After a month of preseason practice, Will Wade pulled back the curtain on his LSU basketball team Tuesday night and mostly liked what he saw in a 94-63 win over Southeastern Louisiana.
So did the 10,513 fans who came to the Pete Maravich Assembly Center to get a first glimpse of the new-look Tigers and their nine new scholarship players that helped make up the nation’s No. 4 recruiting class.
In the days leading up to the opener against the Lions, Wade said he was encouraged by the strides his young Tigers had made over the past two weeks — especially in a pair of closed-door scrimmages.
“The scrimmages were great, but there’s nothing like a game,” Wade said last week. “The curtain’s coming back and there’s nowhere to hide Tuesday night.”
They didn’t have to.
No. 23 LSU rolled to a 10-0 lead in the first four-plus minutes and finished the first half on a 31-7 run before coasting to a 31-point victory over an SLU team that won the Southland Conference regular-season title last season and is picked to finish second this year.
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Freshman forward Naz Reid, a five-star recruit and McDonald’s All-American, made his LSU debut a memorable one as one of six Tigers in double figures.
The 6-foot-10, 240-pound Reid scored 17 points, with 15 coming in the first half, and added six rebounds in 22 minutes of action.
Guard Marlon Taylor, a junior-college transfer, came off the bench for 15 points in as many minutes; and forward Emmitt Williams put together a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds in 16 minutes.
Junior guard Skylar Mays, one of only three returning veterans, and freshman forward Darius Days had 11 points each, while freshmen guard Ja’vonte Smart chipped in 10.
LSU led by 30 points at halftime 48-18 and extended it to 40 with 7:30 to play in the game, which pleased Wade.
“I thought the first 20 minutes we played well,” he said. “We didn’t shoot it well, but the defense did a really good job.”
After Southeastern trimmed LSU’s early lead to 17-11, the Lions had only two made field goals the rest of the first half in going 7 of 24 from the field for 29.2 percent. They were 1 of 11 (9.1 percent) from beyond the 3-point line.
But they nearly outscored LSU in the second half, thanks to freshman guard Parker Edwards — whom coach Jay Ladner wanted to redshirt.
Edwards, a freshman from Mandeville, didn’t see the court in the first half or first nine minutes of the second.
But he went into the game at the 10:34 mark with his team trailing 66-34 and poured in a game-high 25 points in 10 minutes. He went 6 of 8 from 3-point range and received a standing ovation from the LSU crowd when he left the contest.
“Coach asked me if I wanted to take off the redshirt and he threw me in there,” said Edwards, who scored more than 2,000 points at St. Paul’s of Covington. “I just made the most of my opportunity. I just had to take advantage of it and I just got on a roll.”
“We knew he was that good shooting the ball, but I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything like that,” Ladner said. “Parker saved us, to be honest, because he gave us something positive in an otherwise poor performance by our team.
“LSU is a big, strong, impressive-looking group,” he said. “It kind of took us aback with their size and quickness.”
Forward Moses Greenwood was the only other player to score in double figures for SLU as he collected 12 points and a team-best seven rebounds.
“I thought our guys played well,” Wade said. “I was proud of our guys because you never know what they’re going to do when the lights go on. But for the most part, they did a good job.”