ORLANDO, Fla. — After achieving its first 4-0 start in six years, No. 19 LSU was looking to kick off its time in the AdvoCare Invitational with a big win over a team that made last year’s NCAA tournament.
Thanks to a strong first half, the Tigers got the win they were hoping for while remaining undefeated in beating College of Charleston 67-55 on Thursday night.
“I thought, for the most part, we controlled the game from tip to finish,” Tigers coach Will Wade said. “It got closer a little bit but every time it got close, we answered with big shots or big possessions or a big defensive stop.”
Point guard Tremont Waters was a spark plug for LSU. The sophomore finished with eight points on 3 of 8 shooting and had a game-high 11 assists.
“Whatever my team needs me to do, that’s what I’m going to do,” Waters said. “Last year, I had a (bigger) scoring role. So, this year we have more talent around me and I’m just going to be able to obviously score when I need to and facilitate a lot more.”
LSU (5-0) wasted no time building a lead, going up by double digits less than six minutes into the game thanks to a 14-2 run. The Tigers had a strong defensive effort early on, consistently pestering Charleston’s ballhandlers and disrupting passes.
The Cougars (3-2) turned the ball over twice in the opening minutes and were forced into several tough shot attempts, missing nine of their first 12 shots.
“I thought our defense was good. We were locked in, we had a good plan,” Wade said. “Our guys executed very, very well … overall it was our best defensive game."
As the first half wore on, however, the Tigers began to more frequently leave players open, especially on the perimeter. Charleston was not able to take advantage of all its open looks, but scored enough to keep the game from turning into a blowout.
Eight LSU players scored in the first half, and Waters racked up five assists and five points. The Tigers led 33-22 at halftime, shooting 52 percent from the field, while holding the Cougars to 27 percent.
Both teams started out hot in the second half, essentially trading baskets for several minutes. LSU hit seven of its first 10 shots, but barely extended its lead as Charleston’s shots also finally began to fall. After holding the Cougars to 22 points in the first half, the Cougars had 15 less than eight minutes into the second.
As the half wore on, Charleston had multiple opportunities to cut LSU’s lead to single digits but couldn't get over the hump.
“We’ve had leads like that at halftime of all our other games and given away three of the four leads,” Wade said. “But I thought we did a better job starting the second half. I thought we were really connected. We played with good purpose tonight and that helped us.”
The Tigers will be back in action at 3:30 p.m. Friday when they take on No. 14 Florida State.