Da Boot Sports
LSU Sports Communications
By: Kent Lowe
NASHVILLE, Tennessee – LSU super senior KJ Williams, senior Trae Hannibal and junior Cam Hayes combined for 55 of LSU’s 68 points as the Tigers end their 2022-23 season in the second round of the SEC Tournament with a 77-68 loss to Vanderbilt here Thursday night in Bridgestone Arena.The Tigers finish the season at 14-19, while Vanderbilt will face Kentucky in the final game of Friday’s quarterfinals. The Commodores are now 19-13 overall.
Williams completed his spectacular single season at LSU that earned him second team All-SEC honors and against Vanderbilt, he made 10-of-16 field goals, including 4-of-8 from distance and both free throw attempts for 26 points and 11 rebounds. It was ninth double double of the year. He also had two assists.
Hayes hit 5-of-11 shots with one trey and five free throws to finish with 16 points and two assists. Hannibal had a 13-point, career best 13 rebound game (7 offensive), making three field goals and 7-of-10 at the free throw line to go with four assists and two steals.
While the trio combined to make 18-of-36 shots and 5-of-12 from the arc, the Tigers still shot just 33.3 percent for the game (23-of-69) and 6-of-23 from distance.
Vanderbilt shot a consistent 46.4 percent from the floor (26-of-56) with six treys. The rebounded were even at 42, the third straight game LSU recorded at least 40 rebounds. LSU had a 20-12 advantage on the offensive boards and 19-12 on second chance points.
The Tigers continued to get better more consistently at the end in turnovers, having back-to-back single digit turnovers games in the tournament, with eight.
Tyrin Lawrence led Vandy with 22 points, while Ezra Manjon had 17, Jordan Wright 15 points and 15 rebounds and Paul Lewis 11 points as those four combined for 65-of-Vandy’s-77 points.
Vandy took the lead 16 seconds in and never trailed in the contest from there, building as much as a 14-point first half advantage with under eight minutes to go in the first half and leading 37-29 at intermission.
In the second half, the Tigers behind the play of its three scorers on this night, continued to show fight, scoring the first three buckets of the second half (all by Williams on a three-pointer, a bucket off a turnover and an offensive rebound put back to get LSU back to within one, 37-36, with 17:57 to play in the game.
But Vandy answered with a long two-pointer and after a turnover and three misses on one possession, got a three-pointer to push it to 42-36. That started a 12-0 run that gave Vandy a 49-36 cushion. LSU was able to get the game to seven in the final 45 seconds before Vanderbilt got the last two points on free throws for the final margin.
Vanderbilt 77, LSU 68
THE MODERATOR: We’re ready to start with LSU. We’ll ask Coach McMahon for some opening comments.
MATT McMAHON: Thank you. I’ll start with just a couple comments here on Vanderbilt. Congratulations
to them on the win tonight. I don’t know their staff great, but just following them after their loss against Alabama back January 31st, kind of a line-in-the-sand moment for their team. Credit to them for coming together. I think 9-1 since that game. They’ve always been really good on the offensive end of the floor. I think their defensive improvement since that game has really allowed them to go on this great run and get in the NCAA tournament conversation. That’s a tremendous credit to their players and Coach Stackhouse. Secondly, to lose a player of Liam Robbins’ caliber, really have not missed a beat these last three games. That’s to
take nothing away from Robbins. Deservedly an All-SEC player. Again, just admire what they’ve been able to accomplish here in February and March. Finally, for me, sitting here with KJ Williams, just been a tremendous honor for me to have the opportunity to coach him over these last five years. He’s what college basketball is all about. He’s what coaching is all about. Incredibly thankful to have that opportunity. I thought our players as a whole, we came down this week, came here in Nashville, I thought we competed. I thought we were more connected on the defensive end of the floor for the most part. But unfortunately, credit to Vanderbilt’s defense, we were unable to score the ball efficiently enough today to give
ourselves a chance to win.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student-athletes.
Q. KJ, y’all were down eight at halftime. You came out and scored the first seven to get your team back in it. What were they trying to do to you differently with Robbins out tonight?
