and Skylar Mays and Daryl Edwards six each. Brandon Sampson had two to complete the Tiger scoring.

James Daniel, off the bench, hit five treys and had 17 points and four assists for the Vols, while Grant Williams had 16 points. Jordan Bone and Lamonte Turner had 12 points each. Bone also had eight assists and no turnovers in 26 minutes.

LSU shot 39.3 percent for the game (22-of-56) and for the third straight game failed to shoot more than 25 percent from the arc (3-of-19). LSU was good again from the free throw line, hitting 14-of-18. Tennessee hit 54 percent (33-of-61) and 12-of-25 from the arc.

The Tigers had 12 turnovers to 14 for Tennessee and LSU converted that into a 19-8 advantage in points off turnovers.

The game was 9-8 in favor of the Vols until Tennessee ran off 10 straight points for a 19-8 advantage with 11:25 to go in the first half. LSU scored the next six points to cut it to 19-14, but Tennessee got it back to double digits with five minutes to go in the stanza and led at intermission, 42-31.

Tennessee continued to move forward with a 9-13 point advantage for the first five minutes of the second half when LSU and its good free throw shooters took the margin first to seven, 50-43, with 13:32 left, six at 53-47 with 12:15 left and 56-49 with 10:24 to play.

But the Vols were too consistent scoring down the stretch, posting a 28-12 advantage for the final 23-point margin.

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LSU Head Coach Will Wade

Opening Statement:
“I thought we hung in there for a little while. We got it down to six, and then it got away from us. Tennessee played well. Jordan Bone controlled the game. He had eight assists and no turnovers. He was phenomenal. I hope Grant Williams is okay. He looked okay when he came back, but hopefully he’s fine. He played well. We just didn’t have a lot of answers for those two guys. Lamonté Turner hit some shots, and James Daniel III hit some big three’s. Tennessee is a good team. They are balanced and physical and play extremely hard. It was a tough night for us.”

On what went wrong with his defense tonight:
“We just quit chasing them on some screens. We tried to cheat a couple screens. For the seven or eight minutes we stuck with what we were supposed to do, we were really good defensively. The first half we weren’t very good, and at the end of the second half it just got away from us a little bit.”

On Tennessee’s advantage with their bench players:
“I mean it was like 44-8 bench points. They hammered us there. They hammered us pretty much everywhere, but they certainly have a lot of depth. They bring a bunch of guys in that all paly extremely hard and all execute what Coach Barnes wants.”

On how hard it is to scout Tennessee because of inconsistent playing times and production:
“Really it’s tough because they’ve got so many different guys. Lamonté Turner had been on the heater coming into the game. James Daniel III was on the heater. Jordan Bowden can really shoot. They’ve always got consistency with Grant Williams. I thought Derrick Walker played well tonight. They’ve just got a lot of different guys and a lot of different pieces. They’ve got a lot of different ways to beat you.”

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Tennessee Head Coach Rick Barnes

On the play of James Daniel III and Derrick Walker to extend lead after LSU cut lead to six in second half:
“They were the reason we came back, and I give them credit for that, but I think the start of the first half every other trip down the floor we were turning the ball over. We were turning it over. Shot a quick three, we think we can shoot the ball, but when we start selling for that earlym it’s normally not good for us, but James did hit some shots there. Derrick Walker is getting better. I don’t think there is any question, and he, Kyle Alexander, and even John Fulkerson are three guys that gave us a hand inside. We need them all. I will tell you as a coach that tonight, my favorite part was the way we ended the game with Yves Pons and those guys up here still trying to play defense, not trying to shoot the ball as opposed to doing what we needed to do. That’s where we are fortunate with our team. We have guys that still value minutes. In some ways tonight, I thought we were a very immature team. We got up and certain guys weren’t executing. We need James Daniel. We need Derrick Walker. We need them all. February is the time where we have got to continue getting better. I’m disappointed in that last play by James. I think he should have really been trying to get one of those other guys a shot that hadn’t been playing. As a coach, we are never satisfied with any of them to be honest with you. You look at them, and this time of year you are really wanting to see maturity and consistency. At that point when they cut it down, those guys obviously made some good plays for us.”

