It wasn’t pretty at times, but the LSU Tigers (19-4, 9-1 SEC) withstood a three-point barrage from the Auburn Tigers (16-7, 5-5 SEC) in the first half and a late push in the second half to win 83-78.
The difference in the game was LSU’s ability to dominate the offensive glass, grabbing 23 offensive rebounds compared to Auburn’s seven. Those rebounds led to 29 second chance points, meanwhile Auburn only had one.
Senior Kavell Bigby-Williams was a force on said offensive boards, grabbing seven, while junior guard Marlon Taylor had five.
Junior guard Skylar Mays led the way in scoring for LSU with 20 points, going 8-10 at the free throw line, making some clutch ones with 20 seconds to go. Sophomore guard Tremont Waters had his fourth double-double of the season with 19 points and 10 assists. Freshman Naz Reid finished with a double-double as well grabbing 10 rebounds and 13 points.
Junior guard Jared Harper led Auburn in scoring with 25 points, going 5-8 from three-point land, along with six rebounds and seven assists. Sophomore forward Chuma Okeke had his third double-double of the season with 12 points and 14 rebounds.
Auburn showed why they have the most three-pointers made in the SEC after starting the first nine minutes of the game going 8-13. Meanwhile LSU’s struggles from beyond the arc continued as they were 0-6 during that span.
“We pretty much always come out and get punched in the mouth and we try to turn it around," Waters said. "As a team, we just know we have it within us to withstand a 40-minute game, so we play all 40 minutes.”
At the 11 minute mark, Auburn had gone on a 20-1 run, stretching their lead to 16. LSU would mount a mini-rally of its own following the Auburn run, with a 16-3 scoring margin between 10:37 and 7:03, cutting the lead to three.
But this was a game of runs in every way possible, as Auburn would hit right back with two three’s and a dunk, while LSU could only muster up a layup, running Auburn’s lead back up to nine, making it 41-31.
And then LSU hit back with a 7-0 run in the last minute capped off by sophomore guard Tremont Waters’ three with one second left to make it a 41-38 game at the half.
Taylor was instrumental in keeping LSU in the game, grabbing three offensive rebounds, giving the Tigers second chance opportunities. Mays led the way in scoring with nine points and two rebounds. Waters had seven points but also accounted for eight assists and two steals.
The second half was not quite as up-and-down as the first, with LSU grabbing the lead after the first three minutes and not giving it up for the rest of the game. Auburn’s three’s weren’t falling, and LSU capitalized on that, making a few three’s of their own, going 6-13.
“We changed our rotation a little in the second half to rotate in some three-point shooters," LSU coach Will Wade said. "We were able to kick it back for some pick and pops. It was just a game of whether they were going to make more threes or we were going to get more offensive rebound.”
The game stayed out of arm’s reach for Auburn up until the 90-second mark, when they cut the lead to six points. Waters made a free throw to put the lead back up to seven, but two Auburn free throws followed seconds after making it a five point game. Another free throw from Mays made it six, but Auburn hit back with a three and a layup to make it a one point game with 26 seconds to go.
LSU safely inbounded the ball to Mays who was fouled and hit two clutch free throws to make it a three point game with 23 seconds left. Auburn had a decent look at three with nine seconds left but it didn’t go, and LSU rebounded sealing the game with two Waters free throws.
LSU will now travel to Lexington where they will take on No. 5 Kentucky, on Feb. 12 with a 6 p.m. tip.