As the Tigers continue getting more and more comfortable, it’s clear Coach Will Wade’s message is energy defensively. In Friday night’s Emerald Coast Classic showdown against the Penn State Nittany Lions, their defense is what set the tone and pushed them over the top.
Handling the veteran heavy Nittany Lions 68-63 in a thrilling overtime victory, it was the Tari Eason show. Totaling 20 points and nine rebounds for the Tigers, Eason was a mismatch for Penn State all night. Giving the Tigers second chance buckets and getting to the basket when his shot wasn’t falling, Eason was the clear X-factor for LSU Friday night.
Coming out the gate to start the first half, the Tigers shot an abysmal 28% from the field in the first half, but let their defense keep them in it. Coach Wade has made it clear this year’s team is different when it comes to that end of the floor. Letting their defense create offense has been their main way of getting buckets.
Floor general Xavier Pinson came up big in crunch time for the Tigers to close out the second half, carrying his energy into overtime. Drilling a big time three down the stretch and getting to the basket all game, Pinson was creative all night, giving the Nittany Lions different looks each possession.
Penn State forward Seth Lundy was quiet all night but found himself in the right place at the right time with under three seconds left, hitting a clutch second chance bucket to send the game to overtime.
In overtime, Coach Wade went with Eason over senior Darius Days to start the extra period. It just wasn’t Days’ night Friday, making it a no-brainer to give Eason the nod, who was clearly the best player on the floor for the Tigers.
The Nittany Lions showed their age against a young LSU team, starting four seniors. One of the oldest teams in the nation, they kept their composure as the Tigers made run after run, consistently hitting tough buckets down the stretch.
Led by Jalen Pickett with 14 points and five threes, the senior was lethal from beyond the arc, giving this team the boost they needed to stay in the game against a fiery Tigers unit. Competing on both ends of the floor and staying patient on offense, it slowed down the Tigers pace, which is what has given them so much success through the first five games.
Coach Wade has this team clicking on all cylinders and it was evident once the overtime period tipped off. Not letting a fluke play to send the game to overtime waver their confidence, this young roster put their heads down and competed all the way to the very end.
Despite a rough showing from Days, this team picked up the slack and made plays at the right time. With Eason and Pinson leading the way, it was contributions all around that kept the Tigers afloat to come out with the hard-fought victory.
Finding success in these early season tournaments was a preaching point for Wade last he spoke with the media. LSU will now await the winner of the Wake Forest-Oregon State for a Saturday showdown to try and win the tournament.