Balanced attack leads LSU past Gardner-Webb 78-57
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) Defense and rebounding have been two problem areas for LSU in the first month of the season.
That was not the case for the Tigers on Wednesday in their 78-57 victory against Gardner-Webb.
The 57 points LSU allowed were the fewest of the season. The Bulldogs made just 33 percent of their field goal attempts (19 of 57) - a season-low for a Tigers opponent.
In its two previous games, LSU had given up at least 100 points and allowed an opponent to shoot 51 percent from the field.
For just the third time this season, LSU (5-4) had an advantage on the boards. The Tigers outrebounded Gardner-Webb (4-7) 54-35. LSU outscored the Bulldogs 42-24 in the paint.
''Our guys did a terrific job transitioning from Sunday in the practices we've had and the things we've tried to key on,'' LSU coach Johnny Jones said. ''We were a much improved team defensively. We wanted to lock in on rebounding. Winning the war on the boards by 19 was an impressive number.''
Keith Hornsby was one of five Tigers players to score in double figures. Ben Simmons and Antonio Blakeney each had 11 points, while both Aaron Epps and Craig Victor came off the bench to score 10 points.
''Defense is the main thing we've been working on,'' Hornsby said. ''We were really an outright better defensive team tonight than we were at Houston. That's clear for anyone to see. Tonight was a great example of rebounding tenacity.''
Harold McBride was the lone double-figure scorer for Gardner-Webb with 19 points. The Bulldogs were averaging 77 points per game prior to Wednesday.
''We struggled offensively particularly in the first half,'' Gardner-Webb coach Tim Craft said. ''We struggled to find a rhythm. LSU did a good job defensively forcing us into some tough shots. Their length bothered us around the rim.''
Gardner-Webb, which shot 24 percent from the field in the first half, had four field goals in the first 17 minutes. The Tigers outrebounded the Bulldogs 31-16 in the opening 20 minutes.
LSU took a 42-23 lead into halftime with little scoring from either Simmons or Tim Quarterman. Simmons, who played just ten minutes because of foul trouble, had two points. Quarterman's only points came on a 3-point play with six seconds left before halftime.
The Tigers grabbed control during a seven-minute stretch of the first half. LSU held Gardner-Webb to two points on two free throws and the Tigers scored 18 points to go ahead 35-12 with 5:54 before halftime. Epps and Brandon Sampson each had six of the 18 points.
Gardner-Webb started slowly after halftime as it did not score until McBride made a 3-pointer almost five minutes into the second half. LSU scored the first six points of the half on two baskets by Simmons and one by Hornsby to go ahead 48-23.
The Bulldogs made a late run as the Tigers went four minutes without a field goal. Gardner-Webb outscored LSU 11-3 to pull within 13 points at 68-55 with 3:53 remaining. Hornsby ended the field goal drought with a basket at the 3:11 mark.
Gardner-Webb: The Bulldogs have been beaten by three Southeastern Conference teams. Gardner-Webb lost games to Vanderbilt 98-62 and Tennessee 89-64. The Bulldogs' average margin of defeat in those three games was 27.3 points.
LSU: The Tigers had their best defensive and rebounding game of the young season. LSU allowed a season-low 57 points and held Gardner-Webb to a season-low 33 percent shooting from the field. The Tigers had allowed more than 100 points in their two previous games. LSU had a 54-35 rebounding margin - its largest of the season.
Ben Simmons registered double figures in both points and rebounds for the seventh consecutive game and for the eighth time this season. Simmons finished with 11 points and 12 rebounds. He was 5 of 12 from the field and 1 of 3 at the foul line. Simmons also handed out four assists.
Tyrell Nelson, Gardner-Webb's top scorer and rebounder, had his problems against LSU. Guarded primarily by Simmons, Nelson had just seven points and six rebounds. Entering the night, Nelson was averaging 14 points and seven rebounds per game. Nelson, who didn't make a field goal until midway through the second half, was 2 of 7 from the field.
Gardner-Webb plays Warren Wilson at home Friday.
LSU hosts Oral Roberts on Saturday.