First-place LSU fights past Georgia in Athens, 83-79

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ATHENS, Georgia – LSU’s Naz Reid, Javonte Smart and Tremont Waters combined for 52 of LSU’s 83 points as the No. 19/21 Tigers played the final 20 minutes without a turnover to score another road win, 83-79, over Georgia Saturday night at Stegeman Coliseum.

The Tigers with the win are now 7-0 on the road in conference play and 21-4 for the season. More importantly, with Kentucky’s win over Tennessee Saturday at Rupp Arena, the Tigers and Volunteers are tied for the league lead at 11-1 entering the final three weeks of league play.

LSU was able to back up its last-second win Tuesday night at Kentucky by getting another road win at Georgia and now sets the stage where four-of-the-last-six games for the Tigers are at the Maravich Center, starting with Florida at 6 p.m. on Wednesday.

Georgia falls to 10-15 on the season and 1-11 in the SEC.

Just like the first win for the Tigers in Baton Rouge when both teams shot over 50 percent from the field, this game was that same way until the final minutes when Georgia missed their last five shots of the game.

LSU shot 60.7 percent in the first half (17-28) and 13-of-26 in the second half to finish the game at 30-of-54 from the field for 55.4 percent.

Waters had 20 points and five assists (16 in the second half), while Smart had 19 points and Reid had 13 points for the Tigers.

Georgia was led by Nicolas Claxton with 17 points, Rayshaun Hammonds had 13 and Jordan Harris and Derek Ogbeide 12 each.

In all the teams combined for just 19 turnovers with LSU having the eight first half miscues and Georgia finishing the game with 11. LSU had a 17-6 advantage in points off turnovers with a 40-30 advantage in points in the paint and 19-18 in second chance points.

There were seven ties and seven lead changes in the contest.

UGA controlled play early on in the game and had as much as a six-point advantage at 20-14 on a three by Tyree Crump at the 11:31 mark. But the Tigers were able to work the game back the other way with Marlon Taylor getting a bucket, Smart following a Georgia miss with a layup on the other end and the Tigers taking a brief, 21-20, lead on a three-pointer by Waters.

LSU would push the lead eventually to 25-22 with 8:02 in the first half on an offensive rebound and dunk by Darius Days and an Emmitt Williams jumper at the 6:14 mark, 27-22.

The Tigers kept forcing the pace as Waters and Skylar Mays scored off back-to-back Georgia turnovers to make it 31-22 with 5:17 to go in the first half, forcing a Georgia timeout. At the half, LSU would lead by four, 41-37.

In the second half, Georgia would tie the game for the first of four ties in the second half at 45-45 with 18:12 to play. The Bulldogs would eventually take and extend their lead to five at 58-53 with 13:54 to play on a three by E’Torrion Wilridge.

LSU would get the game by event on a three by Smart at 59-59 and after another Smart three gave LSU a 64-62 lead, Georgia would tie it 64-64 and at 68-68 with 7:03 to go.

The Tigers would take the lead for good on the ensuing possession on a layup by Smart and the lead would push to five and eventually seven at the 3:20 mark on a layup by Waters, 80-73. LSU’s lead would go as much as eight on a Reid layup off an offensive board at 82-74 with 2:43 to play.

That was enough for LSU to win, but Georgia was able to get the game down to three and possession, but Claxton missed a short jumper and in a scramble Harris’ jumper was blocked by Kavell Bigby-Williams. LSU added a Mays free throw for the final four-point victory.

Bigby-Williams had nine points, eight rebounds and three blocks.

Tickets for LSU’s game with Florida are still available at LSUTix.net and at the LSU Athletics Ticket Office during normal business hours.


 

Postgame Quotes
Georgia vs. LSU
Saturday, February 16, 2019

LSU Coach Will Wade

Opening Statement…
Thought it was a terrific game. Georgia played fantastic. We had no answer for Claxton, he played great. Hammonds played great. Harris did a good job. I thought the key to us winning was we didn’t turn the ball over in the second half, we had eight turnovers in the first half which Georgia converted into a lot of easy baskets. Second half we just didn’t turn the ball over and that’s why we were able to pull it out. It was a good game like I said Georgia played tremendously and we were very fortunate to pull it out.

On remembering if they ever had a game with no turnovers in the second half…
I can’t remember. I mean I don’t keep that stat, but I can’t remember.