KJ WILLIAMS: I think they came out with their four man guarding me, a much smaller player than last game. I think they had Liam on me mostly the whole game. I still came out pretty successful, but it was tough for me to go out and get back because most of the time I’m always having to screen, then they’ll switch back somebody else on me. It’s hard for somebody else to come back and just go score.
Q. Trae, you got back in the game, had a chance at tying it. Vanderbilt went on a 12-0 run after that. Did they force their will on you?
TRAE HANNIBAL: Yeah, they kind of was playing hard the whole game. They were just out-toughing
us, playing through a lot of contact, things like that. Got to some loose balls throughout the game, too. It’s kind of tough. Kudos to them. They had a great game, so…
THE MODERATOR: We’ll excuse you and continue with questions for Coach.
Q. Now that it’s over, the entirety of the season, how it kind of crashed tonight after a big win last night.
MATT McMAHON: The season as a whole? Yeah, that’s probably a long conversation. Welcome to have it, but just in general, yeah, I think clearly disappointed in the overall result of the season. You asked me, one of your first questions when I was blessed to get to take to job, what are your goals? My goal is the same every year: I want to help our players and team max out and become the best we’re capable of being. Whether that’s 15 wins, 18 wins, 31 wins… I don’t think we were able to get that accomplished this year. That’s clearly my responsibility. But there’s the reality, also, I’m well aware. I’m not an excuse-maker. I don’t blame anybody or complain. The reality is we didn’t take over the 22-win LSU team that went to the NCAA tournament. We took over a program in crisis, zero players, zero signees. Really had to start at ground zero and try to put a team together and do our best moving forward.
Unfortunately, wasn’t able to get it done at the level I would have liked to in January and February. Take quite a few positives from the year. Number one, I’m excited and thrilled about the opportunity to coach at LSU. It was a privilege getting to watch KJ Williams come in and be an All-SEC player. The comeback at Wake Forest, largest comeback since 1996 at LSU. The home win against Arkansas. But at the end of the day, didn’t get the job done at the level I would have liked to have gotten it done. We’ll learn from it, and look forward to moving into the future.
Q. Getting within one, after the way you won last night, did you feel like you were back in it? Did
Vanderbilt do something different at that point?
MATT McMAHON: I think so. I mean, KJ got those quick buckets there. I thought their defensive game plan was good. Really didn’t guard some of our guys who struggled shooting the ball tonight. It made the floor really crowded. At the end of the day in college basketball, you got to have elite guard play. I thought Manjon at the point for them really took over the game with his speed and quickness off the dribble. I thought Lewis came off the bench at the backup point and gave them good minutes. Hit a couple big threes, gives them 11 points. Lawrence has been a really good player all year. Since Robbins went out, he’s really stepped up his game to another level. 22 points on
just seven shots. So overall the efficiency of their guard play really dictated that second half especially.
Q. You said you’re starting from ground zero. Where is your focus, what this team needs to get to the level you expect it to be?
MATT McMAHON: Yeah, I’d love to sit here and tell you that the foundation is in place. That was the goal going in, to have the culture established, a winning culture, to move the program forward. But the reality of it is when you finish January and February the way we did, oftentimes you learn what not to do. You learn what corrections need to be made, whether that’s in roster construction, culture, offensive, defensive schemes, preparation, whatever it might be.
We’ll certainly address all of those areas and make the improvements necessary to move the program forward.
Da Boot Sports
By: Terrill J. Weil
NASHVILLE, TN - The Tigers snapped their three game losing streak with a hard fought 72-67 win over the Georgia Bulldogs in the first round of the SEC Tournament on Wednesday night.
The Tigers were able to do what they struggled to do all season, finish off an opponent late during a close contest. LSU found themselves in a tie game, 67-67 with only 1:33 remaining before outscoring the Bulldogs
5-0 the rest of the way for the victory.
The Bayou Bengals lead at the break, 42-30.
LSU had a solid team effort in first half with several players contributing. Trea Hannibal led the Tigers with 7 points, while KJ Williams, Adam Miller, Tyrell Ward and Shawn Phillips Jr. each added 6 points a piece, followed by Justice Williams with 5 and Cam Hayes with 4 points.
The Tigers led 48-38 at the 15:53 mark in the second half before Georgia would go on a 21-9 run over the next twelve minutes to take a 59-57 lead.
