BATON ROUGE, La.--The LSU men’s basketball team closed out its 2015-16 home schedule with an 80-71 win over Missouri at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center Tuesday night.
The Tigers are now 11-6 in the league and 18-12 in the SEC, while Missouri dropped to 3-14 in the SEC and 10-20. LSU has won at least 11 SEC games in back-to-back seasons for the first time since LSU won 12 SEC games in 2005 and 14 in 2006.
LSU also won eight league games in the Maravich Center for the first time since the Tigers won eight games in 2005 and 2006 and for just the ninth time in the 45-year history of the building.
Prior to the game, LSU’s two seniors and one graduating junior were honored in Keith Hornsby, Josh Gray and Henry Shortess. Shortess is a three-year walk-on on the Tiger team but will graduate in May.
Hornsby remains out and did not dress. Gray got the start and scored four points with two assists and three steals in 15 minutes. Shortess played in the game’s final seconds.
Ben Simmons posted his sixth game of 20-10-5 on the season with 22 points on 6-of-8 field goal shooting and 10-of-11 free throws. Simmons had 14 rebounds and seven assists. It was Simmons fifth straight game of 20 points or more and his 21st double double of the season.
Three players had 13 points for Mizzou – Kevin Puryear, Ryan Rosburg and Terrance Phillips. K.J. Walton added 11.
|SEC Standings (thru 3/3)|
* ineligible for postseason play
All times Central
Thurs., March 3
Sat., March 5
SEC Tournament Schedule | Home
The Tigers posted another 50 percent shooting night, making 52.8 percent from the floor for the game (28-of-53).
The Tigers came out strong in the first half, quickly opening up nine points on the Missouri Tigers at 15-6 on a three-point play by Blakeney. The lead reach double figures as Brandon Sampson had a layup and a three-pointer on back to back LSU scores to increase the lead to 14, 24-10, with 9:17 to go in the first half.
LSU continued to show the urgency in the first half, pushing the margin to 20, 42-22, on a Victor jumper with 51 seconds left and after a layup by Simmons in the waning seconds that led to a technical foul on the Mizzou bench, Blakeney hit two free throws to make it 46-24 at intermission.
But for the fourth straight game, the opposing team shot 60 percent or more in the second half as the visiting Tigers would make 18-of-30 field goals (60%) and 6-of-12 3-field goals.
Mizzou scored the first six points of the second half, forcing LSU to call timeout and by the 7:48 mark of the second half, Missouri had closed the game first to nine, 63-54, and then 63-57, at the 6:49 mark.
LSU led the lead shrink to three, 65-62, on a K. J. Walton three-pointer with 4:48 left, but LSU ran the offensive play selections for back-to-back threes by Blakeney and Quarterman around a Mizzou bucket pushed the margin to seven, 73-66, with 3:04 to play. LSU was able to hold off any further Mizzou run in the final minutes.
Missouri out rebounded LSU by 3, 32-29, but LSU had an 18-8 advantage in points off turnovers. Missouri had a 12-5 advantage in second chance points.
Depending on the South Carolina game on Thursday, the Tigers will be tied for position with Vanderbilt, but LSU has all tiebreakers with the Commodores based on the LSU win on Jan. 2 in Nashville. Vanderbilt goes to Texas A&M, the other team tied with Kentucky for the top of the league entering the final game.
LSU HEAD COACH QUOTES
Head Coach Johnny Jones
“We knew coming in against Missouri, a team that had two games left on their schedule because of some NCAA implications that their season will end for them on Saturday. They won’t be going to conference tournament. We knew how this game, the mindset that those guys would be in and how hard they would play. That’s what they’ve been able to do throughout the year. They had big upsets against South Carolina and beat Tennessee handily and other games they’ve fought through and have been down and fought back and have been in some tough games. Tonight, we felt it would be the same. Our guys did a great job of taking that message, understanding how hard they would play in the beginning. We got off to a tremendous start in the basketball game. The first 20 minutes were probably one of our better 20 minutes that we’ve played all year. Offensively, we were clicking, sharing the basketball and had 13 assists there at the half. Defensively, we talked, communicated, got in gaps, were there on the catch. Our scouting report, we knew exactly where they were going and helped out on the post guys.