On the key to the second half…
We just kind of settled in. I thought Javonte played well. I thought Emmitt had some big offensive rebounds. I thought Naz asserted himself in the second half and we were able to just grind it out. We got enough stops there at the end.

On if he had a scouting report for Christian Harrison…
No, I read.. somebody in here wrote an article about him. Who wrote an article about him this week, was it somebody in here? Some outlet wrote an article about him and I read that and I kind of thought they were going to play. I felt like from the article they were going to play him to guard Tremont. Is that outlet in here? Who wrote about it? Somebody wrote about it, I don’t know who it was, I’m sorry I’m crediting the wrong person. Somebody wrote about it and I got the sense they were going to play him some to guard Tremont. I had no idea they were going to start him obviously but I got the sense they were going to play him. I actually sent an article to my assistant that does the scout that they were going to play this guy but I was obviously were surprised when they started him. But he plays with great energy and plays extremely hard, he finished a lay-up there around the rim. You would have to ask coach Crean but I assume he started him to get him energy, get him going and set the pace. They did a great job of exploiting some mismatches with us, when we went small they played Ogbeide. When we went big they took Ogbeide out and played their small. I mean they did a very good job of exploiting mismatches and picking on where they had some advantageous matchups. I think that was part of starting him for Ogbeide got it started because we start two big kids, the 6’11” and 6’10” kid. That was part of the gamesmanship there.

On shooting 60.7 percent at half and being concerned they only had a four-point lead…
I was more concerned about the turnovers if we just get the ball on the backboard so I was more concerned about the turnovers. But we knew it was going to be a tough game, we knew they were going to hang around. We were coming off the Kentucky game on the road and coming back. So it was just a tough week and we were very fortunate to win, we just wanted to get out of here with a win. Halftime we made a few adjustments and fortunately that was enough.

On the challenges that Claxton brings…
Well when he’s hitting those mid-range turnarounds it very tough to guard him. We had Skylar, one of our guards, on him and they posted him. We put our big guys on him and they took him on the perimeter and were driving us and he was spinning. We just didn’t have very good coverage on him, they exploited the mismatch based on our matchup of him.

Freshman Forward Naz Reid

On what changed his performance coming out after halftime…
“Um, I just felt I wasn’t producing at all [in the first half]. I had four turnovers, so I definitely felt like I had to do something. So, that just sparked me in the second half.”

On how Georgia did a good job defending the rim/ how scoring off the dribble to the rim is part of LSU’s identity…
“I mean, if somebody gets the ball in the air or on the rim, one of us is going to go get it, even the guards. Sometimes we draw the foul, but if we just keep attacking it, we can do anything we want.”

Freshman Guard Javonte Smart

On what happened to receive a technical foul…
“Honestly, I was just talking to myself, really – just trying to bring the energy and get some stops on ‘d.’ [The Georgia player] didn’t respond at all; I got it because – the referee told me he’d warned other guys on the team. I didn’t know.”

On whether he felt Georgia was hyped because of LSU’s win over Kentucky/if he thought LSU had a target on its back coming into this game…
“Yeah, they were [hype]. Congratulations to them. They came out and really put up a good fight, and they gave us some tough runs, and they were up for a few minutes.”

Georgia Head Coach Tom Crean

COACH CREAN: We told our team the last couple of days when you’re playing a team like this that’s as good they are at rebounding the ball, and they’re phenomenal at it. It’s a great rebounding league, but they’re phenomenal at it, the way they follow up shots. There’s really two games going on in every possession: There’s the offensive game whether it’s full court or half court and you’re guarding them; and then the next game and really the hardest game it’s the rebound game.

And so — and we did a good job. I look at the numbers. We’re even. But at the end of the day the biggest story can be, why we weren’t able to pull it out at the end with the 11 second-chance points they got in the second.

We had a couple of untimely turnovers. We broke a couple of plays that weren’t there. We didn’t have a couple — we didn’t execute a couple of things that we wanted to execute. We executed some things very well.

But that being said, we’re missing some shots; they’re missing shots. We couldn’t guard the dunk. We struggled with guarding the dribble at times; that’s why we tried to switch; that’s why we’re getting in the zone. And at the end of the day they crashed to the glass and you’ve got to have numerous people in the glass at that point in time.

And that hurt us, but I love our effort. I love their attitude. I love the way the last two days have been in practice. Very confident going into this game. I would have been confident against anybody we played based on the way we practiced. We had really good practices all year.

But the last two days were a little bit different and we’ve got to learn how to figure to build on them and move forward, because there’s no question we were ready to play we just couldn’t finish it at the end.

