Da Boot Sport
By: Terrill J. Weil
BATON ROUGE, LA: The #21 LSU Tigers improved their record to 14-1 overall and 2-1 in the SEC after defeating the 18th ranked Tennessee Volunteers in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, 79-67 on Saturday evening.
The contest was expected to be a defensive battle as LSU and Tennessee are the top two defensive teams, according to KenPom. The Tigers and Vols are ranked #1 and #2, respectively, in adjusted defensive efficiency, which measures a team's points allowed per 100 possessions adjusted for the opponent. LSU allows 82.7 points per 100 possessions in adjusted defensive efficiency. UT allows 85.7.
The Tigers were led by Tari Eason's double-double, has he finished with 24 points and 12 rebounds on the night. Darius Days had a good game as he scored 15 points and grabbed 8 rebounds, while Brandon Murray contributed 13 points in the ball game. Xavier Pinson added 9 point before leaving the game with a knee injury. Wilkinson finished with 8 points and Eric Gaines added 7 points.
Will Wade's would comment after the contest.. “Great, great win. Really proud of our guys. Tremendous effort all night. I thought we got off to a great start. We got off to a better start to start the second half. That was a problem for us against Kentucky and Auburn. I thought we did a much better job getting off to a quick start with the second half, and we certainly closed it strong. (Eric) Gaines made some big free throws. It was a little herky-jerky for a little bit, but we found a way to get a big win. Before you ask, X(avier Pinson) appears to just be a knee sprain. Best case scenario for us. Doesn’t appear to be any damage to the ACL or MCL. We got to get it looked at tomorrow. Our scanning machine here only does so much. We’re going to get it scanned again tomorrow, but it appears that it’s the best-case scenario. It’ll be a matter of days to a week with him, which would be fantastic.”
LSU controlled the opening tip and grabbed a quick 3-0 lead when Mwani Wilkinson hit a shot from behind the arc. Tennessee answered 30 seconds later to tie the game with a three point shot by Josiah-Jordan James. 3-3 with 18:17 left
on the clock.
In a heated defensive battle, both teams found themselves all evened up at 11-11 at the 11:47 mark.
LSU would begin to pull away thanks to strong defensive pressure and controlling the boards, going on a 13-4 run over the next four minutes to take a 24-15 lead with 8:09 left in the first half.
With 5:13 left on the clock, Tari Eason would tip in a missed shot to extend the LSU lead to 30-20.
Both teams would heat up from behind the arc, with each team hitting back-to-back three points to make the score 38-31, LSU at the 1:36 mark.
LSU took a 42-35 lead into the locker room at the half after both teams played even over the final 1:36.
The Tigers shot the ball well over the first 20 minutes, going 16-30 from the floor for 53%, while also having a good night from behind the three point arc, going 6-10 for 60%. LSU’ top defense in the nation did a good job of controlling the Tennessee offensive attack, as the Vols only shot 41% from the floor.
Brandon Murray and Xavier Pinson both led the team in the first half, scoring 9 points each. Mwani Wilkinson added 8 points, while Tari Eason scored 7 in the first half.
The Vols began the second half hitting a three pointer to pull within four, 42-38 at the 19:38 mark. But LSU would heat up to respond with a 16-4 run over the next four minutes to take a 58-42 advantage with 15:23 to go in the contest.
A minute later LSU increased their lead to 20 points, 62-42 after a Darius Days jumper and two free throws by
Tennessee would dig down and begin to chip away at the LSU lead, going on a 14-5 run over the next six minutes to pull to within 67-56 with 8:30 left in the contest.
The Tigers would continue to allow Tennessee to hang around, as they outscored LSU 7-4 over the next four minutes, pulling to within 71-63 with 4:02 to go.
Santiago Vescovi would hit a three pointer to cut the LSU lead to 71-66. But the Tigers responded with four straight on a fast break layup by Brandon Murray and a monster fast break dunk by Tari Eason to increase the lead back to nine, 75-66 with 1:21 left in the game.
LSU would finish off the Volunteers over the final minute to earn the 79-67 win.
**Some of the LSU players press conference quotes after the game::
*Forward Darius Days::
On the team’s hustle and work ethic being the difference for winning games…
“Definitely. I mean that’s our identity now. We got to work on our offense as well, but our defense is going to help us win a lot of games this year.”
On what this game ranks for Tennessee matchups in his LSU career…
“Good question right there. We had some good games. It ranks pretty big. One of the coaches was talking kind of crazy with me. He was saying I couldn’t guard. I’m top 10. I would say this is probably number one. We got this win at home for sure.”
On the team’s 26 fouls total…
“It is what it is. When you come to LSU, that’s what you sign up for.”
*Forward Tari Eason::
On the team’s hustle and work ethic…
“We’re hard workers. We get after it in practice. We’re always working. We had guys like Days diving on the floor in July. The leadership that he and our other leaders bring is really important, and it has really fed into our other guys.”
On the PMAC being close to a sell out …
“I think it was really special, especially for me. I played at Tennessee last year, obviously, with my previous school. Things didn’t go how I planned. But this year, being at the PMAC, we turned it up.”
On what was working so well for him in the second half…
“Just being in the flow of the game. Picking my open spots and transition, when I can attack, get fouled and knock my free throws out.”
*Guard Brandon Murray
On first few SEC games in his career…
“The game is definitely a lot faster. With the guys I have around me, it feels normal. I feel like I have adjusted really well, just doing what I can do.”
Next up LSU will travel to Gainesville to battle the Gators on Wednesday, Jan.12th at 6:00pm. The game will be carried on ESPN2...
Photos Below By: Michael Bacigalupi