For the final 4:16 the contest turned into a dogfight with LSU making the big play when needed to come out on top.
KJ Williams finished the game with 18 points, followed by Hannibal with 14, Phillips with 13 and Miller with 10.
LSU shot 40% from the floor hitting 20-50 shots while sinking 6-17 from behind the three point arc for 35%. The Tigers also had a great night at the free throw line making 21-24 for 88%.
Next up the Tigers will play will Vanderbilt on Thursday night. The game is scheduled for 8:30pm CT and will be televised on the SEC Network.
**Postgame Press Conference**
LSU 72, Georgia 67
THE MODERATOR: We’re ready to begin with LSU. We’ll begin and ask Coach McMahon for some general thoughts on the game, then questions for the two student-athletes, then continue with questions for Coach. Coach, would you begin.
MATT McMAHON: Thank you. Really proud of our players. Thankful for the opportunity to advance here in the SEC Tournament. It was a fun game, a great atmosphere. I was not expecting that many people here on opening night. I hope I’m never back for opening night, but that was a lot of fun. Really proud of the way our guys responded. As we all know, we’ve had some 10-, 12-point leads where we haven’t been able to sustain it and find a way to win. Georgia did a great job fighting to get back in the game
and tie it up. Had all the momentum. I thought our guys really responded well and found a way to win.
Just looking at the box score, things that really stand out to me, how do you overcome 36% shooting from the floor and 20% from three, 25 to four on the offensive glass, second-chance points was huge for us. Then just limiting our turnovers. 10 assists, one turnover in the half. Finished 13 to five. Proud of our guys and looking forward for tomorrow night.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll take questions for the two student-athletes.
Q. Trae, you guys were able to get an edge on the offensive glass. You had 11 total rebounds. What do
you think it is about this team that’s so good on the glass?
TRAE HANNIBAL: This is a tough team. We’ve been through a lot this year. We can’t go back and change
it now. At the end of the day as long as guys go out there and do their job for the team, anything is possible. Tonight, I just played hard and did what I could for the win. Thankful.
Q. KJ, you told us about a week and a half ago you’ve been taking Shawn Phillips under your wing. What did you feed him today?
KJ WILLIAMS: Me and Shawn are roommates at the hotel. I told him to come out and play basketball, block out all the noise, come out and just play basketball. The outcome was the outcome. Came out with his first career double-double, 13-10. He just stayed the course on the offensive end, defensive end. He’s worked tremendously hard, and it came out with a good outcome today.
Q. You saw Vanderbilt a few weeks ago, see them again tomorrow. What did you make of them then and now?
TRAE HANNIBAL: Vanderbilt is a tough team. They’re well-coached. They really play hard.
Like tonight’s game is over with, we have to put it behind us. Our main focus now is on Vanderbilt. Going out there for 40 more minutes, give it our all, stick to the game plan.
KJ WILLIAMS: Like he said, we got to lock in on our principles. They came out and gave us a great game. But we came out with the win. We got to come out again, just come out and just play hard.
Q. Trae, you looked like you came out tonight and wanted to attack right from the start. What was the
plan going in? Take it right in the middle to them?
TRAE HANNIBAL: Yes, sir. Like I said, going out there and doing what I can to help this team win, being as
aggressive as I can and attacking the rim at all times. This team, we have a lot of great shooters. Can always space it out. Getting downhill is my main trait, and I think I did that pretty well, so…
THE MODERATOR: We’ll excuse the student-athletes and continue with Coach McMahon.
Q. You said Monday the big thing would be turnovers. Do you think that was the big key in the game?
MATT McMAHON: I think it was a huge part of it. I mean, you look at so many games, all right, just last week, for example, I mean, our two opponents outscored us 33 to 6 on points off turnovers. It’s impossible to win when you’re giving away that many points. I thought that was important. We really executed well offensively in the second half. Excuse me, got to flip that, in the first half (smiling). The ball moved. I thought we were able to really do a good job attacking. Our ball screen attack there with 10 assists, only one turnover, enabled us to build the lead. Second half, Georgia changed their coverages up. We didn’t attack as well. Of course, we turned it over the first two possessions for a good laugh there (smiling). Overall, 13 assists, five turnovers. Also, you have to look at the offensive rebounding. We
turned our 18 offensive rebounds into 25 points. It’s not just that we got the offensive rebounds, it’s that we were efficient in converting those into points, which has not always been the case for us this year.
