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LSU Offense Fuels Team in 79-67 Win Over No. 18 Tennessee

Tigers have most efficient night of conference play in highly touted defensive matchup with Volunteers

This game was marked as a defensive war but instead LSU had its most efficient offensive night of conference play in a 79-67 win over No. 18 Tennessee.

LSU (14-1, 2-1) would shoot 47% from the floor and 44% from three in a night largely defined by the Tigers' shot making ability and well executed offense. But that's not how the game would begin.

The game started about as you'd expect two elite defensive teams going head-to-head would look. Neither offense got into much of a rhythm with the team's starting a combined 6-of-21 from the field. The Tigers weren't getting many clean looks early while Tennessee was missing a few open ones to allow the score to stay tied 11-11. 

That's when LSU made its first big push by, surprise, allowing its defense to fuel its offense. The Tigers would go on to score 13 of the next 17 points in a three minute span, including an 8-0 run in all of 53 seconds to really put the pressure on Tennessee and get the crowd to its highest peak of the game.  

A big story in the first half that became painfully clear in the final 10 minutes was the disparity in foul calls as the Tigers racked up 14 in the first half to Tennessee's seven. At one point after back-to-back offensive fouls, Will Wade and Rick Barnes even exchanged looks, with Wade throwing his hands up in bewilderment.

The Volunteers would shoot 19 free throws to LSU's eight in the opening 20 minutes so for the Tigers to lead by seven at the break was a minor miracle. Much of it had to do with LSU's shooting, knocking in six threes and going 53% from the field in the opening half. 

Offensively, every player had a hand in the efficient offense down the stretch as the Tigers knocked down 14 of their final 21 shots to seize control.  

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"I thought we took great threes, great shots, did a good job of getting to the rim. Our offense has looked as good it has in a long time," Wade said. "We're capable of that. To put 79 on the second best defensive team in the country, we're capable of that."

With five players having at least two fouls at the break, it was imperative that the Tigers came out and didn't pick up any unnecessary fouls to open the second half. Wade made a genius move to start Tari Eason in the second half and it paid off in a big way.

LSU jumped out to a 18-7 advantage in the first four minutes, highlighted by 11 of Eason's 24 total for the game coming in that stretch. The Tigers were able to stretch the lead to 60-42 behind well executed offense and equally dominant defense, with Eason and Darius Days combining for the first 18 points of the second half for LSU. 

In addition to Eason's 24 and 12 rebounds, Days would add 15 and Brandon Murray chipped in 13 more. The lead ballooned up to as many as 20 in the second half but Tennessee would make a run as turnovers and fouls would help the Volunteers get with striking distance down to five points late in the half. 

"Being in the flow of the game, picking my open spots in transition, stuff like that," Eason said of his comfortability on the floor. "I feel like every high schooler dreams of going up against the blue bloods, for me it was Kentucky. I just wanted to come out and show up in both of these games.

"He's a great player, we knew that when we recruited him, he's doing great things," Wade said. "He's only going to continue to get better. I was getting off the treadmill this morning and he was in a full sweat coming off a workout. Our guys work and that leads to winning."

Senior guard Xavier Pinson would also go down with a serious leg injury during that stretch, leaving the PMAC deathly silent. Immediately after the game, Wade said that the initial prognosis on Pinson's knee is good, with a matter of days to a week before a return is possible. 

The Tigers will now have a quick turnaround when they travel to Florida on Jan. 12.