Tigers Open SEC Play With 88-79 Win Over Alabama
Communications Sr. Associate
BATON ROUGE – The LSU Tigers played one of its best overall halves of the season in the opening 20 minutes of Southeastern Conference play and that helped propel the Tigers to an 88-79 win over Alabama Tuesday night at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
The victory was the 16th consecutive home win for the Tigers dating back to last year and the seventh straight Southeastern Conference win in the building also dating back to the last six league home games a year ago. LSU‘s 16 wins is tied for the fifth longest streak in the 47-plus years of play in the building.
More importantly, it was the fourth consecutive win for LSU and pushes the team’s record to 11-4 and 1-0 in the league. The Crimson Tide fell to 1-1 in the league and 10-4 overall.
LSU shot 53.6 percent in the first half of play (15-of-28) and 8-of-10 from the arc, opening up a 43-28 advantage. Ja'vonte Smart was a big part of the final 6 minutes of the half as LSU took a 24-21 advantage and outscored Alabama 19-7 with the freshman from Baton Rouge scoring or assisting on all 19 points.
In the span he had four assists and eight points.
For the game, sophomore point guard Tremont Waters had 19 points on 6-of-9 shooting and 2-of-2 from the arc with five free throws. He also had seven assists. Smart finished with 15 points and five assists while Kavell Bigby-Williams doubled up with 14 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks. Darius Days off the bench had a strong 14 points with three treys.
Alabama was led by Kira Lewis, Jr., with 15 points, while Alex Reese had 12 and Herbert Jones had 10 points and five rebounds.
For the game, LSU shot 49.1 percent and 10-of-15 from the arc. LSU was successful in crucial free throw situations, making 22-of-27 for 81.5%. Alabama shot 40.3 percent for the game and just 7-of-24 from the arc. Both teams turned the ball over with LSU committing 16 and Alabama 15, but points off turnovers were minimal considering with LSU getting 14 and Alabama 13.
The 66.7 percent ranks T10 for a team single game three-point percentages in the SEC with a minimum of 10 attempts. It marked the fourth time LSU made at least 66.7 percent in school history from the arc and the first time since Nov. 28, 2010 when the Tigers were 12-of-17 versus South Alabama.
LSU, with over 1,500 students in attendance on the night before classes resumed in the crowd of 9,718, saw Alabama cut the lead to just three, 24-21, on two free throws with 5:54 to play before the LSU/Smart run of assists and points.
Days hit a three off a pass from Smart, Emmitt Williams hit a trey off a Smart assist. Days had a layup from Smart to make it 34-25 with 3:20 to go in the first half before Smart made the two straight three-pointers over a two minute period that would make it 40-28 with 38 seconds left. The Tide turned the ball over and Smart got the ball to Days who banked one in with two seconds left for the 43-28 advantage.
LSU the pushed the lead to 19 as Bigby-Williams had a layup off a Waters pass and Naz Reid had a dunk to make it 47-28 with 19 minutes remaining.
But Alabama would eventually go to a zone that gave LSU some issues and the Tide began to slowly ease into the margin, cutting it inside 10 for the first time since the late first half at 70-61 with 7:49 to play. The Tigers got it back to 13 but Alabama would creep to within four at 79-75 with 1:46. The Tigers on its next possession got a dunk by Bigby-Williams with 1:19 to play.
The Tigers were able to close the game at the free throw line for the win.
LSU travels to Arkansas for a 5 p.m. game at Bud Walton Arena that will be televised on the SEC Network and broadcast on the LSU Sports Radio Network.
LSU vs Alabama Quotes
January 8, 2019
LSU Head Coach Will Wade
“Great win. I thought the students were awesome. I thought that made a huge difference in the crowd, having the student section packed and into it. We appreciate them. We know some of them have class early in the morning, but we appreciate those guys coming out. It makes a big difference for us, especially on those weeknight SEC games where sometimes it’s harder for our fans across the state to get here. It makes a big difference when the students turn out like that, so hopefully they’ll continue to turn out for us. We appreciate them and it gives us some energy and our players feed off that.
