BATON ROUGE, La. — For the first time in 55 days, the Louisiana State University men’s basketball team won a game.
Behind a standout performance from sophomore guard Brandon Sampson and an impressive effort from the LSU bench, the Tigers ended their school-record 15-game losing streak, defeating Tennessee 92-82 on Wednesday night.
The win was LSU’s first since Jan. 4 against Missouri. It positions LSU ahead of Missouri in the SEC standings. In other words, LSU no longer is seeded as the worst team in the SEC Tournament next week.
Sampson was excellent, pacing the Tigers with 24 points on 6-of-10 shooting. And, partially thanks to Brandon Eddlestone and Brian Bridgewater earning starting spots on senior night, the LSU bench scored practically everything that Sampson didn’t. The Tigers backups combined for 49 points, compared with 31 points from the Tennessee bench.
LSU kept the score close in the first half, trailing by 4 at halftime. In the second half, the Tigers used 11-0 and 9-0 runs to extend the lead to as many as 14 points.
Player of the Game: Brandon Sampson
Sampson’s contributions to LSU’s win were important because fellow guard Antonio Blakeney played one of his worst games of the season. Blakeney shot 2 of 12, contributing 6 points. Blakeney had put up 20 or more points in each of LSU’s previous six games.
Sampson and reserve guard Jalyn Patterson more than made up for Blakeney’s off night. Sampson led the team in scoring, and Patterson added 22 points.
By Player Efficiency Rating, Sampson led LSU players with a mark of 24. By +/- grade, the Tigers were 13 points better than Tennessee with Sampson on the floor, also a team high.
Stat of the game: Points in the paint
While bench points ended up playing a huge role in LSU’s victory, the Tigers’ dominance in the paint proved decisive.
LSU outscored Tennessee 36-18 in the paint. Forwards Duop Reath and Aaron Epps combined to score 20 points and bring down 12 rebounds, leading the charge for LSU’s interior success.
At the 18-minute mark in the second half, LSU and Tennessee fought to a 51-51 standstill. During the next 4 minutes, the Tigers went on a 9-0 run to build a sizable lead, an edge they expanded to 14 points by the halfway point in the half.
After that point, Tennessee never trimmed LSU’s lead to fewer than 8 points.
What’s next for LSU basketball
Riding the high of its first win since Jan. 4, LSU travels to Starkville, Miss., for its regular-season finale Saturday against Mississippi State. The game is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. CT.