MEMPHIS, Tenn. — After playing even with Memphis in the first half, LSU pulled away by relying on good shooting and a successful percentage from 3-point range.
LSU (9-3) shot better than 60 percent through a good portion of the second half, made 50 percent of its 3-pointers for the game, and defeated Memphis 71-61 on Thursday night.
Tremont Waters had 18 points and eight assists and Skylar Mays added 14 points as LSU used the torrid second-half shooting display to build a double-digit lead. Mays fueled the rally with a trio of 3-pointers that contributed to 12 straight LSU points, breaking open a game that was tied 36-all at intermission.
“I thought Mays got us going to start the second half,” first-year LSU coach Will Wade said. “We run some pretty intricate stuff with handoffs and stuff, but at halftime, we just said: ‘let’s scrap that.’ All we do is try to get the ball back to Tremont anyway, so he can go make a play.”
As good as LSU was from outside the arc, Memphis struggled, particularly in the second half, missing 12 of 13 shots from 3-point range.
“We got some good looks,” Memphis coach Tubby Smith said, later adding: “You’ve got to make those open shots.”
The win was LSU’s third straight and sixth in the last seven. Brandon Sampson added 12 points for the Tigers.
Memphis (9-4) lost for the first time at home this season. The Tigers were led by the 17 points and 11 rebounds of Kyvon Davenport. Jeremiah Martin scored 13 points to go with six assists, while Jimario Rivers, who missed the last two games with a concussion, added 10 points.
LSU used a 12-0 run early in the second half to take a 52-43 lead with 12:39 left. The rally was fueled by four 3-pointers, three by Mays.
The LSU lead eventually reached 11, while shooting better than 60 percent through the first 16 minutes of the second half. Memphis struggled after LSU used a zone defense to thwart a lot of good looks for Memphis. The result was Memphis shooting only 29 percent after halftime and 37 percent for the game.
“We played zone most of the time on makes and sometimes on misses when we could get back, and then we went man on timeouts to change it up,” Wade said.
LSU: The big run early in the second half, when LSU used 3-point shooting to build its lead to double digits, was the difference. Memphis would never recover. LSU won its first road game of the season to close out its non- conference schedule.
MEMPHIS: A shooting slump late in the first half allowed LSU to get back in the game, and Memphis seemed to have little answer in stopping the visitors during the 12-0 run that built LSU’s second-half advantage. Memphis never recovered from the rally and only cut the deficit to six after that.
NO ANSWER FOR THE ZONE
Memphis struggled against the LSU zone, primarily because they misfired from outside the arc. Memphis guards Jamal Johnson and Jeremiah Martin made only one of their nine attempts from 3-point range. Asked why the zone was so tough, Smith replied: “You’ve got to have better shooters, number one.” Asked about number two, he said: “No number two. You’ve got to have better shooters.”
OPENING CONFERENCE PLAY
LSU opens Southeastern Conference play against Kentucky on Wednesday. And even though it is a home game for the Tigers, it is facing one of the league’s top teams. Wade said the focus now is “the juggernaut that is Kentucky. It’s what we signed up for. If you don’t like this, go play intramurals. We play in the SEC, and it’s time to rock and roll.”
LSU: hosts Kentucky to open Southeastern Conference play on Wednesday.
Memphis: Plays a New Year’s Eve game in Cincinnati against the Bearcats.