A captivating second-half performance from freshman Cam Thomas wasn't enough for LSU to overcome as the Tigers dropped their first game of the season to Saint Louis 85-81.
LSU was able to dominate the paint behind a stellar performance from Trendon Watford and a second-half explosion from freshman guard Cam Thomas. The Tigers received a combined 49 points from the two with both Thomas and Watford hitting coming through in the clutch too keep LSU close.
A turning point in the game was a four-point play by the true freshman Thomas with LSU down 10 points and 8:37 to play. That put a spark in the Tigers offense as Thomas went on to drill another three to spark a 14-5 run to cut the Saint Louis lead to three with five minutes to play.
After picking up two quick fouls in the first half, Thomas nor the LSU offense was able to get in much of a rhythm.
"It's no coincidence our offense bogged down in the first half when he isn't out there," Wade said of Thomas. "When he's out there you have to account for him which opens up the driving lanes and just opens everything up for our team. We learned some things and we can use him better moving forward."
Watford controlled the paint while Thomas got hot from the outside after a struggle in the first half. LSU was able to control the paint in the final frame, scoring 26 points to get the offense going. The team also forced 10 second-half Saint Louis turnovers which turned into 12 points on the other end.
But while Thomas and Watford were dominating on one end, the Tigers has no answers for Saint Louis guard Javonte Perkins. The Billikens' guard dropped 32 points on the Tigers including four triples and a perfect 8-for-8 from the free throw line to close the Tigers out.
"We gave ourselves a chance to win at the end, we just couldn't get the stop," Wade said. "It was a good game between two high level teams, we've obviously got some work to do."
The issues in guarding the three continued, however, as the Billikens torched the Tigers on 8-of-13 from beyond the arc in the second-half to keep their distance and never lose the lead. Wade said that because of the defense they run, the team will be susceptible to surrendering more threes and that what he was disappointed with were the 12 layups the team gave up on the afternoon.
Neither team could get much of anything going in the first 10 minutes of the game but a red hot start from junior guard Javonte Smart, who dropped 13 of LSU's first 19 points of the game, kept the Tigers afloat.
The Billikens were able to find a little bit of a rhythm when pushing the ball in transition, going on an 16-2 run as LSU's offense remained in a rut. That run created a nine point advantage that LSU would spend the final minutes of the half trying to cut into but just couldn't find much consistency in its offense.
The Tigers did a nice job of scoring out in transition but the half court offense at times looked very discombobulated in the opening 20 minutes. Smart and Watford combined to score 23 of the team's 28 first half points.
That trend would continue in the second-half but freshman Cam Thomas started to get going a bit. While not finding the touch from the outside, Thomas began relying on his ability to get to the rim and finish, scoring 21 of his 25 points in the second half.
LSU will now return to Baton Rouge with some work to do on its three-point defense and closeouts with Southeastern on Monday in the PMAC at 7 p.m.