Overall I thought the first half we played extremely, extremely well. I thought the defensive effort in the first half was about as good as we’ve had all year against a high-level opponent. The second half was a little more helter skelter. Their zone changed the game. We got stagnant against the zone. We didn’t move the ball the way we needed to against the zone. That’s my fault. I didn’t have us as prepared as we needed to for the zone. I thought Kavell (Bigby-Williams) was a huge difference maker in the game. Five blocks, a double-double. As a difference from last year to this year, having him. I said in the offseason if we would have had him last year we would have won more games. He was a huge difference maker tonight. We don’t win tonight without him. I thought our guard play was tremendous. I though Ja'vonte (Smart) did a great job. (Darius) Days came in and gave us some extra sparks off the bench. It was a total team effort which is what it takes in SEC play. It was good to get our first conference win.”
On Ja'vonte coming off the bench for the first time and scoring or assisting on the final 19 points of the first half…
“I thought he was great. I thought having that big lineup out there in the end of the first half, I thought we guarded them really well with Ja'vonte and Emmitt (Williams) and Skylar (Mays). I thought we were able to guard them really well and turn our defense into offense. He played really well. It’s probably the first time he’s come off the bench in six or seven years. Probably longer than that. I told him to sit with Coach (Bill) Armstrong and to get a flow of the game. He saw things better and had a little more pop to him. I was very pleased. I thought he played just a tremendous game, maybe his best game of the season. He’s worked really hard”
LSU Guard Tremont Waters
On the performance from Ja'vonte Smart and Darius Days off the bench…
“Everyone is seeing how the season has been going. Ja'vonte did not have a great game in the last game, he did not feel like. I just reached out and told him to stay true. I feel like we have just come together and the way he is playing, he has confidence and is listening. Darius is just a stretch forward and can play the three. To have them coming off the bench tonight was a huge help.”
On starting SEC play with a win…
In whole as a team, it just boosts our confidence and gives us that extra edge going into Arkansas knowing that we got this win and starting off with a win is always a good thing. Now we have to go somewhere else and obviously they are going to have their home crowd, so we have to learn to stay together.”
LSU Guard Ja'vonte Smart
On making his first three and last three at the end of the game…
“It felt good to help us get the lead and then the last shot, I just felt like it was going in, so it helped the team with confidence.”
On three-point shooting from the team…
“I just want to give a shout out to Alabama for the great game they gave us. I give it all to my team, they found me and made open shots.”
LSU Forward Kavell Bigby-Williams
On his performance tonight…
“I just played hard. Coach Wade wants us to play hard out there and give it your all, so I just tried to help the team as best as I could.”
On playing time…
“I realize it is not really about the minutes you play, it is about how productive you are in the minutes you play. I just have to go out there and be productive. The minutes could increase or decrease and I will still give the same effort.”
Alabama Head Coach Avery Johnson
“I want to congratulate Coach (Will) Wade. They were outstanding tonight. They were full of energy and did a nice job of protecting their home court. They came out in the first half and shot the ball extremely well. A couple of bank threes, you know that is how you get rewarded when you play hard. They were energized, we did a nice job on (Naz) Reid in the first half but they had other guys especially (Ja'vonte) Smart as well as (Darius) Days who came off the bench. A magnificent job by LSU as they were the better team tonight. I give our team credit, we did fight back a little bit and in the second half we found a line-up that had some continuity and chemistry as well as competitive spirit and fortunately we were able to cut the lead down. Then (Tremont) Waters threw a baseball pass, he should be on the baseball team at LSU. He threw a left-handed curveball that split the trap and the catcher caught it, it was a strike. Give them credit, we’ll just have to bounce back and get back to work.”
On LSU’s improved personnel from last season….
“I just think even though Reid did not score as much, he is a handful inside. Obviously, I know Ja'vonte Smart as he played for one of my college teammates so I have been watching him for a long time. And they have guys like Days and (Emmitt) Williams coming off the bench and giving them energy. I think we are a much better team than we showed tonight and we need all of our guys to show up and play and it is my job to get them ready. Also, as far as Tremont Waters, his body has changed. It looks he is a little stronger this year. He is not getting knocked off his spot as much this year and his balance is better. He split a couple of our traps so they are a much better-looking team.”