“In the second half, you have to commend Missouri and what a great job they did of coming out and executing their offense, making plays. We did not do a great job on the offensive end taking care of the basketball. We were a little loose early on, and then, we were not knocking down shots. We fed into what Missouri was doing, which caused us to have to call a quick timeout there in the second half. I am pleased that we were able to finish the game the right way and execute it down the stretch in the last four minutes, knocking down free throws and making shots at the end. We have to continue to work in those areas, but at the end of the day, we are 8-1 in conference play at home. I think that is something to be excited about at this time of year only one game back out of first place. We have an opportunity to go to Lexington, Kentucky, to play against one of the top teams in the country on Saturday. We have to quickly turn our attention to them.”
On maintaining the energy from the first half into the second half…
“It’s something we have to continue focusing on and concentrating. Sometimes when teams do get big leads, a lot of times they have the ability to lose focus. They are not as sharp. We were a victim of that tonight because we did not come out as sharp as we were in the first half. That’s an area we have to continue to grow in. It happens. When you’re playing a good basketball team with talent, guys are not going to give up. This team came back out and had some fight in them in the second half. They were able to display that. You have to make sure you commend Missouri’s basketball team and their coach for their efforts because they didn’t come back out and just lay down there in the second half. They played extremely well.”
On Antonio Blakeney’s confidence…
“It’s confidence for him. He’s very confident in himself. His teammates are confident in him as well. One of the things we talked about after the game was that we probably didn’t get enough touches for him during that stretch when they made their run. We weren’t patient enough moving the ball around and allowing him not necessarily to take shots, but he’s done a great job of putting pressure on opponents and making extra passes and plays and forcing the defense to have to shift. We did not do enough of that in the early part of the second half of trying to keep them at bay. Antonio (Blakeney) has done a tremendous job and has shown tremendous growth in his playing. Tonight, was no different down the stretch for us.”
LSU PLAYER QUOTES
Guard Antonio Blakeney
On more set plays called…
“It makes the offense flow. No one is standing around. We know what we are trying to get.”
On his three-pointer with 4:30 left …
“Ben attracted the whole defense and he kicked it out to me. I just tried to knock it down.”
Point Forward Ben Simmons
On it being his final home game…
“I love playing at home. It’s always good to play here. It’s the last game of this season. We have a big game against Kentucky so we have to great ready for that.”
On the sense of urgency tonight on senior night…
“We just came out to play. We were trying to get a lead. They got in their lane and started hitting some three’s. We were just trying to stretch it. I think we are getting better at that. We just have to lock in when it comes to the second half.”
On the season coming to a close...
“It was kind of weird that the season is over at the PMAC. Knowing that we have one more game against Kentucky is huge. We’ll enjoy the moment now but we have to refocus for Saturday.”
On the race for the SEC title with one game left…
“We have a great opportunity right now to go there and get a win. We have a chance to get the SEC title and make the NCAA Tournament. Hopefully we can do well in that. We have a long way to go still.”
Guard Tim Quarterman
On what happened in the second half…
“Craig (Victor) couldn’t keep his hands off of them. He didn’t have any fouls in the first half but decided to use them all in the second (laughter). It was us defending as a team when they got hot. We had to figure out ways to make plays down the stretch for each other. We had to pull out the win. We are happy we won at home. From the struggles we had coming out. We have a young team and we’ve bounced back two games in a row. Now we are on the road again to try and get another win.”
On more set plays called…
“I think down the stretch we executed better than we had in previous games. I think that’s big for our team. We shared the ball tonight and had a lot of assists as a team. It made our offense flow the whole game. I don’t think we went on spurts without scoring the ball. That’s good for upcoming games.”
On Henry Shortess…
“He is a big part of our team. He is motivation on our bench. It was a proud moment to be able to go out there. College is not easy, especially when you play a sport. For him to go out there and graduate a year early and excelling academically is motivation to get our degrees.”
Forward Craig Victor II
On the second half struggles…
“We just have to play better as a team in the second half.”
On having a first half with no fouls…
“That was a blessing. I wasn’t expecting that. At the same time, I just go out and play. That was pretty nice.”
