Billy Embody - SCOUT

RAPID REACTION: LSU shakes off 1st-half rust to overcome 13-point deficit and grind past N.C. Central 70-66

Tigers shake off 1st-half rust to overcome 13-point deficit to outlast Eagles 70-66.

How it happened

After a rusty, lethargic first half – especially in the opening stages on defense – the Tigers ratcheted up their defense over the final 20 minutes to rally back from a 13-point deficit to get past the feisty and veteran Eagles. LSU’s on-ball defense was more aggressive and that created contested shots on just about every possession as NCCU shot only 29.6% (8-for-27) from the floor after halftime and missed 10-of-12 3-pointers.Meanwhile, LSU’s offense started clicking much better, spearheaded by a big take-over performance from Antonio Blakeney, who scored 18 of his season-best 27 points in the second half. Blakeney knocked down 7-of-9 floor shots with an array of 3-pointers, mid-range jumpers and nice dribble-drives on his menu.

What it means

Coming off their best win of the season and with a busy stretch ahead, it mean the Tigers figured out a way to grind through a tricky test against a veteran team that wasn’t fazed in the slightest by a more athletic team.

 Player of the game: Antonio Blakeney

Not just on his scoring output alone, but also for the reason that the 6-foot-4 sophomore showed the willingness and ability to put the Tigers on his back when they needed a spark. He was 11-for-17 from the field,4-of-6 from outside the 3-point arc, and added 6 rebounds in his most complete – and needed – performance this season.

Side notes

After missing 11 of its first 13 attempts from 3-point range, LSU found the mark on 5-of-8 down the stretch. … The Tigers stepped out of character a bit in the second offensively and it worked. Instead of pushing the ball as much as usual, LSU hoisted 9 fewer shots and was more patient as it hunted for better shots most of the time. … Although Jalyn Patterson struggled through another rough shooting night (0-for-5, 0-for-3 from deep) and turned the ball over five times, his +/-13 was the best among the Tigers. … Brandon Sampson was the only other LSU player to connect on more than one trey: He was 2-for-6 as part of a 13-point night. … Craig Victor II was again a horse on the backboards with 11, 8 of those in the first half. The Tigers won the battle on the glass, 40-36. … NCCU’s 19 turnovers were six more than it came in averaging. LSU turned those takeaways into 23 points.    

What’s next?

The Tigers are back in action against Texas Southern at 5 p.m. Saturday. Those Tigers, who are coached by former Indiana and UAB coach Mike Davis, lost at Cincinnati 96-58 on Tuesday. That’s TSU’s fifth setback in a row, the third in four games by 22 or more points vs. power-5 foes. 

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