The LSU men’s basketball team opened its season with a victory over Bowling Green on Friday. The No. 22 ranked Tigers hosted the Falcons in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, winning 88-79.
The first half was a closely-contested battle early, as Bowling Green led 20-15. Then LSU went on a remarkable 19-0 run sparked by back-to-back three pointers from sophomore guard Javonte Smart to put the Tigers up 34-20.
“I thought we were a little bit out of sync,” said LSU coach Will Wade. “They gave us a lot of resistance early. We were chasing them all over the court defensively and offensively. We were able to kind of hang in there and go on that 19-0 run which helped.”
The Tigers set the tone following that run and held onto the lead for the rest of the game.
“I just wanted to bring the energy,” Smart said. “We came out kind of slow, but I just wanted to start the game off right and we eventually found our groove there in the first half.”
LSU closed the first half 46-36. Smart exploded for 17 points in the first half and added three rebounds and four assists.
Bowling Green trimmed the deficit to five to start the second half, but LSU kept things just out of reach. The Tigers stretched their lead to 15 following a baseline layup from sophomore forward Emmitt Williams with 8:03 left to play.
Bowling Green was able to hang around for most of the second half, trailing 71-62 with 3:08 remaining. Following two trips to the free throw line, LSU brought the lead back up to 13.
A costly turnover by Smart turned into points for Bowling Green, which cut the lead to seven with 1:56 left to play. Smart redeemed himself by sinking two free throws followed by layups from Williams and senior guard Skylar Mays, giving LSU a 83-70 lead with one minute remaining.
The Tigers finally put Bowling Green away, winning 88-79. LSU starts the season 1-0 following outstanding performances from Smart, Williams and Mays.
Williams finished with 21 points, 16 of which came in the second half, along with seven rebounds. Smart also finished with 21 points while adding eight rebounds and five assists. Mays was not far behind as he scored 18 points to go along with eight rebounds and three assists.
“It was a good season opener for me, but as you see, my team played great,” Williams said. “They gave me the ball so that’s how I got a lot of shots and I was just trying to go to the glass.”
LSU turned the ball over 16 times, which Wade said helped keep Bowling Green in the game.
“We have to be better there,” Wade said. “If we go into [VCU] Wednesday and turn the ball over like we have been turning the ball over, we are going to get our doors blown off. We have to do a better job.”
Bowling Green shot just 32% from the field but were able to hit 14 three-pointers. The Falcons also picked up 11 steals on defense.
This is a solid win for LSU, as Bowling Green was the preseason favorite to win the Mid-American Conference.
“They’re a quality team,” Mays said. “We’ve just gotta stay locked in. We’re gonna be happy with this win come March.”
The Tigers next head to Richmond, Virginia to battle VCU on Nov. 13.