Williams Leads Men's Basketball Past Vanderbilt, 84-77
KJ Williams leads TIgers with 35 points and 10 boards.
BATON ROUGE – KJ Williams scored 35 points, hit five treys and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead a strong team effort as LSU upset Vanderbilt, 84-77, Wednesday at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
Adam Miller hit 18 points as well for the Tigers in the winning effort as LSU won for the first time in 2023.
LSU ups its mark to 13-15 and 2-13 in the league with Vanderbilt dropping to 15-13 and 8-7 in the SEC.
The Tigers scored over 80 points for the first time since mid-December when they scored 89 against Winthrop. LSU controlled the game after Vanderbilt started quickly and would end up leading for just shy of 29 minutes.
Williams found buckets both inside and out for LSU, hitting 13-of-25 shots, including 5-of-10 from the arc and 4-of-6 at the free throw line. He also posted his seventh double double at LSU and the 34th of his career.
It equaled the second highest scoring game of his career and equaled his best game at LSU (35 he scored in Atlanta versus Wake Forest). It was the seventh double double of his career and the 34th of his career.
Even though Vanderbilt jumped out to a 9-2 lead 3:30 into the game, there was a sense this might be a different night for LSU. The Tigers would take a 19-18 lead at the 9:47 mark of the half on a Jalen Reed layup as part of a 13-0 run that would give LSU a 28-18 advantage with 6:48 to go in the first half.
LSU would lead at intermission, 39-32.
The toughest moment in the second half came early when Vanderbilt got three straight buckets in the paint to close the LSU lead to 39-38 with 17:41 remaining in the game. LSU missed a three-pointer, had a shot blocked and missed two layups.
The teams began trading points and Vanderbilt would take a 49-48 lead with 12:42 to play on a three-pointer by Trey Thomas. Miller would hit a jumper to give LSU a 50-49 lead and Vandy added a free throw to tie the game at 50-50 with 11:57 to play.
LSU would then score the next six points on a Williams offensive rebound and bucket, a Miller layup and a Williams jumper. Both of the last two came off Vanderbilt turnovers and LSU lead 56-50 with 10:20 to play.
The Commodores would get no closer than three once as LSU opened as much as an 11-point advantage with 4:17 to play and was able to celebrate in their home building for the first time since Dec. 28.
Vanderbilt was led by Liam Robbins with another outstanding game for the Commodores with 23 points, 11 rebounds and nine blocks. Robbins hit 6-of-14 shots, including 2-of-5 from three-point range and 9-of-15 at the free throw line.
Tyrin Lawrence hit 8-of-12 and 2 threes in getting 19 points while Thomas and Colin Smith each had 11 points.
LSU shot 45 percent for the game (27-of-60) with nine treys and 21-of-27 at the free throw line (77.8%), while Vandy finished at 44.1 percent (26-of-59) with 11 treys and 14-of-23 at the line (60.9%).
Both teams shot over 50 percent in the final 20 minutes after neither team topped 40 percent in the first 20 minutes. Vandy was 16-of-27 for 59.3 percent and 5-of-10 from distance, while LSU made 14-of-26 shots in the half (53.8%) with three treys and 14-of-17 free throws.
LSU out rebounded Vandy, 40-35, and for the second straight game had single digit turnovers with just seven.
The Tigers now travel Saturday to Oxford to take on Ole Miss in a 7:30 p.m. game at the Pavilion at Ole Miss. The game will be broadcast on the affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network and televised on the SEC Network.
LSU vs. Vanderbilt
LSU Head Coach Matt McMahon
“Great win for our team tonight. Really proud of our players. I loved the process we went through these last 48 hours; I thought the preparation was really good. I thought our guys played with great energy. I thought we had a really good shoot around that carried over into tonight. Really felt like we had a team out there tonight and it was a lot of fun to watch. The guys were really locked in to do the things we needed to do to have success. Obviously, KJ (Williams), his performance was off the charts, 35 and 10. I thought Adam Miller getting to the free-throw line 10 times was huge. 18 points there. Then I just think there were some other stats that have really been missing for us of late. You know, Trae Hannibal didn’t take a shot tonight, but he had the highest plus/minus in the game of any player. Juice Hill, four-to-one assist to turnover ratio, had the second-highest plus/minus in the game tonight. We have been challenging our players, this is where you find out what you are made of. It’s been a difficult stretch. Happy for our guys to come in here and play well and find a way to win tonight.”
