The Ben Simmons Show is ready for the Big Apple.
Josh Gray is certainly ready, too.
While the semifinals and championship of the Legends Classic won’t be played for another week, Simmons, Gray and their LSU teammates warmed up for it Monday night in the first of two regional games to be played this week in conjunction with the tournament.
After taking just seven shots from the field in his collegiate debut on Friday night, Simmons expanded his game in No. 23 LSU’s 91-69 blowout of Kennesaw State in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
LSU (2-0) will play another regional game Thursday night against South Alabama before joining Marquette, Arizona State and North Carolina State at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn for the championship round starting Monday.
Simmons put his entire repertoire on display against Kennesaw State (0-2) with 22 points, nine rebounds, six assists, four steals and two blocks in 31 minutes.
“I stayed aggressive and tried to keep the momentum up,” Simmons said. “I only took seven shots the last game. I was kind of shocked by that, but I had Antonio (Blakeney) and Brandon (Sampson) scoring.”
Simmons connected on 11 of 17 field-goal attempts and still managed to be a facilitator for his teammates, as did Gray, who recorded six assists to go with 16 points and six rebounds. Gray also had three steals and two turnovers.
Simmons didn’t have a turnover and the Tigers only had eight for the game.
“I thought Ben played a very balanced game again,” LSU coach Johnny Jones said of his prized freshman, who had 11 points and 13 rebounds in Friday’s opener with McNeese State. “He created opportunities for others with six assists and he had no turnovers, so that’s huge.”
Making his season debut after missing the opener because of a one-game suspension for playing in an unsanctioned game, Gray came off the bench and played under control in his 22 minutes on the floor.
“I thank the team and coaches for trusting me to be there for them,” said Gray, who was 6-of-11 from the field. “I tried to play hard and aggressive. I just want to win, and I’m going in the game with that mindset.”
Freshman guard Antonio Blakeney added 14 points and had four assists and sophomore forward Aaron Epps contributed a career-high 10 points, seven rebounds and two blocked shots in the easy victory.
LSU had little trouble getting past Kennesaw State, especially after Simmons got off to a fast start on both ends of the floor.
He hit the first basket of the game just 19 seconds into the contest and then easily worked himself inside for close-range shots against a smaller Kennesaw State team.
Simmons scored six of the Tigers’ first 14 points, but they still led by only one point when Kennesaw State guard Yonel Brown, who got into foul trouble after scoring 34 points in a loss to Alabama on Friday, hit a bank shot over Gray to trim his team’s deficit to 14-13 at the 13:40 mark.
At that point, Simmons flashed toward the goal and made a spin move to easily get past Aubrey Williams for a layup that seemed to ignite LSU.
Soon after, Blakeney buried a 3-point shot off a Gray assist and Epps scored back-to-back baskets -- the first on a feed from Gray and the second on a dunk of a Gray miss.
Jalyn Patterson added a layup after a steal, one of eight in the first half for LSU and 13 the Tigers had in the game, before Epps hit a jumper from the left side for a 27-17 lead with 9:35 left in the half.
The Tigers poured in on from there.
Starting with the spinning basket by Simmons, they went on a 30-6 run to take a 44-21 halftime lead and maintained a big cushion for most of the second half.
Brown was held to 11 points in 34 minutes, while Kendrick Ray led Kennesaw State with 25 points -- 18 in the second half -- and Nigel Pruitt had 15 points and 12 rebounds.
But the Tigers did a good job after letting McNeese back in the opener late.
“Coming out fast was definitely the message from coach (Jones),” Blakeney said. “We have to put our foot on the other team’s throat, and that’s what we did tonight.”
Blakeney was named Southeastern Conference co-freshman of the week Monday for his 22-point, 10-rebound performance against McNeese. Blakeney shared the award with Kentucky’s Skal Labissiere, who poured in 26 points Sunday in a rout of NJIT. … LSU remained 19th in the USA Today coaches poll, but dropped two spots to No. 23 in The Associated Press rankings released Monday.