LSU was in search of a spark all night, and they eventually found one with sophomores Javonte Smart and Darius Days in the second half, leading the Tigers to an 82-78 victory over Missouri on Tuesday night.
After a quiet first 20 minutes, Smart decided to take matters into his own hands, at one point scoring nine of LSU’s 11 points over a three-minute span.
“He gave us a spark,” said Days on Smart. “He said we’ve just got to keep going. Skylar [Mays] and Javonte are our leaders, and we just want to follow them to the end.”
“I kind of came out slow today,” admitted Smart. “Skylar told me he needed my energy. I tried to give my energy and come out with the victory.”
This win snaps LSU’s two-game losing streak, improving to an impressive 13-1 at home on the year. For Smart and Days, they definitely felt the energy of that Maravich Center crowd, who was fueled by the Tigers’ late surge and the dubious officiating down the stretch.
A questionable foul call on Missouri guard Theo Pinson with 8:03 left, showing very little contact, turned a once quiet PMAC crowd into a lively one, providing the Tigers a much-needed boost of energy on the floor in the remaining minutes.
“I thought our crowd was great for a Tuesday night,” coach Will Wade said after the game. “I thought they willed us. We needed to take the lead at some point, so we could get over the hump.”
In fact, Days' three from the top of the key with 4:42 left blew the lid off the building, finally getting LSU over that hump to retake the lead, 72-69. From that point forward, the Tigers never looked back, shutting the door to capture a critical win to remain atop the SEC standings.
Days has suffered from foul trouble recently, and he flirted with it again tonight, heading to the bench early in the second half with three fouls. But when it mattered most in crunch time, he was out there and was a difference maker.
“When he’s not in foul trouble, that’s what he can do every game,” said Wade of Days postgame. “I’m really proud of him. That’s back-to-back really good games for him.”
All five starters finished in double-figures, a trend that’s seemingly become the new normal from this incredibly balanced LSU offensive attack.
Senior leader Skylar Mays led the Tigers in scoring with a game-high 23 points and five rebounds, while Days tallied 20, Smart finished with 15 and Emmitt Williams and Trendon Watford both recorded 11 of their own.
Missouri was led by junior forward Mitchell Smith, who posted 20 points and five boards.
At this point in the season, it's evident that the Tigers can always be counted upon offensively, but it was the defensive end that ultimately made the difference. After a sluggish effort to start, LSU improved tremendously on the defensive side of the ball, making life a lot tougher for Mizzou.
"I thought our defensive energy was low [in first half]," Wade said. "I thought they played harder than we did in the first half. I thought we were able to turn it around in the second half, which is not easy to do."
With the win, LSU moves to 18-6 overall and 9-2 in conference play. The Tigers will travel to Coleman Coliseum to face Alabama on Saturday for a 3 p.m. tip on ESPN2.