Waters Has Highlight Night as Basketball def. Vandy
BATON ROUGE – The LSU Tiger basketball team won for the fifth straight time at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center and guard Tremont Waters set the freshman assist record for the season in LSU’s 88-78 win over Vanderbilt as the Tigers split the season series with the Commodores.
With the win, LSU assures itself of a winning regular season record with win No. 16 on the season (16-11) and the Tigers are now within one game of .500 in SEC play at 7-8. Vanderbilt drops to 11-17 and 5-10 on the year in the league.
With three more games in the midweek on Wednesday, LSU is now in ninth place by itself, and could find itself tied with Saturday’s opponent, Georgia, if the Bulldogs win at South Carolina.
Waters made 10-of-18 field goals, including three treys in scoring a game-high 28 points, but it was the nine assists that made him the new standard bearer for LSU freshman. He now has 160 for the season, passing the mark of 158 set by Ben Simmons in the 2015-16 campaign.
Wayde Sims, who got a “matchup” start as described by Coach Will Wade in place of Duop Reath, had 16 points (making all six field goal attempts), while Aaron Epps had 15 points and Skylar Mays made it double figures for the fourth straight game with 14.
It was Epps at the 17:38 mark who was on the receiving end of Waters’ eighth assist that moved him past Simmons. Waters drove for the goal and dropped the ball off to Epps who slammed it home to give LSU at that time a 46-35 lead.
LSU shot 62.5 percent for the game (30-of-48) that included making 15-of-20 shots in the second half (also 5-of-7 treys in the final 20 minutes). That is the best for the Tigers from the field in SEC play since the 63.0% LSU shot versus Auburn on Feb. 1, 2006.
LSU also doubled the Commodores, 42-20, in points in the paint.
Vandy hit 14 threes, but had to do it on 39 attempts as the Commodores shot 28-of-64 for the (43.8 percent). Riley LaChance and Jeff Roberson again had big night s for Vanderbilt as LaChance had 26 points with five treys, while Roberson had three-treys and 20 points. Saben Lee added 15.
Vanderbilt had its only lead of the game at 2-0 on a LaChance layup that opened the scoring at the 18:12 mark, but Mays got the game even and LSU scored the next six points to go up 6-2. The Tigers biggest first half lead came on a five-point segment of two buckets and a free throw by Waters that made the LSU advantage 31-22 with 5:04 to go in the half. Waters would hit a long three as time expired after 20 minutes to send LSU to the dressing room up 39-29.
The Tigers biggest lead came 1:05 out of the intermission on two free throws by Waters that followed a Mays trey that made it 44-29. The Vandy three kept the Commodores at the edge of getting back in the game, but LSU was able to answer when necessary to stay out front. The lead was cut to six on several occasions but couldn’t get any closer.
It marked the first league back-to-back wins for LSU since defeating Texas A&M and Arkansas on the road on Jan. 6 and Jan. 10. LSU defeated Missouri this past Saturday before the Tuesday win over Vandy.
The Tigers and Bulldogs will meet at 2 p.m. ET on Saturday at Stegeman Coliseum in Athens. Earlier in the year, the Bulldogs were one-point winners over LSU in the meeting in the Maravich Center.
LSU HEAD COACH WILL WADE
Opening statement …
“It was a good win. (Tremont) Waters played well. Obviously, (Wayde) Sims was the difference for us. I thought he was great. He allowed us to play smaller. I thought Randy (Onwuasor) did a good job defensively for us. Those guys played well and allowed us to play a small lineup to match their smaller lineup. We were efficient on offense. That goes without saying. I thought we were more aggressive. Our main goal going into this game was to make more free throws than they attempted, which we did. We still gave up a few too many offensive rebounds, but we pounded on them in the paint, which was good. All in all, it’s a good win, and we have a couple of days to recover and get ready to take this show on the road for a couple of weeks.”
On starting Wayde Sims …
“It was all the matchup. Duop (Reath) was healthy tonight. They were playing so small. It was going to be tough. When he was out there, we gave up four threes in the second half. They weren’t necessarily his fault. It’s just that we can’t rotate quick enough. We can’t move quick enough sometimes. It actually worked out perfectly. We won the game. We were able to rest him a little bit. We are obviously going to need him Saturday at Georgia. It’s not going to be a game where we can play small ball. The whole deal with starting (Wayde) Sims was to keep the matchup, and then, we put Randy (Onwuasor) in for him first. Sims was getting a little winded. He hasn’t played that much. It was a lot of minutes for him.”
On Wayde Sims‘ three-point to set the tone …
“It helped a ton. He’s hit threes in back-to-back games. He’s certainly making up for lost time, which is good. I’m proud of him. He’s been working hard. He’s coming back around, and that opens everything up when he plays like that. He was able to play behind the defense tonight, which is something we have been working on more just catching and simple finishes. He was really good for us tonight. He was the difference-maker for us.”
On breaking the LSU freshman assist record …
“Good job Ben Simmons. It is just a moment in my life that my parents and I worked really hard on. Just creating my character to be a giver. It just translates on the court. When I play basketball I just try to pass the ball.”
On his performance tonight …
“The entire coaching staff was telling me to come out and make plays because they knew, Vandy knew that I was going to try and come out and shoot. They told me to attack the paint and spray the ball out. That opened me up to make shots.”
On Tremont Waters being able to pass the ball so well …
“We are kind of used to it. We have high expectations for him. He is playing great ball.”
On playing defense really well the last couple of games …
“Just making defense a priority. Bringing energy to the team on the defensive end and get guys going. Let my defense get my offense going.”
On his mental approach to starting …
“I knew I was going to start the day before the game. I knew that Duop’s (Reath) ankle was kind of messed up and that I had to step up into his role.”
On how he saw his shot the rest of the night after his three pointer …
“After I made the three, I saw that they kind of respected it. It opened up the driving angle for the guards like Skylar and Tre. They were able to get into their lane a lot easier. Epps was also making his shots too.”
On preparing for Duop Reath not playing much tonight …
“We just had to give it our all basically. We just had to keep on going to the paint. We had to fill the hole that Duop leaves for us.”
Vanderbilt Head Coach Bryce Drew
Opening statement …
“Tremont Waters was sensational tonight. No doubt he was the difference in the game. He made a lot of great plays individually. We tried several different defenses and guys on him. He made a lot of great plays. Nine assists. You can’t key on him too much because he does a great job finding the open guy.”
On shooting 39 total three-pointers…
“We have to take what the defense gives us. Tonight, we played small a lot and we had really good looks out there. It would have been nice if we could have gotten hot and made four-out-of-five in stretches. We have been doing that at home. Unfortunately, we have not been able to break through on the road.”
On LSU’s play inside the paint on the offensive end…
“I think (Wayde) Sims had a really good game. He had 16 points. Was perfect except for one free throw he missed. I thought his three was a big three that he hit because it made us help a little bit off of him. I thought 14 (Randy Onwuasor) did a good job. He had a big three also. Those are guys that don’t usually make them and those were two big shots.”