It took the LSU men’s basketball team a little longer than usual to get started in Saturday night’s game with Savannah State, the Tigers’ final nonconference matchup of the season.
Actually, it was a lot longer than usual for a team that has played better in the second half of most games this season.
Halfway through the first half, LSU had scored six points and trailed by double digits to a feisty Savannah State squad that lost by 61 points at Louisville and 46 at Indiana as a stunned Pete Maravich Assembly Center crowd looked on.
That’s when Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey took over.
After teaming up for the Tigers’ first six points as LSU went 3-of-17 from the field, they combined for 42 of their team’s next 54 points in a tougher-than-anticipated 75-59 win.
While it was anything but easy against a Savannah State team that had an RPI of 298, it was LSU’s eighth win in a row going into Thursday night’s conference opener at Missouri.
Martin dropped in 26 points, and Mickey finished with 24 to power LSU (11-2) past Savannah State (3-10), which didn’t trail until the 3:40 mark of the first half when Martin’s three-point play made it 21-20.
That duo combined for 22 rebounds, with Mickey tying his career high of 14 for his eighth double-double of the season. Mickey also blocked six shots, his fourth game in a row with at least a half-dozen.
After struggling early, LSU took control with its defense until the offense came around to shoot 63.3 percent after halftime.
“We had some early turnovers, and I thought our guys were able to get the game more to our liking when we jumped into our press,” coach Johnny Jones said. “We didn’t allow them to control the tempo.”
But Savannah State did early.
“They came out playing really aggressive and finished plays,” said Martin, who stretched his double-digit scoring streak to eight games. “We definitely had to pick it up. We were getting good looks; the ball just kept rolling off (the rim). As the game moved on, we started being patient and moving the ball.”
At one point in the second half, Martin and Mickey were 19-of-26 on field goals for 46 points — while the rest of the team was 5-of-19 for 10 points.
Martin finished the night hitting 10-of-15 from the field, including an alley-oop dunk on a feed from Tim Quarterman that capped a 10-0 run and allowed LSU to tie the score at 16 with 5:51 left in the first half.
Mickey made 11 of 13 shots, but he said the team’s play on defense got them going.
“We were able to get into our press and got some turnovers,” he said. “That made them speed up a little. I believe our press got us going a lot.”
Quarterman was the only other LSU player in double figures with 13 points, making 6 of 12 shots from the field.
The Tigers went 30-of-43 after their 3-of-17 start, shooting 55.0 percent for the game. They had 25 assists, the most in Jones’ three-year tenure, on 33 baskets.
“We just needed to wake up,” Quarterman said. “We hadn’t played since Monday night, so we came out a little sluggish. We just needed to get in the lane, and we got some easy baskets on some turnovers on the other end.”