It was a different kind of slugfest that LSU basketball hadn't yet faced in the PMAC but late lockdown defense was enough to earn a 66-51 non-conference win over Ohio.
LSU's (8-0) method when it comes to games in the PMAC has been pretty consistent but broke rhythm against Ohio on Wednesday night. The game has usually included large swings in the Tigers favor where the team is able to just coast for most of the game, only this time the big run came right at the beginning.
Last week Will Wade preached the importance of starting fast, something his team really wasn't able to do in Florida in the Tigers two wins over Penn State in Wake Forest.
But that all changed as LSU came out showing the elite defense that had got them to an undefeated start. In fact it reached the 11:26 mark of the first half before Ohio was able to put a point on the board, missing its first 12 shots from the field as LSU opened up an early 14-0 advantage. The Tigers were able to open up a 29-11 advantage at one point in the first half but Ohio would go on its run.
It's getting hard to describe in words the kind of impact off the bench transfer Tari Eason is having for this team. The immediate spark he provides when coming into the game on both ends of the floor makes it hard to keep Eason off the floor. He'd finish with 20 points while Darius Days would tack on 12 points and 13 rebounds for the contest.
Eason and team defense were the two biggest difference makers for the purple and gold, who struggled on offense most of the night. The Tigers shot 46% for the game but pounded the paint down the stretch leading to a successful final eight minutes on offense.
"We trusted our game and trusted that if we got to the rim, got paint touches and spread it out, shots would eventually fall," Eason said.
As the first 20 minutes wore on, LSU became a little too trigger happy from three point range, going 3-of-14 in the first half. Long rebounds off those misses perimeter shots led to transition opportunities for Ohio, allowing the Bobcats to claw their way back into the game a bit, leaving LSU a 34-22 halftime advantage.
The woes would continue offensively heading into the second half as Ohio would open the half on a 15-3 run all on three pointers to tie the game at 37-37. After leading by 18 at the 5:05 mark of the first half, LSU would proceed to miss 13 of its next 15 shots, allowing Ohio the angle to get back in the game.
"We've got a lot of work to do on offense," Wade said. "We've gotta work on our offense, our ball movement, our ball sticks and poor on offense. The 17 turnovers, we don't value each possession, we don't shoot it well. We don't even get shots off on our possessions. They shot 68 balls, we shot 49. You're not winning that way, this is not sustainable."
It became clear LSU was trying to steer clear of the three point line in the second half and Ohio clogged the lane as a result. In need of some kind of spark, LSU relied on its defense to stop the bleeding and was able to conjure up enough offense to go on an 10-2 run and regain control. Once again it was active hands and good rotation on defense that forced Ohio into some tough looks.
LSU now gets 10 days in between games with the Tigers next matchup coming on Dec. 11 against Georgia Tech in the Holiday Hoopsgiving.
"We've had some slippage in some areas and it hasn't been noticeable because we've been winning and I need to get to this break to fix everything. We're gonna have a helluva reset on Saturday," Wade said. "I'll get it fixed."