Waters, Bigby-Williams lead LSU past Alabama, 88-79
Waters capped his 19-point, seven-assist performance by rifling a pass under the hoop from a seated position to set up Darius Days‘ dunk, and LSU defeated Alabama 88-79 on Tuesday night.
“He should be on the baseball team at LSU,” Crimson Tide coach Avery Johnson said while discussing Waters’ pivotal pass that helped stunt Alabama’s late comeback bid. “He threw a left-handed curveball that split the trap. … It was a strike.”
LSU coach Will Wade looked amused by Johnson’s suggestion that Waters play baseball, but was having none of it.
“I don’t think our baseball team needs him,” Wade said. “They’re pretty stacked as it is.”
The dazzling scoring, dribbling and passing of the 5-foot-11 Waters was complemented by the hustle and grit of 6-11 Oregon transfer Kavell Bigby-Williams. The Englishman tied a season high with 14 points, including a pivotal dunk with 1:19 left, to go with his season high 13 rebounds and five blocked shots in 24 minutes.
“Kavell was a huge difference-maker,” Wade said. “We don’t win tonight without him.”
Ja’Vonte Smart scored 15 and Days 14 for the Tigers (11-3, 1-0 Southeastern Conference), who’ve won four straight and six of seven.
Kira Lewis Jr. scored 15 for Alabama (10-4, 1-1), which saw its five-game winning streak snapped.
“We are a much better team than we showed tonight,” Johnson said. “We need all of our guys to show up and play and it is my job to get them ready.”
Alex Reese had 12 points and Herbert Jones 10 for the Tide, which got as close as 79-75 with 1:46 left before LSU responded with Bigby-Williams’ dunk and Marlon Taylor’s put-back of a missed free throw.
Waters’ baskets ranged from a deep 3 to a flamboyant driving scoop on which he used an outside-in flip of his right hand to bank the ball in from the left side of the hoop.
“He’s an elite player,” Wade said. “It’s just vision and being able to see things and being able to make things happen. … Tre just attacked more. He was ready to go.”
Alabama: After shooting nearly 44 percent from 3-point range in a dramatic victory over No. 13 Kentucky last weekend, the Tide opened 2-of-11 from deep before finishing 7of 24 (29 percent) from long range. Tevin Mack, who hit six 3s and had 22 points against Kentucky, had six points against LSU and went 0 of 3 from deep.
LSU: The Tigers shot twice as well from 3-point range as their average of about 33 percent coming in, and showed a knack for responding every time Alabama tried to close the gap down the stretch. LSU led for all but two minutes while winning their 16th straight at home dating to last season — and snapping a five-game skid against the Crimson Tide. The Tigers’ good shooting and overall balance also helped them withstand foul trouble that plagued standout freshman Naz Reid, who fouled out with 4:20 to go after scoring 7 points and grabbing a rebound.
LSU hit eight of its first 10 3-point attempts — with two going in off the glass — and took its first double-digit lead when Smart’s 3 made it 37-25 late in the first half. That was part of a 14-5 run to close the half, capped by Days’ 3 off the glass in the final seconds to make it 43-28 at halftime. Smart either scored or assisted on LSU’s last 19 points of the first half.
Alabama did not get within single digits until John Petty Jr. was fouled by Reid on a 3-point attempt and made all three free throws to cut it to 70-61. Another free throw by Hall cut it to eight before the Tigers responded with four straight free throws, and Waters’ jumper from well behind the 3-point line pushed the Tigers’ lead back to 13 with just less than five minutes left.
“Just one of those deals where we were due,” Wade said of LSU’s 67 percent (10 of 15) 3-point shooting, bank-shots and all. “I’ve been telling you all that we’re a good shooting team. Nobody believes me. We are and we finally made a few tonight, which was nice. We deserved some of those to go in.”
Alabama: Hosts Texas A&M on Saturday.
LSU: Visits Arkansas on Saturday night.