Q. I asked you about Christian Harrison today. With the decision to start him, was that more in the lines of having somebody to guard Waters?
COACH CREAN: No, because he plays extremely hard and he’s tremendously competitive and we needed a jolt defensively and moving off the ball. And you’ll give up some things offensively shooting the ball, but you’ll gain some things — and that’s this program. No matter how long I’m the coach here, it’s about coaching every guy every day. It doesn’t matter if you’re the leading scorer or a freshman that’s playing very few minutes. It doesn’t matter if you’re a senior that never gets in the game. You’re going to get coached every day and Christian responds to that.

And it’s continuing to develop. A lot of it is confidence. He’s confident he can go out there do that. And we’re mixing our defenses more and more. We’re trying to do the things we can do to cover the lane up. But I played him, obviously, different times and I felt with my instinct to start him and I’m glad that I did.

Q. When you talk about a couple good practices and you walk off the practice court yesterday thinking this is going to be a good matchup for us or not?
COACH CREAN: Oh, absolutely and again, I’m not trying to put it on these last two days. I’ve said this and it’s the bottom line. It’s part of our growth process. If we played some of these games the way we practiced we’d have a much better record.

We do not — we have very few — I’m not going to say we have 100 percent, nobody has 100 percent great practice every day; that’s not what I’m saying. But we practice well. We practice competitively. We get our heads down sometimes too much when things aren’t going well in the game, where that doesn’t happen in practice. And so then we lose a little bit of our cohesion in games.

We’ve practiced well all year. But I thought the last two days were definitely different for us. I thought even when we wanted to walk through situations at the end of a practice yesterday and guys are just completely locked into it. And so that’s where we’ve just got to continue to build on.

It’s not like we just started practicing, I’m not trying to say that. I’m trying to say that the two days we had here had tremendous confidence going into the game and it very much felt like the confidence would carry over.

Q. I think LSU won, what 14 out of their last 15. What was the key or approach to stay close to a team like that, as well as —
COACH CREAN: You’ve got to do your best and not give them live-ball turnovers. That’s what hurt us the first time. We did it right in the first game. It was a great example, we got down because of the turnovers over at LSU and had our head down, not realizing there’s so much we can do to come back and we did in that game.

I think the biggest key is at the beginning and the end. You’ve got to get back in transition and then you’ve got to close it off with the rebounding. And we got second-chance points but their second-chance points were timely in a close game like this.

And that’s what their greatest strength is to me. Tremont does so many things well. They’ve got a very skilled team. He’s an excellent coach. They’re deep. The guys — everybody he puts in, there’s no drop-off. When you’re bringing Emmitt Williams off the bench — I thought Emmitt Williams had as much to do with the win over Kentucky the other day. He scored eight straight points. He’s just relentless. People forget he was one of the top five players in America going into the summer of his senior year. He’s just a tremendous player.

They’re deep in that way, even though they don’t play a ton of guys. And you can’t have empty positions with the glass. And for the most part we didn’t. But the other thing is you can’t overhelp. And that’s the biggest thing is in the half court because Waters is such a good passer. You can’t be in an over-help situation where he can kick it out for 3s. I thought we did better there. I may feel different when I watch the film. To me the biggest thing is the glass.

Q. You carried the second half strong, still had a five-point lead. What was the conversation during halftime like the approach?
COACH CREAN: No, there’s no change. We were right there, close the whole way. So, no, there was no change. A couple of adjustments when we were struggling in the zone, where we got hurt a couple times. When we’re in zone, we’re staying with the ball. So they come up and set a screen at the top of the key or on the side.

We’re staying with the ball. We’re not putting two guys to defend one so all of a sudden they make a quick pass. We did that a couple times. So we had to get that cleaned up. We had to get the middle cleaned up. We had to make sure we were getting over a little bit better inside the gap.

And offensively we just wanted to keep moving. Reiterate it again. The more Ray and Nic moved the better we are, and we started off the half with an action like that.

Q. Do you see an expanded role for Christian or is it a matchup thing?
COACH CREAN: It’s wide open. It’s wide open. As I told the team the other day, every day, when we’re trying to — when you’re trying to find ways to win and when you’re trying to — we all look to them every day. This is not about, well, let’s see what we’ve got and let’s build for the future.

No, we’re building right now. If I’m going to preach to them to stay absolutely locked into the present, then that’s exactly how we’ve got to coach it.

