The Pete Maravich Assembly Center lived up to its nickname the “Deaf Dome” in LSU's SEC home opener against the Alabama Crimson Tide, and the team itself lived up to its expectations in a dominant 88-79 win.
The game got little dicey toward the end against an Alabama team coming off a five-game win streak, including a win over No. 18 Kentucky.
Freshmen Ja’vonte Smart and Darius Days both finished with 15 and 13 points respectively, with sophomore guard Tremont Waters adding 17 and seven assists. Senior forward Kavell Bigby-Williams was dominant on the glass grabbing 12 rebounds and adding 14 points.
The Tigers and the Crimson Tide traded baskets for the first 10 minutes, with neither side gaining a clear advantage. A trend that started within those 10 minutes was the Tigers hot shooting from 3-point land, which ended up being the difference in the game. The Tigers shot 66.7 percent from three while the Tide only shot 36.8 percent.
Days and Smart both were lights out from three, going a combined 3-for-4 in the first half, and Smart closed out the first half hitting two of his three threes in the final two minutes. Days also made two of his three in the final five minutes, with the last coming at the buzzer.
Waters had a nice stretch as well in the middle of the first half, showcasing his ball-handling skills, and knocking down a couple of jumpers and assisting on two of the 3-pointers made between the 13th and 12th minutes of the game.
“I just really tried to focus on the little things, coming off ball screens, making the right pass, and the shots fall when your doing the little things right,” Waters said.
The tide turned, figuratively and literally around the 12 minute mark, with the Tigers holding Alabama to 11 points and scoring 26 themselves, making the score at half 43-28 in favor of LSU.
The momentum continued in LSU’s favor in the first minutes of the second half, stretching their lead to 19 just a minute in to the half. Bigby-Williams dominated the glass in the first five minutes, grabbing four rebounds and adding six points in the first three minutes.
“We didn’t have an answer for him all night, he killed us on the offensive glass, whether it was getting a tip-in or resetting the shot clock for them,” said Alabama coach Avery Johnson.
While the Tide warmed up a bit scoring wise, they could not slow down the Tigers, scoring 23 in the first 10 minutes of the half.
The Tide kept the game within reach in the final 10 minutes, cutting the lead to just six with 3 minutes left to play, gaining some success on the defensive end switching from man to man to a 2-3 zone.
“Their zone changed the game in the second half, we couldn’t really get anything going against it, but we held it together offensively towards the end,” said LSU coach Will Wade.
After two made free throws by Alabama with a minute and 46 seconds left, the lead was cut to four, but that was the lowest it would go before ballooning back up to nine with 20 seconds left.
In the end, it was a comfortable victory for the Tigers, who will travel to Little Rock to take on the Arkansas Razorbacks on Jan. 12 at 5 p.m.