LSU's non-conference slate may not have brought about perfect results, but the Tigers ended with 81-69 win over Louisiana-Monroe. The Tigers 10-3 start is the best since 2014-2015 when they started 11-2 and made the NCAA tournament.
On Friday, sophomore guard Tremont Waters lead the way for LSU with 11 points, 10 assists and 8 steals. It was the seventh career double-double for Waters in his career and second this season. His eight steals in a game are second most in school history behind Shawn Griggs, who had 10 against Tennessee in 1991.
The sophomore did most of his damage in the first half and helped spark an 8-2 run with three assists and a free throw to give LSU a 42-33 lead going into the break.
Early in the first half, however, Waters and LSU struggled with turnovers much like they did against Furman. In the first six minutes, LSU had six turnovers and trailed ULM 14-11.
Part of the problem was because the Warhawks were doubling or hard-hedging the ball-handler in pick-and-roll situations, which was something they had not done against any other major Power 5 teams, according to LSU coach Will Wade.
Outside those six minutes, LSU only had eight turnovers the rest of the game, and to counter the aggressive defense at the top of the key and paint by ULM, Wade said LSU had to find the man open in the corner.
"We were ready for their post crush," Wade said. "Our bigs did a good job skipping [the ball] opposite and getting good looks."
One of those bigs was freshman forward Naz Reid, who played a big role for the Tigers on offense and defense. He finished with 19 points, 12 rebounds, and 4 blocks. And while Reid may have been the bell cow on offense for LSU, it was junior forward Marlon Taylor who provided the biggest plays on the night.
Taylor, who started the game at power forward, scored all three of his baskets on dunks, one of which was an alley hoop from Waters. The dunk shifted the momentum LSU’s way and was pivotal in a 16-6 run to give the Tigers a 67-52 lead.
ULM made one last push with three-straight 3-pointers to cut the lead to six, but LSU responded by taking advantage of its size inside. The Tigers finished, scoring five of their final six field goals in the paint.
"I think we found out we have a close group," said Wade when asked about his thoughts after non-conference play. "They want to play for each other.
"They want to learn, they want to get better. I think our offense is very, very efficient — especially when we don't turn the ball over, we play pretty good offense now. Our defense is improved dramatically. Our first shot defense is really, really good. The problem is when we give up second and third opportunities.
"If we clean the turnovers and the rebounding up — I'm slightly concerned about our free throw shooting — if we clean those areas up, we're going to be in very good shape. I really like our team over January and February."
LSU’s next game comes against Alabama in the PMAC on Jan. 8.