Q. Really big sequence when Shawn got the dunk on the put-back, and then he blocked the shot when it
looked like the guy, Bridges, was going to get an easy shot. How big was that for a young guy like him?
MATT McMAHON: I thought he made huge plays that really impacted winning, not just those plays you
mentioned, but going to the line, up by one, I believe, at the time. He knocked down both free throws in a clutch situation there. Bridges is such an effective scorer there in the post. I thought he was really solid on the defensive end of the floor. Overall, just was a great screener for us offensively. I thought he did a lot of things well that enabled us to win the game.
Q. Derek Fountain, is he going to be available? Also, what did you tell Shawn?
MATT McMAHON: We sure hope so. It’s a day-to-day injury suffered in practice earlier this week to his
right shoulder. Hope to have him back tomorrow night, but not counting on it. We’ll see how he responds to treatment. I think Shawn just knew there was a great opportunity for
him to step forward there. Derek has been one of our most efficient and consistent players all year. We were going to need someone to step up, and Shawn came through huge for us.
I thought KJ made big plays when the money was on the line there late in the game. Made clutch free throws. That was my final key to the game, the free-throw line. I thought we all know Texas A&M leads America getting to the line. Well, Georgia is number two in our league. Us being able to stay with them and match them at the free-throw line I thought was really important tonight.
Q. Heading into tomorrow, what are your thoughts on Vanderbilt, what Jerry Stackhouse has done with that program this year?
MATT McMAHON: He’s a big-time coach. We’ll have to really turn the page quickly here and start
our preparation. I think offensively they execute at a high, high level, as well as anyone in the country. The other thing we obviously have to factor in is when we played them last time a few weeks ago, Robbins was still available. Had a monster game. I think one blocked shot, a triple-double. With him out, I know they’ve continued to have great success and win a lot of games. But we have to spend a lot of time tonight, figure out how they’re playing different and what we need to prepare for to give ourselves an opportunity tomorrow night.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
Da Boot Sports
LSU Sports Communications
By: Kent Lowe
GAINESVILLE, FL. – The LSU Tigers could not stand the second half onslaught from the Florida Gators, falling 79-67, in the final game of the 2022-23 regular season Saturday at Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.
The Gators were able to turn a four-point LSU lead at halftime and then a 12-point, 44-32, lead with 15:45 to play completely upside down, outscoring LSU, 47-25, the rest of the game.
KJ Williams, just missing a ninth double double with 19 points and nine rebounds, led the Tigers hitting 6-of-13 field goals and 7-of-10 free throws. Derek Fountain had his fourth college double double with 13 points and 12 rebounds while Adam Miller added 10 points.
Riley Kugel went off in the second half, scoring 21 points, 17 of them the second half, while Will Richard had 18 points and Kyle Lofton added 16 points and five assists.
For the third straight game, the opponent shot over 50 percent from the field, hitting 16-of-30 shots (53.3%) and then 5-of-10 from the arc. LSU made 11-of-30 in the second half and 1-of-5 from distance.
Florida finished 28-of-61 for 45.9 percent and 10-of-25 for 40 percent to go with 13-of-20 from the free throw line. LSU finished 23-of-60 (38.3%) and just 3-of-16 from distance (18.8%) along with 18-of-25 from the charity stripe.
LSU turned the ball over 13 times, eight in the second half, leading to a 13-4 points off turnovers advantage for the Gators, including an 11-2 margin in the second half.
The Tigers led for 8:27 of the first half which featured seven ties and three lead changes, and LSU came out after halftime and outscored the Gators 11-3 to push the LSU lead to 44-32 as Williams scored the last six points of the run.
But Florida began to press and slowly worked itself back into the game with a 9-1 run that cut the lead to four at 45-41, with 14:04 to play. LSU was able to keep the lead for the next seven-odd minutes before an LSU turnover led to a Kowacie Reeves fast break dunk to give Florida the lead, 54-53.
