Simmons powers LSU past Auburn, 80-68 with all-around game
AUBURN, Ala. (AP) Ben Simmons made sure he took more than seven shots this time. He did just about everything else offensively, too.
Simmons, LSU's fabulous freshman, piled up 21 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists to lead the Tigers to an 80-68 victory over Auburn Tuesday night.
He took charge early coming off a 77-75 loss to Oklahoma when Simmons went 6-of-7 shooting, a strong but not dominant performance.
''I just wanted to be more aggressive and attack the rim more,'' he said. ''I know usually when I take shots they fall. Just looking at stats from previous games, when I shot more than seven shots we win games.
''I knew coming out and being able to attack the rim and put shots up, it would help the team.''
LSU (14-8, 7-2 Southeastern Conference) built up a 21-point second-half lead and handed Auburn (9-12, 3-6) it fourth consecutive loss.
Simmons made 9 of 15 shots for his 16th double-double in points and rebounds. Craig Victor had 13 points and eight rebounds for LSU while Josh Gray and Keith Hornsby scored 10 points apiece.
Bryce Brown led Auburn with 18 points, all on 6-of-13 shooting from 3-point range. Cinmeon Bowers added 15 points while Kareem Canty scored 14.
LSU was lights out shooting, hitting 34 of 60 field goals (56.7 percent).
Simmons took over at times in this one and was downright dominant in the first half. LSU coach Johnny Jones said that wasn't necessarily the game plan for his star player.
''I think it was the way the game flowed,'' Jones said. ''I think Ben's always aggressive, and he gets after it. He's done a great job of taking advantage of opportunities for us. When the defense gives him opportunities, especially in the open floor, he's great at attacking. And tonight he saw those opportunities and I thought he was able to make those plays early.''
LSU scored six straight points to take a 70-49 lead on a tip-in by Victor with 8 minutes left. Auburn cut it to 10 points on Jordon Granger's 3-pointer with 1:25 to play but couldn't mount any real threat.
Simmons and Tim Quarterman combined to propel LSU to a 12-point lead in the first half. Simmons scored seven straight points, then Hornsby scored on a layup. Quarterman's dunk and a 3-pointer that just beat the shot clock gave LSU a 36-24 lead.
Canty scored five straight points, then had a steal and delivered it to Bowers for a dunk to make it 38-31 at the half.
Auburn had no answer defensively for Simmons.
''Our game plan was to try to wall him off and get him to take contested shots,'' Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. ''We never really did wall him off. He was able to go by and get to the rim and get too close.
''I thought we could have done a better job defensively with him, building that wall and making him take contested shots.''
Simmons' biggest highlight might have come far from the basket. He collected a rebound on one second-half possession, took the ball up the court, then brought it all the way around his back in motion to deliver the ball to Victor for a layup. He did commit six turnovers to mar a performance that flirted with a triple double.
''At the end I was aware, but I'm just happy with the win,'' Simmons said.
LSU: Improved to 3-2 in SEC road games. ... Outrebounded Auburn 43-32.
AUBURN: Shot 23 of 63 from the floor (36.5 percent). ... Attempted 34 3-pointers, making 10.
At one point in the first half, Simmons scored 15 of LSU's 18 points. He had 17 points and nine rebounds by halftime.
Auburn post players Tyler Harris and Bowers both struggled. Bowers, who was coming off a one-game suspension for conduct detrimental to the team, made 3 of 14 shots. He was 8 of 16 from the free throw line. Harris scored nine points on 3-of-7 shooting.
LSU: hosts Mississippi State on Saturday.
Auburn: at Georgia on Saturday.