After a two-game skid in Orlando to Florida State and Oklahoma State, LSU got the losing taste out of its mouth against a scrappy Grambling squad, winning 78-57.
Coach Will Wade said he’d be experimenting with some different lineups and that’s exactly what he did, inserting freshman forward Darius Days and senior big man Kavell Bigby-Williams for freshmen Naz Reid and Emmitt Williams.
The group played well together as Days and Bigby-Williams combined for five of the first seen points. Days in particular showed his toughness and determination on the glass that got the LSU bench fired up early.
LSU jumped out to a 14-2 lead as the focus early on was establishing a paint presence, with 10 of those points coming inside. For the first half, 18 of LSU’s points came in the paint.
Along with Bigby-Williams and Days, Wade said a goal was to get junior transfer Marlon Taylor more involved in the offense. With 8:11 to go, LSU leading scorers were Taylor, Bigby-Williams and Days with five a piece, helping the Tigers maintain an eight-point lead.
“I thought the ball moved a little bit better,” Wade said. “I thought Days played great, Kavell did a great job blocking shots. I thought our three-point percentage was better but that’s because we took a lot better shots.”
Controlling the glass has been a weakness of the Tigers all season after it was believed to be solved with all the height and athleticism brought in this year. Finding the right mix of bigs and guards to play on the floor was something Wade had been working on hellaciously.
Sophomore guard Tremont Waters broke out of a recent shooting slump, scoring a team-high 15 points on an efficient 6-of-8 shooting.
“I’ve been in the gym, the guys have been in the gym so the work is starting to pay off,” Waters said. “I think I was taking good shots but I did give up some open shots. I think overall we’ve been getting better.”
The Tigers were able to control the glass as Wade experimented with more lineups with three, or sometimes four, forwards, winning the rebound battle 45-24. Bigby-Williams was eating anything that came close to the rim, blocking nine shots, which helped the Tigers get out in transition.
Grambling cut the lead to six with 3:01 remaining in the first half and the Tigers were in need of a response. LSU went on a mini 4-0 run to grab a double-digit lead.
A strong start to the second half was catapulted by sticking with the gameplan, attacking the rim. Days continued to be aggressive on both ends of the floor, flirting with a double-double only five minutes into the second half.
Freshman Ja’vonte Smart had a great possession where he read an alley-oop pass and took away the lob, went coast-to-coast and delivered an over-the-head pass to Bigby-Williams for an easy alley-oop finish.
Grambling did get it going from long range as a 3-for-4 start from deep cut a 19 point lead to 15 with 11:45. That’s as close as it would get as Waters, along with some help from Skylar Mays, guided LSU home.