On the opportunity still ahead…
“We just have to take advantage of it. We dropped a few games. We are a great team and we are led by great leaders. We are looking forward to the opportunity of going to Kentucky and competing for an SEC Championship.”
Missouri Head Coach Kim Anderson
“Obviously in the first half we were horrible. We had no energy and turned the ball over too much. We didn’t get back on defense. We had a good discussion at halftime and I really wasn’t sure how we would respond. I thought a big key was that we were able to get some buckets early. We got two or three buckets right off the bat. We got the game back down to 16 or whatever it was. From that point on, I thought we played really well. We took care of the basketball. Obviously it’s hard to guard Ben Simmons. He’s so good, and he makes so many plays for other people. I was proud of our effort in the second half. I thought we started executing better. We kind of found some stuff that worked, and we kind of stuck with it.”
On the shots that guard K.J. Walton was making throughout the game…
“I’m so happy for him because he’s worked hard in practice all year and I thought he came with confidence. He knocked down two or three three’s I think, but that’s what he’s got to do because people just keep playing him as a driver. He starts making that open shot and that makes him a little more dangerous.”
On the other guys on LSU making plays aside from Ben Simmons…
“They’ve got more than just Ben, and obviously Ben is really good. I think the thing that Ben does is he makes everyone else better. You go in and you try to double him or you try to help. Not only is he a good passer, but he’s a quick passer. He zips that thing in a hurry, but the bottom line was that Antonio (Blakeney) made shots and (Tim) Quarterman made shots. When we got the game back to where it was a close game, those guys made the shots they needed to make.”
On if there was an answer for the lack of energy in the first half…
“You know what I don’t. This has been a tough time and we got one more game left. I try to continually try to tell our guys ‘Hey, try to get better. Try to get better.’ They’re not going to any postseason and everybody else in America is pretty much. Maybe at the beginning we were just a little bit lethargic, but I thought we came back in the second half and played with a lot more energy than in the first.”
On if he noticed the lack of energy in warm-ups and if it was apparent…
“Our practices have been pretty good. I would say this - I thought we didn’t have the necessary energy and I thought they did. I think there was a disparity kind of maybe like the disparity was in the second half. I thought we had a lot of energy in the second half. I thought they were really, really efficient early and we weren’t getting back but at halftime we got it together.”
MISSOURI PLAYER QUOTES
Guard K.J. Walton
On whether the team had a lack of energy in warm-ups…
“No, we were ready to play the game. I don’t know, everybody was just kind of dead out there. In the second half we came out and picked it up and tried to make a late rally.”
On Coach Kim Anderson’s halftime message…
“Basically, we’re better than we were playing and we shouldn’t go out like that (in the first half) even though we’re banned from postseason play. We just need to go out with a bang and try to shake things up.”
On hitting some shots to help the team in the comeback attempt…
“It felt real good. It gives me a lot of confidence going into the next game. We play Florida so we’re going to try to win that game and it gives me a lot of confidence going into it.”
On the matchup with Ben Simmons…
“It was very hard. He’s a great player. They (LSU) go as he goes so we just tried to make it difficult for him. We just tried our best out there.”
Forward Kevin Puryear
On having to play head to head with Ben Simmons…
“He’s (Ben Simmons) really strong and really physical. Of course he’s a great player. That goes without saying. I just wanted to come out here and compete as much as possible. You don’t get the opportunity to play against the potential number one pick in the draft everyday. So I just wanted to come out and play as hard as I could and do everything I could to help my team win. I’ve corralled point guards and he’s similar to a point guard. He’s quick. I’ve kind of dealt with that all season, so it wasn’t anything new, really. His skill set and physicality and unselfishness is what really makes him a great player.”
On LSU’s play the last 12 minutes of the first half…
“We just lost energy. We were just lackadaisical, mental lapses on defense and offense. We turned the ball over. That can’t happen in the SEC and we paid for it. So to get over that hump (in the second-half comeback attempt) made it much harder for us.”
On the locker room at halftime…
“We were actually in good spirits because we knew we could compete with this team (LSU). We know that we’re better basketball players than what we showed in the first half and we came out in the second half and we played like it. We outscored them in the second and I think that if we put two halves together we win that game. Those are things that carrying over to the next game and next season. We have to win these (types of) games.”