LSU men’s basketball coach Johnny Jones knows the danger of playing a game right before the Christmas break.
On Monday, he warned his team about checking out too early before its three-day respite from the court to make sure they weren’t one of the statistics.
On Tuesday night, the Tigers were even for a half, though it wasn’t of their own doing.
American made LSU work into the second half before the Tigers got on a serious roll and came away with a 79-51 victory in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
American (2-9) couldn’t miss from the field and held a four-point lead as late as the 6:30 mark of the first half on a 3-point basket by Jesse Reed before LSU (7-4) took control for its third consecutive win.
LSU went on a 14-5 run to end the half, then outscored American 21-4 to start the second half.
That inspired 35-9 run gave the Tigers a 57-35 lead after Craig Victor, who scored 12 points in the first half, picked up his final basket of the night.
LSU eventually stretched the lead to 26 points at 71-45 on back-to-back 3-point baskets by Branson Sampson, the second with 4:11 to play in the game, then built its largest lead at 30 points late before settling for its largest margin of victory this season.
Ben Simmons, who matched Victor’s first-half output, scored a game-high 23 points and added five rebounds and six assists to lead four LSU players in double digits.
Victor finished with 14 points on a 6-of-8 shooting night, while Aaron Epps came off the bench for 11 points and Keith Hornsby contributed 10.
LSU connected on 17-of-25 field-goal attempts for 68.0 percent in the second half and finished the game shooting 61.5 percent.
But it didn’t look good early when American came out firing.
American made nine of its first 11 shots and was hitting 81.8 percent in taking an early 21-17 lead, then increased it to 83.3 percent.
After Reed gave his team a 23-19 advantage with 8:08 to play in the first half, Simmons, Victor and Epps took over.
Simmons had seven points down the stretch, while Victor had six and Epps four as LSU took a 36-31 lead to the locker room.
The second half was all LSU, which picked up where it left off.
Over the first seven minutes of the half, Simmons poured in nine points, Hornsby had six points -- including two dunks -- as the Tigers took over on both ends of the floor.
Tim Quarterman had a steal that led to one Hornsby dunk and Hornsby followed that less than a minute later with a steal of his own and another dunk.
When Antonio Blakeney added another slam and Victor finished the strong stretch with another basket, the Tigers had pushed the lead to 57-35 with 13:17 to play.