On the team being locked in tonight…
“The streak is something we certainly don’t spend much time talking about, we try to focus on doing the things that we need to do to play better and to get better as a team and find ways to win. I thought our players were really locked into that. One thing that stands out, I thought Vanderbilt really punched us in the face there to start the second half, three-straight drives to get it down to one. They went on another run in the second half and our guys responded both times. Often times when you are going through a losing stretch, sometimes you just find another way to lose, and I thought out guys were really dialed in to doing the things necessary to win the game. Only seven turnovers, 15 assists on our 27 made baskets, so we were over 2:1 there. Really solid on the glass. Got to the free-throw line and converted. We looked back at Saturday’s game where we got to the free-throw line 10 times more than our opponent and we got outscored by three. Tonight, we were plus seven at free-throw line. So, credit to our players.”
On the matchup of KJ and Liam Robbins…
“It was a little bit of a chess match there, from the standpoint of, I thought coming into the game (Liam) Robbins was playing as well as anyone in America in the month of February, he was one block short of a triple double tonight. He was fantastic. He makes it so difficult to score around the rim, so we wanted to be able to get KJ (Williams) in space on the perimeter for some threes and try to pull Robbins away from the goal. I thought our guards really executed that well and then KJ has got to step up and knock them down. which he did. He hit some huge shots there in the second half.”
LSU Player Quotes
LSU forward KJ Williams
On finally getting the win…
“It’s just us staying the course. We went on a long losing streak and us coming out tonight with the energy and the preparation it took for us these last two days, we took it to heart and we came out with the mindset that no matter what, we were gonna get this win. Credit to my teammates, they were locked in today and we broke the streak.”
On scoring 20 of the teams 33 points after LSU took a one-point lead…
“Credit to my teammates for finding me. Also, the coaches drawing up plays for me to get wide-open shots looking at the defense because there was a lot of space out there. It’s just something we’ve got to attack. Of course, when you see a lot of space why not attack it. Credit to my teammates, they found me in the open spots and I knocked them down.”
LSU guard Adam Miller
On finally getting the win…
“We locked in. It was a different kind of energy at shootaround and practice this week. My team, we never really ever laid down, ever. We couldn’t get any lucky ones. I feel like this one, we grinded it out and we deserved to win this one. It’s hard when you can’t get those 50/50 games and certain situations don’t go your way. I just want to give kudos to my team, my coaches because it’s easy to lay down right now and we didn’t do that.”
On KJ Williams scoring 20 of the teams 33 points after LSU took a one-point lead…
“I think he hit one, it was far out and I was like ‘yeah this man is going crazy’. I expect him to do that though. I’ve seen him do that. The way they were covering our action, I thought he is just going to keep knocking it down, y’all better do something different but they didn’t really do anything different…. When you talk about 4’s and 5’s that can shoot the ball, he’s one of the best out there. He got hot … and it was just fun because we got a win and he carried us today.”
Vanderbilt HC Jerry Stackhouse
“Yeah, obviously it was a disappointing loss for us. We knew this was a dangerous team coming in, and we knew that they had some weapons, and those weapons hurt us. Adam Miller was a guy that we talked about, and he had a great game, but KJ Williams, he was special for them tonight. I thought we lacked toughness on the boards. I thought we played pretty good defense early on, but we allowed them to get nine offensive rebounds early in that first half, that kind of set the tone for the night. We scored enough points, you know? I thought we did good offensively, but we did not get the stops we needed in the second half, and that was the difference in the game.”
On his message to the team after the loss…
“Well, we just have to pick ourselves up, find a way to finish out strong. I think we need to win out, we cannot look past this weekend. We must come back and win that game (vs. Florida) at home, we have to protect that game at home, and then we have what will be a great opportunity to go to Kentucky and get one there. I think the message is to still try to win out. Hopefully, we get to the SEC Tournament, and we can have a good run there. There is a lot of basketball left for us, but we are obviously disappointed to lose this one tonight. It’s disappointing but it’s not the end of the world. We just ran into a guy that was special tonight (KJ Williams).”