BATON ROUGE, La. — So much for LSU basketball being a second-half team.
After heading into halftime with a 10-point lead over Texas Southern, LSU floundered for much of the second half on the way to a 88-80 win over its under-.500, mid-major foe.
LSU trailed for 4:14 in the middle of the second half thanks to a combination of turnovers and fouls that plagued the Tigers early in the half. But LSU’s size advantage took over. The Tigers scored 40 points in the paint and blocked eight shots, five of which in the second half.
Junior forward Duop Reath led the way in scoring for LSU with 21 points, adding seven rebounds for good measure, but turned the ball over five times as well. Sophomore guard Antonio Blakeney started off hot, converting on three 3-pointers in the first 10 minutes of the game before eventually cooling down as the game went on.
Player of the Game: Duop Reath
Reath didn’t have much of a first half, mustering only two points and two rebounds despite LSU’s early success. But in the second half, the big man took over. Reath put up 19 points in the half, many of which as LSU was mounting its comeback.
Despite accumulating four fouls, Reath didn’t let the potential of fouling out take him out of his element. Reath was 1-for-1 from 3-point range, but other than that most, if not all, of his offensive success came inside the paint.
Stat of the Game: 14-for-17
Coming into the day, the LSU basketball team was shooting 60.9 percent from the free-throw line, a mark that ranked it 339th out of 351 Division I schools.
But, in Saturday’s close contest, the Tigers showed out from the stripe, converting on 82.4 percent of their attempts. Had the Tigers shot closer to their season average, that very well could’ve swung the outcome of this game the other way.
Kieran Hayward to Duop Reath for the dunk and the lead. pic.twitter.com/rDdjTbmca9
— Cody Worsham (@CodyWorsham) December 18, 2016
With 7:20 remaining in the second half, Reath dunked to make the score 69-68, seizing the lead back for LSU. But for as much credit as Reath deserves, the play was made possible by freshman Kieran Hayward.
On the defensive end, Hayward blocked a Texas Southern shot attempt, leading to a rebound by LSU forward Craig Victor. LSU charged back down the court and swung the ball to Hayward in the corner, who drew the defenders toward him before dishing to an open Reath under the net for the easy dunk.
Hayward played arguably his best game as a Tiger Saturday, accounting for eight points and three rebounds on a 3-for-4 shooting day.
What’s next for LSU basketball?
After taking Sunday off, the LSU basketball team will return to action Monday with a game against Charleston. Charleston and LSU faced off last season, and the Cougars embarrassed the Tigers, winning 70-58. The game will begin from the Pete Maravich Assembly Center at 7 p.m. CT and a stream can be found on SEC Network Plus.