BATON ROUGE – LSU senior KJ Williams and junior Derek Fountain combined for 39 points and 20 rebounds as the Tigers held off an East Tennessee State second half rally to win, 72-68, Wednesday night at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
The Tigers are now 11-1 on the second and winners of eight home games this season and 12 consecutive wins dating back to last season. LSU opens Southeastern Conference play on Wednesday, Dec. 28, at 8 p.m. against Arkansas. Tickets are available at LSUtix.net.
KJ Williams had his first 20-10 game as a Tiger with 28 points and 12 rebounds to go with three assists and three steals. KJ hit 11-of-18 from the field, including three treys in 36 minutes.
Fountain finished with 11 points and eight boards wot go with two assists and one steal. Fountain hit 4-of-5 field goals and all three free throw attempts.
The Tigers were most efficient in the first half when they shot 56.5 percent (13-of-23) with four treys and made 7-of-8 from the field. ETSU was held to just 9-of-27 and 1-of-9 from distance as LSU opened up a 37-24 advantage at intermission.
But in the second half ETSU was able to chip away at the Tigers, cutting the game down to five at 53-48 and 55-50 with 9:32 to play. The Buccaneers cut the game to three at 61-58 with 6:08 to go but Adam Miller had a three-point play and Fountain a second chance layup to push the margin back to eight, 66-58.
LSU, however, was unable to sustain the momentum and ETSU cut the game to two at 68-66 with 1:48 to play. On the ensuing possession, Miller had a three-pointer blocked, KJ Williams missed a layup off the rebound, got his own rebound back and scored to make it 70-66 with 1:20 to go.
Jordan Kind would score and was fouled on a circus shot on the other end to make it 70-68, but he missed the free throw with 54 seconds to play. LSU failed to score as a layup was blocked and after an offensive rebound, LSU was called for a shot clock violation with 22 seconds to play.
ETSU missed on a long two-point jump shot and LSU rebounded and was eventually fouled and Trae Hannibal made two free throws to put the game away, 72-68.
The Bucs were led by Josh Taylor with 22 points, while Jalen Haynes had 14 and King 11 points and five assists. ETSU shot 54.3 percent in the second half overall (19-of-35) and finished the game at 45.2 percent (28-of-62) but only 4-of-21 from distance and 8-of-13 from the free throw line.
LSU finished at 47.4 percent (27-of-57) with six treys and 12-of-15 from the free throw line.
The Tigers finished with a 36-32 rebound advantage.
Head Coach Matt McMahon Quotes
Postgame – Dec. 21, 2022
“Very thankful to get the win. I was thrilled with the improvement we made on the defensive end of the floor in the first half, unfortunately we threw it out the window in the second. I thought we could’ve had a bigger lead at the half if we had better ball security. Some of the unforced turnovers really hurt us because when we did get a shot, we were really efficient there. Nonetheless, I think everyone’s seen a lot of these scores across the country here going into the Christmas break. Obviously, it was not a thing of beauty but we’re thankful to get the win and wish everybody here in Baton Rouge and across the state of Louisiana ‘Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays’ and look forward to getting back Christmas Day and getting back to work.”
On losing to this team last year and if he had flashbacks to last year’s loss…
“No, they won the last time they played here in Baton Rouge, they beat us last year. I looked at the film, obviously, to see where we got hurt and see some issues there. Our team’s completely different, they’re a lot different and so I just wanted to try to find a way to win the game.”
On the defense in the second half…
“I think it’s a combination of those two things (transition stuff and ball screens) plus one other. In the first half, I thought our ball pressure bothered them and we were able to make them very uncomfortable running their half-court offense. In the second half, I didn’t see it that same way. I thought they were able to beat us off of triple penetration and hurt us there. Secondly, I think, we didn’t shoot the ball as well in the second half and we let that hurt our transition defense and they hurt us there some. Three, I thought we took a step backward where we had been so good on the defensive glass a lot the last two and a half games, I thought our guards were leaking out and they were able to get some of those long rebounds and second opportunities to get back into the game and clearly to stay into the game into the final buzzer.”
(Press release provided by LSU Athletics)