Behind the phenomenal scoring efforts of freshman Cam Thomas and junior Darius Days, LSU controlled its SEC opener against Texas A&M from start to finish, knocking off the Aggies 77-54.
Thomas would finish the game with 32 points while Days tacked on 18 more with 10 rebounds including six on the offensive end. With a career-high 29 points, the freshman out of Virginia also became the first SEC player in 25 years to open his career with seven straight games of 15 or more points according to ESPN's Stats and Info.
“It was my first SEC game, and I was hyped up.I felt like I was ready for the challenge, regardless of the award,” Thomas said. “It was a great night for me. I prepared very well. I was very confident in what I came in to do.”
“Just my preparation and rhythm. I am getting a better rhythm. For my preparation, I’ve been shooting shots before the game and in practice. I’ve just been getting shots up on my own, so I feel like I’m in more of a rhythm now than I was the past few games.”
LSU (6-1, 1-0) held Texas A&M to just 38% shooting while knocking down an efficient 47% of its own shots to dictate the flow of the game. While the offense was efficient and the duo of Thomas and Days were fantastic individually, it was the team effort on defense that also stood out in this one.
Heading into the game, there were two areas coach Will Wade said would be a point of emphasis, keeping the Aggies off the glass and limiting turnovers. Texas A&M came in No. 9 in the country in forced turnover rate and on Tuesday evening forced just 10 LSU turnovers while committing 13 of its own.
As far as rebounds, the Tigers were without one of their more efficient rebounders, Shareef O'Neal, who was wearing a walking boot on the bench and didn't play. LSU did surrender 11 rebounds on the offensive glass but was able to pick up 15 on its own end to help offset the high number for Texas A&M.
The Tigers were also able to outscore the Aggies on second chance points 21-8 and match Texas A&M's 30 points in the paint.
It was a defensive slugfest in the first eight minutes of the game as neither team was able to get into much of a rhythm for the first stretch of the game. Both teams went right into full court presses off a make and the defensive physicality kept both offenses on its heels.
A 17-2 run sparked by four triples from Days and Thomas helped LSU gain a little separation in the first half. The duo was the driving force of the LSU offense predicated on great ball movement and dropped 26 of LSU's 41 first half points as a result.
Carrying a 41-27 halftime lead into the break, the scorching shooting of Thomas only continued as LSU was able to quickly build out a 16-point lead in the first few minutes of the half. LSU's defense remained on lockdown as the Aggies couldn't get anything to fall on a consistent basis to get themselves back into it.
LSU now has four days to prepare for a Saturday afternoon battle in the Swamp against Florida.
“Good win. I thought we played much better. Our defense was better. I thought we kept the ball in front, we guarded the ball better than we have,” Wade said. “I thought we rebounded pretty well. We gave up some offensive rebounds in the first half but they did a great job of tipping them out. We had our guards coming down and they tipped them out from where our guards would be so they chased some things long and loose. I thought Darius Days played great, obviously Cam [Thomas] was tremendous.