BATON ROUGE, La. — LSU concluded a successful first regular season under coach Will Wade, knocking off Mississippi State 78-57 in the 2017-18 finale at Pete Maravich Assembly Center on Saturday afternoon.
Though it was senior day, it may not be the final time the Tigers play at home this season. LSU is in solid position to host at least one game in the NIT, and an opening-round win at next week’s SEC tournament would make that outcome a likely one.
LSU (17-13, 8-10 SEC) probably needs to win the SEC tournament to earn a trip to the NCAA tourney, but this season can only be considered a success even if that accomplishment is not realized. The Tigers bounced back from one of the most dismal seasons in school history (10-21, 2-16) to a likely postseason berth.
Things are poised to improve in rapid fashion as LSU’s incoming recruiting class is rated third in the country.
LSU’s 3 Keys to Victory
- Red-hot shooting: The Tigers were 52 percent from the field, putting the game out of reach by making eight of their last nine shots.
- It’s raining 3s: LSU drained 11 3-pointers, led by senior Aaron Epps’ four treys. Walk-on Reed Vial even got in on the fun, hitting a late 3 that drew a massive eruption from the home crowd in his final home game.
- Bench scoring: Led by Sampson, LSU dominated in bench scoring. The Tigers outscored the Bulldogs 29-7 on bench points.
LSU Player of the Game: Brandon Sampson
Brandon Sampson was the spark LSU needed off the bench, tying Aaron Epps with a game-high 16 points. Notably, Sampson settled the Tigers down at the free-throw line. LSU began that game a rough 3-for-7 from the line, but Sampson drained all 7 of his free throws.
Sampson made arguably the most important play of the game, an offensive rebound and put-back while getting fouled with 10:01 remaining. His free throw finished off a three-point play that extended LSU’s lead to 55-47. From there, the Tigers never looked back.
Teammates mob Reed Vial after late 3
Teammates mob little-used Reed Vial at the end of LSU’s 78-57 win over Mississippi State. Vial drained a late 3 in his final game. pic.twitter.com/4l0BbsEXk0
— Alex Hickey (@bigahickey) March 3, 2018
Reed Vial will be joining the LSU coaching staff as a graduate assistant next season, but he got in one last moment of glory as a player Saturday afternoon.
Vial brought down the house when he drained a 3-pointer with 12 seconds to play. The walk-on came into the game with 1 career point, but scored 5 against the Bulldogs.
“It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish,” joked teammate Tremont Waters.
Coach Will Wade loved his team’s reaction to Vial’s shot. All of the Tigers mobbed the Baton Rouge native right after the final horn.
“We wanted him to have that moment,” Wade said. “We wanted to have a big enough lead to put him in at the end. It shows how close our guys are. They wanted to make sure he got a look and make sure he got a shot. For him to bury it, that was great.”
LSU-Mississippi State box score