LSU turns up the defensive pressure to help create separation from Missouri State in 73-58 win

3 months ago The Advocate 0

When the LSU men’s basketball team couldn’t put a pesky Missouri State team away Friday night with its hot shooting, the Tigers went on the defensive.

Nursing a four-point lead with 12 minutes to play after holding a double-digit lead twice in the first eight minutes of the second half, Will Wade went to a half-court press after Darius Days pushed the lead to six with two free throws at the 11:32 mark.

Coming up with back-to-back steals off the pressure, LSU quickly converted them into four points.

Then, Days knocked down a 3-pointer from the right corner to push the lead to nine with 9:50 to go and the Tigers never looked back in posting a 73-58 win in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

LSU (5-2) shot 53.7% from the field for the game after connecting on 55.6% of its shots in the first half to take down Missouri State (3-5), the preseason favorite to win the Missouri Valley Conference.

The Tigers also had a season-low seven turnovers, the first time they’ve been in single digits this season, and forced the Bears into 14 miscues.

LSU gained the momentum on the defensive end with the steals by Skylar Mays and Charles Manning and Missouri State, which gave then-No. 21 Xavier a tussle on the road earlier this month before falling 59-56, never recovered.

“Those were huge,” Wade said of the takeaways. “It allowed us to get the pace going. They (Missouri State) want to play in the mud. … play in quicksand where it’s just slow, slow, slow, slow, slow.

“We were able to get the pace going with those steals. It was able to give us a little breathing room that we could use the rest of the game. Those were huge plays.”

On the offensive end, Days was one of four players in double figures as LSU finally shook Missouri State after it hung around for three-fourths of the game.

After being held to six points in the first half, Days finished with a game-high 20 points and 10 rebounds — seven in the second half — for his third double-double.

“I was just in the right place at the right time, and my team was finding me,” Days said. “Javonte (Smart) saw me in the corner, Skylar saw me in the corner, Emmitt (Williams) got me a couple passes under the basket. I was just in the right place.”

Days is the only LSU player to score in double figures in all seven games this season.

“Darius has been phenomenal this year,” Williams said. “We’ve been coming in and watching film, getting up a lot of shots together. We’re more focused this year.”

Williams had 14 points, while Mays and Trendon Watford dropped in 12 each. Smart had six points and a career-high nine assists to only one turnover.

Guard Keandre Cook led the way for Missouri State with 17 points while forward Tulio Da Silva had 16. Forward Josh Hall came off the bench for 11 points.

After Days nailed his 3-pointer from right in front of the LSU bench, Manning buried another 3 to give the Tigers a 14-point cushion at 61-47 with 8:59 left.

Missouri State twice got the deficit to single digits at nine points each time, but LSU refused to let the Bears back in it and Mays and Watford scored each time to get it back over 10 points.

Days gave the Tigers a 13-point lead at 71-58 with two throws at the 2:55 mark and then, appropriately enough, cruised in for a layup with 1:31 to play to give his team its largest lead of the night at 73-58.

“Good win, that was the largest margin those guys have been beaten by this year,” Wade said. “We have a lot of things we have to clean up, but overall, I’m very pleased.

“Good win against a very good team. They’re going to win a lot of games.”