BATON ROUGE, La. — If it weren’t for 6 minutes in the first half, the LSU basketball team might have beaten Ole Miss by 40 points on Saturday.
LSU defeated Ole Miss 82-66 in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, improving to 14-10 overall and 5-7 in SEC play. Senior forwards Duop Reath and Aaron Epps led the way, scoring a combined 37 points with 14 rebounds as LSU posted 44 points from inside the paint. Reath led all scorers with 26 points in 24 minutes played.
“He’s a worker,” LSU coach Will Wade said of Reath. “Duop just works really hard. He wants to be really good. He just works. When you work, you give yourself a chance to be successful. He wants to be a good player. It’s all on him. He’s the one who put in the time and the work to be a really good player.”
Behind Reath and Epps, LSU jumped to a big first-half lead. Reath and Epps combined to score 23 points, with Reath scoring 18 on 7-of-8 shooting, in the first half as the Tigers scored 20 points from the paint and jumped to a 14-point advantage with 6:01 left before intermission.
“We put some of those subs in in the first half and they decided they didn’t want to throw the ball into [Reath],” Wade said. “So if you don’t want to throw the ball into him and do what we want to do, you’re going to sit. You’re supposed to throw the ball into Duop. He was dominating. But we decided we don’t want to throw the ball into him because we don’t like to win or have leads. I don’t understand why.”
But from there, Ole Miss broke out. The Rebels ended the first half on a 20-6 run, tying the score at 37 heading into the break. During that 6:01 stretch to end the half, LSU did not score from inside the paint.
LSU’s offense reappeared at the start of the second half – the team scored 15 points in the first 7 minutes – but the Tigers were also marred by fouls. LSU was called for 8 fouls during that stretch, forcing Reath to the bench and making sophomore guard Skylar Mays step up offensively. Mays scored 15 points in the second half, shooting 5 for 6 from the floor and 2 of 3 from 3-point range.
“It was a tie game, so I just tried to come out aggressive,” Mays said. “I got open looks early and I just tried to knock down shots. [Tremont Waters] did a great jot of finding me and I was able to get going from there.”
The Tigers made their mark defensively in the second half. Ole Miss shot just 27.6 percent from the field in the frame, including 2 of 15 from 3-point range.
What’s next for LSU basketball?
LSU travels to Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Tuesday to face the Alabama Crimson Tide. Alabama beat LSU in the first meeting, topping the Tigers 74-66 on Jan. 13. Action is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. CT. The game will be televised by the SEC Network.