So it certainly could. Guys like — he’s aggressive. No question about it. I don’t know. I make those decisions — rarely the day before, usually the day of on how we’re going to do that. But I’m starting to put playing groups together more in practice, which is helpful. And he has been a part of that.

Q. What are the positives and you say it every time but what are the positives you take out of this, building blocks?
COACH CREAN: Oh, competing. Without question. Competing. Not getting our head down and continuing the confidence. Confidence is a really hard thing. There’s not any team that doesn’t go through bouts of — now Tennessee may be way ahead of people because they’re veterans. And experience and understanding — sometimes you don’t have the experience but you’ve got to have the understanding. It’s a long game. We can get through this. All right. We’re going to play fast. I’m going to make a shot, right?

When we start seeing ghosts in a game, misses, turnovers, things like that, it’s going to affect something else inside the game. And today we didn’t do that as much. We grew through that in so many ways. And it’s part of it for us. It’s part of it. But I felt really good with these guys, and there was — I thought our huddles, I thought all those things were really good today. And we just really focused on basketball.

We didn’t focus on, hey, you’re okay, it’s a long game, get your head up. No, we didn’t do that. I felt like that maturity that we needed to have was really important today.

And I think we changed defenses fairly well; thought we not only cut but we drove the ball. We felt like we really needed to drive the ball in this game. And what we have to recognize is, okay, are they going to come off the guy in the corner because they don’t think he can shoot? Well, we’ve got to clear him. If they think he can shoot then we might stay there.

And you have to make those reads in the game. And I thought our guys were really good at responding quickly in the flow of the game when we were moving them around to create space. I could go on. But that’s not good for me.

Sophomore Forward Nicolas Claxton

On his thoughts on tonight’s game…
“We had two really good practices leading up to tonight. The fans were behind us the whole game and that gave us a lot of support. But, at the end of the day we just didn’t do the little things we needed to do.”

On if tonight’s play is progress for the team…
“I would say it is progress. Us just playing our hardest for the whole forty minutes. Not coming out in the second half and being in a drought. At the end of the day, we did not want a moral victory. We wanted to come out and get the win. Like I said, it was the little things. I think they had 11 second chance points in the second half. That started with me, I did a poor job of boxing out. So, I take the blame for that. But, all we can do is get back to the drawing board and be ready for our next game.”

On the play coming out the timeout with 29 seconds left…
“Derek (Ogbeide) he kind of set me like a run up screen, I was supposed to drive and make the layup. So, we executed the play right, I just came up short on the layup.”

On Harrison’s basketball journey…
“I just want to tip my hat off to Christian. He came here last year and didn’t play at all. This year, his minutes have been kind of up and down. But, throughout all of that he has just stayed persistent. He just kept grinding. He comes in everyday and he doesn’t complain like some guys do. He just comes in and works and you see the results today.”

On tonight’s “moral victory”…
“We played them tough the whole entire game. It can be kind of a moral victory, but we don’t want moral victories. But this does show that they (LSU) are probably top three in the SEC at least . That shows that we can play with anybody. Just come out and try to finish the season strong, that is all we can do at this point. Just keep grinding day by day.”

On Yante Maten and Kentvaious Caldwell-Pope attendance at the game…
“We did not get to talk to them yet. But, I appreciate them coming back and supporting us. It really means a lot.”

On his matchup against Naz Reid…
“I just wanted to come out and be aggressive. Coach Crean, he instills a lot of confidence in me day by day. Since he has gotten here, he has said just attack. That was the matchup we like. So I just went at him as much as I could.”

Redshirt Senior Guard Christian Harrison

On starting in tonight’s game…
“No, I didn’t know, (about starting) I didn’t until a couple minutes before the game started. I had the same mentality I have every game, just to bring energy and try and get a win. That is always the mentality.”

On if they feel that Georgia’s record does not reflect the team…
“I would say so. We feel like we can play with anybody. Even though our record doesn’t show it, we come out and we leave it all on the floor. We stay confident, we come out every game thinking that we can win. So, that is always the mindset we try to have.”

On Harrison’s basketball journey…
“I have had to be very patient. I have had a kind of unique college career. This is really my only second year actually playing, even thought I am a senior. I transferred after my sophomore year at Troy, I was hurt my sophomore year at Troy, so I redshirted. Then, I got here sat out because of the transfer rules. I was eligible last year, just did not play. So, it has been a pretty long journey. I have had to stay persistent and I am just confident.”

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