Da Boot Sports
By: Jordan Taylor
BATON ROUGE, LA: Will Wade and his Tigers would have their first true test of the season on Monday night, as they would welcome the 1-0 Liberty Flames. Coming off their contest against Texas State in which they played a very sloppy first half, LSU will look to have a better early start against a very good Flames team who brings in one of the nations best three point shooters.
This game started with LSU winning the opening tip, but it was the Flames who got on the board early as Blake Preston got the scoring started with a dunk to put Liberty up 2-0. LSU would again open up shooting cold as it would take nearly three minutes before they got on the board thanks to a layup by Efton Reid.
Trailing 5-2 the Tigers would battle back thanks to some strong defensive energy, making multiple steals that would lead to a 9-0 run over the next three minutes, as they would take a 11-5 lead at the 13:02 mark.
Will Wade needed to go to the bench early as Reid committed two early fouls. Tari Eason and Eric Gaines entered the contest bringing a huge spark off the bench.
Liberty would outhustle and outrebounded LSU throughout the first half as the Flames would go on a 19-9 run, to hold a 24-20 advantage with 5:31 left in the first half.
Xavier Pinson would cut the lead to one, banking in a layup just before the buzzer sounded, as Liberty would lead at the half, 25-25.
Darius Days finished the first half with six points to lead the team. The Flames topped LSU on the boards at the half, outrebounding them 25-17. LSU shot poorly in the first half going 34% from the floor, with only 17% shooting from three point land.
Darrius Days set the tone for the 2nd half after he came out with a crowd erupting three pointer giving the Tigers back the lead, while defensively, LSU would keep the Flames scoreless on their first five possessions. The Tigers increased their lead, going on a 9-0 run over the next four minutes, going up 34-26 at the officials timeout.
Liberty would finally get on the board with a deep three to cut things to five at the 15:42 mark before really heating up from the three point line. Over the next three minutes Liberty would take the air out of the arena, going on a 13-2 run, taking a 45-38 lead with 11:46 remaining in the game.
LSU battled to keep the game close, but Liberty's outside shooting helped the Flames hang on to a small lead, 50-47 with 7:43 left on the clock.
After a questionable charge call on Eric Gaines, Will Wade was hit with a technical foul. The technical foul not only seemed to fire up the Tigers, but helped erupt the Maravich Center.
Trailing 52-47 with 7:06 remaining, the Tigers would shift it into another gear and take over the game. Days would cut it to two with a huge three pointer. With the Assembly Center roaring, the Tigers would turn up their aggression, coming up with three straight stops on defense as Liberty finally began to run out of gas.
LSU took the lead back with 4:50 remaining after Brandon Murray drained a huge three point jumper to go up 53-52. The fireworks would continue as Darius Days and Eric Gaines would get big points from the free throw line. Then Days would hit another three pointer giving the Tigers a six point lead at the 3:58 mark.
Will Wade would have his Tigers slows things down to eat away clock, before Efton Reid would get in on the action with a big time three from behind the arc, extending the LSU lead to nine, 63-54. The Tigers were now hitting on all cylinders as Liberty would continue to wear down. Darius Days would add his fifth three of the night to start driving nails into the Flames' coffin with just under two minutes left to play.
After trailing for a majority of the night, LSU would finish out the contest scoring the games final six points to pull out a 74-58 victory.
For the second straight game LSU would start slow, playing a sloppy first half and finding themselves trailing halftime, only to battle back with better play in the second half to earn the win.
Darrius Days finished with 26 points and 7 rebounds,... Efton Reid added 13 points, while Xavier Pinson and Eric Gaines would finish with 10 points each off of the bench.
“We played so hard defensively. That’s three-straight teams we’ve held under 60 points." Wade said. "I thought we were jittery on offense in the first half. We just need to calm down we took some uncharacteristic shots. We’re falling for their eye candy. We’re trying to take the first decent look we can get instead of getting a great look and so I thought we settled down in the second half. Obviously, (Darius) Days was tremendous. Efton Reid was great. He got in foul trouble in the first half and came back and was huge in the second half. We had to adjust some ball screen coverage, but he was huge. I thought Eric Gaines’ defensive intensity and his energy totally changed the game for us. He had five steals. The difference was we gave up eight offensive rebounds in the first half and one in the second half. I think we’re down eight on the glass and we ended up losing it by one, but we outrebounded them in the second half. We’re just a lot better chasing balls down and doing what we needed to do with the little things defensively and rebounding.”......
Coach Wade's response on dealing with Liberty's runs, ...“We made our free throws. We weren’t as solid as we need to be on defense; we had two fouls where we reached and gave them four points. We didn’t turn the ball over offensively; most of our turnovers were offensive fouls. I thought the crowd was great, we fed off the energy; the students were great. A 6:00 p.m. tip-off is a lot harder to get to, but I thought the crowd was really good.”
LSU improves to 3-0 on the season and will return to play on Thursday, Nov. 18 as they host McNeese in the PMAC. Tipoff is set for 7:00pm.