With the game tied at 62 a piece, freshman Ja’vonte Smart capped off his best performance of the young season with a dagger three that secured a nail-biting victory over in-state Louisiana Tech, 74-67. With the win the Tigers improve to 4-0 on the season for the first time since 2012-13.
Will Wade said Smart was poised for a breakout performance after an already impressive start to his freshman campaign. With forward Naz Reid being hampered by an injury, that left more touches for Smart and the freshman took full advantage of the opportunity.
"That was [Wayde] Sims looking down," Wade said. "Those three bounces, you don't get too many rolls like that so there was some help there. We were fortunate enough to knock that down, he played a great floor game tonight."
After one half Smart was second on the team in scoring with seven points but produced a full stat line with two assists and two more boards in 11 minutes. Smart finished with a season high 16 points including the game winning three pointer.
“I stepped in and made the big shot,” Smart said. “I’m a freshman but I’ll step in and take the shot. I love that, it’s experience and I’m happy to be 4-0.”
Kavell Bigby-Williams also had a bucket off an offensive rebound with just under a minute to that gave the Tigers a five point lead. When Bigby-Williams was on the floor the Tigers outscored the Bulldogs by 11 points.
LSU got in early trouble when forward Emmitt Williams picked up two fouls in six seconds, forcing him to the bench. With frontcourt depth already depleted, the Tigers relied on Bigby-Williams to control the paint on defense.
Williams started for Naz Reid who was battling an ankle injury and tried to gut it out but was just too banged up.
Coming into the game, the Tigers had allowed an opposing player to hit on at least six three pointers in every game and Friday night was no different. Guard Exavion Christian got hot early, scoring nine of the first 11 points for LA Tech, all three pointers.
In total, LSU gave up 11 threes in the game, Christian with four of them, but LSU lucked out that the Bulldogs went cold from beyond the arc in the waning minutes of the game.
LA Tech forward Anthony Duruji took over the game in the second half, scoring nine points in a eight minute stretch while giving the Bulldogs a six point advantage with 11:53 to go. Duruji finished with 22 points and nine boards.
Tremont Waters basically said through his play that the Bulldogs were not pulling off this upset. Waters was the leader behind a 7-0 run that brought LSU within a point including a steal and foul that nearly resulted in a dunk that had the PMAC at full strength.
Offensive rebounding became a major issue in the second half as LSU tried to climb its way back into the game. The Bulldogs ripped down 16 offensive rebounds in the second half alone that led to 16 second chance points with LSU going small ball for much of the half.
Waters was able to give LSU the lead back with just under six minutes left and a circus reverse layup from Mays extended the Tiger lead to three.
One stat that kept LSU from pulling away in the whole game was the 4-for-11 effort at the free throw line, just two games after a near perfect 22-for-25 effort against UNC-Greensboro.
Transition defense seemed to be a preaching point this week in practice as LSU wasn’t sending many players to the goal off of missed shots.