Fresh off of dropping 52 points in the paint in a win over Rhode Island, LSU followed up with 34 points in the paint against Missouri State to help claim a 73-58 win over the Bears.
That's the way coach Will Wade wants his team to play after all. The way he doesn't want his team playing is allowing an opponent 15 offensive rebounds for 18 second chance points, a stat that kept the visiting Bears in the game all night.
"Our defensive rebounding was poor. Very, very poor. But 15 offensive. I thought our turnover number were great," Wade said. "I thought Javonte (Smart) had a great game - nine assists and one turnover - I thought that was tremendous. Tremendous floor game for Javonte. (Darius) Days obviously, 20 (points) and 10 (rebounds). He’s become so consistent for us. Emmitt (Williams), very, very consistent as well. Overall, I’m very, very pleased with the win."
In the first half, Missouri State was grabbing all of the 50/50 balls, compiling seven offensive rebounds leading to seven second chance points. LSU coach Will Wade was furious, particularly because the Tigers had opened the game so well.
Sophomore forward Emmitt Williams said he as well as Days, put a ton of pressure on themselves to win the rebound battle.
"One thing about me and Darius is that when it comes to rebounding, that’s on us, that’s our job," Williams said. "When we feel like we’re losing the rebounding battle, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves, like this is our job.”
After jumping out to an early 15-6 lead, the offensive rebounds let Missouri State right back into the game. It didn't help that the Tiger offense went on three separate scoring droughts of three minutes, two minutes and two minutes.
What really put a damper on the first half offensive efficiency was settling for outside jumpshots when LSU was dominating the paint. Of the Tigers 33 first half points, 16 came in the paint with a number of additional floaters falling just outside of the paint.
In fact, senior guard Skylar Mays was the only LSU player to knock down a three-pointer as the Tigers went 2-for-10 in the first half. It was the sharpshooting of Mays that kept LSU in control in the opening 20 minutes as he scored 10 of his 12 total points in the opening frame, including a stretch of eight straight.
The Bears continued to out physical LSU on the offensive glass but also tried beating the Tigers at their own game. Missouri State attacked the paint as 10 of its first 18 second half points came in the key, helping the Bears cut the Tiger lead to 49-45 with 12:04 to go.
Two steals in the span of 25 seconds from Mays and Charles Manning with 11 minutes remaining, turned into a huge momentum swing for LSU. Those two steals were the start of a 14-2 run for the Tigers that opened up a 14-point lead on the Bears.
"Those were huge. It allowed us to get the pace going," Wade said. "They (Missouri State) want to play in mud. They want you to play in quicksand with them where it’s just slow, slow, slow, slow, slow. We were able to get the pace going with those steals and our 22-press. It was able to give us a little breathing room that we could use the rest of the game. I thought those were huge, huge plays for us.”
The lead would never dip below nine points after that run as LSU put four players in double figures, with sophomore Darius Days leading the way with 20 points and 10 rebounds.
"I was just in the right place at the right time and my team was finding me," Days said. "Javonte (Smart) saw me in the corner, Skylar (Mays) saw me in the corner, Emmitt (Williams) got me a couple passes under the bucket. I was just in the right place.”
Up next, LSU hosts UNO on Tuesday with tip-off expected at 8 p.m. and will appear on SEC Network.