There was plenty to smile about the last time the Tigers were on the court, but Saturday’s road contest at Auburn left nothing but a sour taste in the mouth’s of the LSU side.
The last time these two teams met – at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center on Jan. 20 – Auburn pulled away late for the 84-80 win. This time around, there wasn’t much intrigue.
Thanks to three early buckets from beyond the arc, Auburn jumped out to a 9-0 lead over the first three minutes. The early showing from the home team proved to be an omen. Auburn went on to hit eight 3-pointers, shooting 50 percent from the field (12-of-24) to take a 36-19 halftime lead.
“Their perimeter play was good,” said LSU head coach Trent Johnson. “They had quickness. It’s a mystery to me why they lost nine games.”
The Tigers were led by Tay Waller, who hit six 3-pointers and scored 26 points to lead all scorers. DeWayne Reed chipped in with 12 points, while Brendon Knox came off the bench to score 10 points in 25 minutes of action.
For LSU, the help in numbers that came during the Arkansas win did not make a second straight appearance. As they often do, Bo Spencer (26) and Storm Warren (14) reached double digits in scoring. However, on a 2-of-8 night from the floor, Tasmin Mitchell was held to only six points – the first time the senior has scored in single digits in a month, and only the fourth time all season.
By the end of the first, most of the Tiger team was sluggish; and after 20 minutes, LSU was shooting less than 35 percent from the field and was 0-for-6 on their 3-point attempts – a stark contrast to what Auburn was doing from beyond the arc on the opposite end of the floor.
In the second half, though Spencer and Warren started to heat up, Auburn’s shooting stayed consistent. Waller jumped out with eight of the team’s first 10 points, keeping the lead in double-digits for most of the way.
At the 8:38 mark, Spencer knocked known a 3-point jumper that cut the lead to nine, yet Waller – who had an answer for everything throughout the day – responded with a trey of his own just a minute later, pushing the lead to 59-45.
“It was about me getting open and getting in a position where they have to give me the ball,” Waller said. “I have no conscience right now. If I get a glimpse of the basket, I'm going to put it up. I'm confident like I always wanted to be.”
For Johnson’s side, the chance to take vengeance after the close battle at the PMAC fell short for the simple reason that LSU – now 10-18 overall and 1-13 in the SEC – was outplayed.
“Auburn played well,” Johnson said. “They shot the ball well. Their perimeter players have experience and we couldn’t guard them in man or the zone.”