After losing the final game of the AdvoCare Invitational last Sunday night, Will Wade knew exactly what his team’s lineup needed: An injection of energy.
After four long, hard days of practice, Wade found it in Darius Days and Kavell Bigby-Williams, who combined for just one start in LSU’s first seven outings.
Days, a 6-foot-7 freshman forward, provided the offensive spark from the opening tip Saturday and Bigby-Williams, a 6-11 forward, dominated on the defensive end in LSU’s 78-57 romp over Grambling in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
Making his first collegiate start, Days scored five quick points to get LSU off to a 12-2 lead three minutes in, and Wade’s team never trailed in winning its 12th consecutive home game.
Bigby-Williams had five blocks in the first half, helping LSU to a 35-25 lead going to the locker room, and finished with a career-high nine — just three off the school record. His previous high was three, which he did twice earlier this season.
“We were up 14-3 to start the game, and I thought that was a big product of those guys,” Wade said. “Kavell runs the court hard and blocks shots. ... Days eats up a lot of rebounds. Those guys did a nice job for us.”
They got it started early, which was what Wade wanted to see after his team trailed Oklahoma State 15-2 just 5½ minutes in on Sunday and went on to a 90-77 setback in the third-place game in Orlando.
“We didn’t get off to a great start against Oklahoma State, so we needed to look at that,” Wade said. “I thought those guys (Days and Bigby-Williams) gave us the best opportunity to get off to a quick start.”
Days said the four days of practice were meaningful, too.
“Basically, we just had to play harder,” Days said. “We got in the gym and we ran. Coach got on us and gave us the game plan and we executed what we had to do. That’s what we all did.”
Days was aggressive from the outset, drawing a foul on LSU’s first possession after muscling in for an offensive rebound and hitting one of two free throws.
Then, after Bigby-Williams recorded his first block, Days, who found out two hours before tipoff that he was going to start, ran the floor and had a layup on a feed from Tremont Waters.
“They brought energy to our offense,” Waters said. “Obviously, coach wanted to play those two guys tonight and they pretty much stepped up.
"They showed coach what they’re capable of. Coach already knew that, but they just gave him more of a reiteration of what they can do."
LSU (6-2) got 15 points and five assists from Waters, Days had a career-high 13 points and a game-high nine rebounds, and Skylar Mays chipped in with 10 points and six rebounds.
“Coach said be aggressive and just keep playing hard,” Days said. “I just did what he said and, voila, here I am."
The previous career high in scoring for Days, who logged a career-high 25 minutes, was 11 points in LSU’s victory over Southeastern in the season opener.
Bigby-Williams finished with nine points, which included a pair of high-flying dunks, and grabbed five rebounds to go with his nine blocks.
“I just played as hard as possible, and when you play hard, good things happen,” said Bigby-Williams, who had 12 blocks in the first seven games. “I was able to get nine blocks today and just help my team defensively.”
“I think he did the job tonight ... he did a great job," Wade said. "That’s what he can do, and he’s going to do that consistently for us.”
Bigby-Williams’ strong defensive work helped LSU hold Grambling (3-4) to 39.2 percent shooting from the field.
Anthony Gaston was the only Grambling player in double digits as he had a team-high 12 points off the bench.
Wade’s team also had a season-high 45 rebounds, including 16 offensive, and outrebounded Grambling by 21.
“We ran (in) our first practice back because we didn’t get our game goals, and from there coach didn’t let up,” Waters said. “He had us going all out, cracking skulls and having rebounding drills. It showed tonight.”