AUBURN, Ala. — Ben Simmons did his homework before Tuesday night’s game against Auburn.
After getting off just seven official field-goal attempts in the LSU basketball team’s gut-wrenching loss to top-ranked Oklahoma on Saturday, Simmons took the time to do some analytics and discovered seven is his magic number.
Actually, eight is a better number for Simmons and his teammates.
“Looking at stats from previous games, when I shot more than seven times, we win games,” Simmons said after a 80-68 win over a seemingly defenseless Auburn team that did little to slow him down.
Or, for that matter, anyone else on LSU’s team.
Simmons, who took seven of his 12 first-half shots in the first eight-plus minutes of the game and 15 overall against Auburn, was correct.
A check of his game-by-game stats shows LSU is 13-4 when he attempts eight shots or more. Better yet, the Tigers are 10-1 when he takes that many and knocks down at least half of them.
Simmons doesn’t usually talk about stats, but it was easy to tell that one stuck in his mind Tuesday night after the narrow setback against Oklahoma.
He came out firing and made his first basket just 15 seconds into the game and eventually took seven of LSU’s first 15 shots from the field and was fouled on another field-goal attempt.
Over a 3½-minute stretch when LSU was trying to get a leg up on Auburn, Simmons was 4-of-5 — including a big dunk after going the length of the floor with a defensive rebound — and fed Jalyn Patterson for a 3-point basket that gave his team a 20-18 lead with 10:28 to play in the first half.
After that, LSU led for the final 30½ minutes.
Guard Keith Hornsby was happy to see Simmons be assertive with the ball in his hands.
“He should be (aggressive) because they couldn’t stop him tonight,” Hornsby said. “When he was on my side of the floor, he did a good job of recognizing that the guy who was defending me wasn’t going to help on him (defensively). So Ben drove to the basket straight line, and it worked well.”
Simmons was the ringleader for an LSU team that wound up burying 34-of-60 field-goal attempts for 56.7 percent.
After shooting 53.1 percent to take a 38-31 halftime lead, LSU blew the game open when it connected on 15 of its first 21 shots in the second half en route to hitting 60.7 percent in that period.
LSU coach Johnny Jones said he didn’t have to tell Simmons about being too passive after taking one shot in the final 10 minutes of the Oklahoma loss.
“I think it was just the flow of the game tonight. … Ben is always aggressive and he gets after it,” Jones said. “He has done a great job of taking care of ‘chance’ opportunities for us. When the defense gives him opportunities, especially in the open floor, he is great at attacking.
“Tonight, he saw those opportunities, and I thought he was able to make those plays early.”
It certainly was too many opportunities to Auburn coach Bruce Pearl’s liking.
“Ben Simmons is a great player, and you can see why he’s so effective and such a valuable player because he can score, he can create and he can finish,” Pearl said. “He makes everyone else better around him.
“Our game plan was to try to wall him off and get him to take contested shots. We never really did wall him off. He was able to go by and get to the rim and get too close.”
Fan Appreciation Night
Saturday’s 5 p.m. game against Mississippi State has been designated as “Fan Appreciation Night” with all tickets in the 300 (Upper) level of the Pete Maravich Assembly Center on sale for $5.
There will also be several giveaways before and during the game. Tickets can be purchased at the LSU Athletics Ticket office and online at LSUtix.net.
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter, @MicklesAdvocate.