COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) — LSU arrived to Texas A&M earlier than usual for a road conference game, thanks to the Tigers football team.
“We got here early (Monday) since they had canceled class, which is good,” LSU coach Will Wade said.
It turns out the Tigers needed the extra rest. Trendon Watford and Skylar Mays each scored 19 points and LSU defeated Texas A&M 89-85 in overtime on Tuesday night.
“We found a way,” Wade said.
The victory came on the heels of the football team’s triumph over Clemson in the national championship game on Monday night in New Orleans, which the LSU basketball team watched intently from College Station.
Javonte Smart started Tuesday’s overtime with a 3-pointer on LSU’s first possession, and Watford made a short jumper in the lane to lift the Tigers to an 86-83 lead with 1:25 remaining. The Aggies’ Wendell Mitchell missed a 3-point attempt with 17 seconds remaining and two Mays free throws sealed the Tigers victory.
“LSU is the most talented team we’ve played, the most physical team we’ve played and the fastest team we’ve played,” first-year A&M coach Buzz Williams said.
Andre Gordon sank a 3-pointer with 2:27 remaining in regulation to shove the Aggies to a 77-71 lead, but LSU’s Marshall Graves and Smart each sank 3-pointers in a 28-second span to tie the game at 79-all to force overtime.
The Aggies (8-7, 2-2 Southeastern) entered the game having held league opponents to 50 points or less in consecutive games for the first time since 2007. LSU (12-4, 4-0 Southeastern) had reached 50 points less than halfway through the second half – and it wound up being key to the outcome.
LSU has won five consecutive games in the series, including Williams’ debut against the rival Tigers as A&M coach. Josh Nebo led the Aggies with 20 points and nine rebounds.
The Tigers jumped to a 16-point lead in the first half thanks to hot shooting from Watford and Smart, who scored a dozen points each in the first 20 minutes. LSU also outrebounded A&M 23-13 in that span.
“There are no moral victories, we’ve got to come out in the first half better,” Nebo said. “There’s a lot of room for improvement, and closing out a game.”
But the Aggies, typically poor shooters from the outside, hung around in the first half in large part because of two 3-pointers each from Savion Flagg, Mitchell and Gordon, and the Tigers led 42-32 at the break.
STAT OF THE NIGHT
Mays had as many turnovers (seven) as the entire A&M team. The Tigers, who entered the game averaging 13.4 turnovers per game, finished with 19.
The Tigers already are receiving votes in the Top 25, and if they keep pulling off road victories like Tuesday’s they’re sure to soon shove their way in.
HE SAID IT
“Have you been to Louisiana? It will be, oh, shoot, all month? Until Mardi Gras. We party to the next party.”
Will Wade when asked if the partying was continuing in LSU’s home state following the football game.
LSU: The Tigers lost consecutive games to East Tennessee State and Southern Cal just before Christmas, but they’ve been on a roll since. And their Tuesday victory, in wiping out a late deficit, will only help their confidence surging forward.
Texas A&M: After the Aggies lost consecutive games to Harvard, Temple and Fairfield in the Orlando (Fla.) Invitational in late November and early December, it appeared they might not win a league game. Williams has his team believing in his strict system, however, and why the Aggies are even in games like the one on Tuesday.
The Tigers play at Mississippi on Saturday.
The Aggies host South Carolina on Saturday.
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