On early game injury to Grant Williams and difference tonight for Jordan Bone:
“With Grant, he has dealt with that little back-hip issue all year. I haven’t talked to him about it. Again, I thought tonight he broke away from things we were trying to do early. Like that pass he tried to throw and turned over. We need him now to be a mature player. We need him to understand that. He did come back and do some good things. I thought Jordan Bone was really good. We spoke a little bit yesterday after practice, and I told him I wanted him to come into the game with one thing that he could show us that we count on him. It was the defensive end. It goes back to what I’ve always thought. When guys lock in on the defensive end, their natural instincts will take over on the offensive end. I thought he had great command early in the game. I think he was seeing the floor the wat we want him to see it. He was playing at a pace where I didn’t think he was out of control. It started with the right mindset on the defensive end. There have been games in the past where he hasn’t done that. I was glad to see him do it. It’s what eh said he was going to do, and he started the game that way.”

On the defense holding LSU to 39-percent shooting:
“We knew they were going to use a lot of ball screens and throw the ball inside. Start of the game, we didn’t execute our game plan in terms of Reath. We wanted to fire down on him, because he is a really nice player. He can do some things. A lot of those guys need to get deeper, but he can still shoot that little jump hook, turn around and hit a jump shot, and make a three. Our guards didn’t do that early and when we did they didn’t exit out of it. That’s our goal, try to keep people under 39 percent. We have been better the last couple. We would have been maybe even better tonight if we didn’t turn the ball over. Those run outs are easy baskets. So much of your defense when you talk about shooting percentages can get distorted a little bit if you are turning the ball over, giving easy run outs, and easy baskets in transition. I do think the second half our guys locked in more so than the first half. I thought they were really doing the detail things we are looking for.”

On how important it is to continue playing inside out when Grant Williams is not in the game:
“I think it is. We didn’t shoot a foul in the first half. That was because we didn’t put any pressure in there. I think early when we did, they had a couple nice blocks, but I think you have to play high percentage basketball. Like I’ve said many times, when we take good shots from the three, we shoot the ball pretty well. I don’t think our guards were moving enough tonight. We keep talking about that. They keep talking about the big guys needing to screen more, but they need to move and pass the ball. We have too many guys at times that just hold the ball opposed to understanding that the ball just needs to get going. We as a staff, we think we are better playing inside out. Whether it’s off the bounce getting it to the high percentage area or throwing it in to somebody. We expect our post guys to make the right play. If they get double teamed, we expect them to kick out. We expect a guy to be ready to shoot the ball or make the extra pass, and I’m still not happy with the way we have guys that still don’t recognize the clock. They get the ball back with three seconds, they think they are going to take a dribble and then feed the post. That’s maturity, and that’s where we have got to be more mature.”

On improving offensive efficiency:
“What I really what is about 65-percent shooting and 32 assist. That’s what I really want. I do think we are a good offensive team, and we are efficient with it. When we aren’t sloppy, when you are trying to throw passes from your hips, when guys are playing one-three-one zone, and in the passing lane. There is not a guy that goes on the floor that cannot score for us. They practice game shots and game space. We think every guy can catch it and do something with it. We’ve asked John Fulkerson, we’ve asked Derrick Walker, those guys that are aggressive. Kyle Alexander is looking to score the ball more. We’re going to play through Grant Williams, but we expect those other guys to step up and make plays and do some things. There are times we are going to flip it around and start playing through our guards. We have two or three different teams within this team. We still are looking for total consistency. Tonight, we rebounded. It’s been a long time since Grant Williams got double-digit rebounds. Admiral (Schofield) would have gotten there if he hadn’t fouled out. That’s one thing we asked him to do. He had eighteen minutes but got in foul trouble. I just want to see our front line rebound the ball better.”

On the team buying into the mindset that it doesn’t matter who starts the game:
“I’ve told them, and I don’t care who it is, we are going to start the guys that consistently playing hard in practice every day. Even though Jordan Bone might not play as well, nobody is taking that starting job from him. I really don’t care who starts. I do think having a guy like Lamonté Turner or James Daniel III coming off the bench is a major advantage. When you go to your bench, that’s where you want the energy to come from. James has been at his best when he comes off the bench. He has come in the game and helped us turn the heat up on the defensive end. Lamonté has been better. I thought tonight he reverted back a bit by holding the ball and not moving it to much. He wasn’t as locked on the defensive end. We are just better when we are really focused. I’ve even thought about it. I wish we didn’t have starting lineups. I wish we ran the whole team out there. I’ve told them all I would be more concerned about being there at the end to finish the game. I really don’t think much about it. If it’s important to them they will do something in practice and get our attention and start.”

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