Fountain came back after both teams missed and scored to give LSU a 55-54 advantage but Florida took the lead for good on a Richard layup, 56-55, with 6:12 to go and the Gators would quickly get the lead to double figures to clinch the game.
LSU now goes to the SEC Tournament in Nashville, where it will face Georgia in the second game on Wednesday at approximately 8:30 p.m. at Bridgestone Arena.
LSU Head Coach Matt McMahon Quotes from Postgame Radio Show
On the game plan in the first half…
“First half, I thought our on-ball defense was really good. For the most part, I thought they caught us on a couple rolls on their ball screen attack, but i thought we were doing a good jump of forcing them into contested jump shots off the dibble and they were taking some difficult ones. On our offensive end, we had five turnovers, I believe the first six minutes of the game, then did not turn it over again the rest of the half. That enabled us to get the ball into the paint and score some. Struggled from behind the arc, but we were able to finish some plays there in the first half around the rim. That was an area we thought we could take advantage of going in, they were a top 10 defensive team in the country protecting the rim with (Colin) Castleton, without him in the last five games, they have given up almost 70 % at the rim from the floor. Unfortunately, there in the second half we shot 40% on the layups around the basket and were just unable to convert on all those three-on-twos and two-on-ones and three-on-ones when we beat the press.”
On the second half…
“Got off to a good start, we were able to control where the ball was going. Guys were stepping up and able to finish some plays around the rim. I thought we really good on the offensive glass, Derek (Fountain) gets five, KJ (Williams) gets four in that stretch. That enabled us to build a lead. The first four minutes of the second half I believe we went plus eight into the first media timeout. Then at that point, they (Florida) changed it up and put us in positions to make plays and unfortunately we were unable to do so.”
Da Boot Sports
By: Terrill J. Weil
BATON ROUGE, LA - LSU held the lead for 36 minutes on Wednesday night in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, but fell to Missouri, 81-76 after going ice cold over the final 2:38 of the contest.
The Tigers were explosive in the first half of play, leading by as much as 19 points before taking a 13 point lead, 47-34 into the halftime break.
KJ Williams (15 points) and Adam Miller (14 points) led the first half offensive attack. It was probably LSU's most electric half of the season as they shot 48% from the floor, including 11-15 (73%) from behind the three point arc and sinking 12-12 free throws.
But, as all season long, the Tigers were unable to put together a solid 40 minutes.
Over the first nine minutes of the second half, Missouri would go on a 25-12 run to tie the game at 59-59.
Mizzou's second half comeback was aided by the Tigers' poor shooting and sloppy ball handling that led to ten costly LSU turnovers.
“I thought our guys really competed tonight. Parker Edwards got us off to a really special start there with his two threes and his start on Senior Night." Matt McMahon said. "I thought that carried over to our team. I think we competed the way we need to play every single night. Credit to Missouri, they stayed the course there when we built a lead in the first half. I think we had one two-point field goal there, everything else was done beyond the arc and it was going to be hard to continue to shoot at a 73% clip from behind the arc. Unfortunately, in the second half, some of the same problem that have bother us all year. A lot of turnovers, unforced turnovers at times. KJ with another monster game, they put two and three on him at a time, but we were trying to get it to him on every trip. Unable to do so there late in the game. A couple of key possessions I thought, we got a stop with about two minutes to go up by two, they shot an airball three, we were unable to come up with the rebound and they (Missouri) got a putback there. We take a bad shot late. We were unable to get anything going there and then (D’Moi) Hodge buries a huge three. Credit to Missouri. They put a lot of pressure on you defensively. All one through five can beat you off the dribble and get to the rim and make plays at the basket. If you go double, they can all shoot it from three. Obviously disappointed in the result tonight.”
Missouri took their first lead of the game, 77-74 when D'moi Hodge hit a three pointer with 1:37 left on the clock.
With the loss the Tigers are now 13-17 overall, 2-15 in SEC play.
Next up the Tigers will travel to Gainesville to play Florida on Saturday, March 4 at 5:00pm CT. The game will be televised on SEC Network.
Photos Below By: Michael Bacigalupi
*John 14:6 - "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one come to the Father except through me."