EditorsNote: Minor edits for style, clarity
Sophomore point guard Tremont Waters scored 19 points, including four 3-pointers and a pair of free throws with a half-second left, and backcourt mate Skylar Mays added a team-high 20 points as No. 21 LSU escaped with an 83-78 victory over visiting Auburn on Saturday.
LSU (19-4, 9-1 SEC) wiped out a 26-10 first-half deficit with another impressive performance on the offensive boards, but the Tigers nearly saw their 10-point lead with 2:39 left evaporate.
Waters, who had a game-high 10 assists, and Mays each made a pair of free throws inside the final 30 seconds to seal the victory.
LSU outrebounded Auburn 22-7 on the offensive glass, leading to an overwhelming 29-1 edge in second-chance points. LSU also forced 19 Auburn turnovers.
LSU will take on No. 5 Kentucky (20-3, 9-1 SEC) in Rupp Arena on Tuesday night.
Auburn (16-7, 5-5 SEC) was paced by guard Jared Harper with a game-high 25 points. Harper’s 3-pointer from the right wing with 30.8 seconds left cut the deficit to 79-76, and Auburn forced an inbounds violation and got a layup from Chuma Okeke with 26.4 seconds left to draw within 79-78.
But Auburn failed to connect on two 3-point chances in the final seconds.
Waters made three 3-pointers in the first four minutes of the second half, part of a 15-5 run that gave LSU a 53-46 lead with 14:07 left. After being warned for leaving the bench area, Auburn coach Bruce Pearl was given a second violation, which led to a free throw and then a 3-pointer by Darius Days, which put LSU up 59-51.
Despite leading 41-38 at halftime, Auburn had to be disappointed that its margin wasn’t bigger because it connected on 11 of 16 from 3-point range while holding LSU to just three 3-pointers in the half. Harper led the long-range barrage by making 4-of-5 3-pointers in the half.
Auburn made eight 3-pointers in the first nine minutes to take a 26-10 advantage, but LSU crawled back by pounding the ball inside and dominating the smaller Auburn frontcourt on the offensive glass, 10-2, which led to an 11-0 edge in second-chance points. Nine of Auburn’s first 10 baskets were 3-pointers.
LSU went on a 16-3 run, capped by Mays’ layup and 3-pointer and a dunk by Emmitt Williams off an inbounds pass, to close within 29-26.
Auburn outshot LSU 54 percent to 35 percent in the half, but Waters’ 3-pointer at the buzzer drew LSU within three. LSU also had 11 first-half turnovers against Auburn, with three coming on steals by Waters, who also had seven points and eight assists in the half.
—Field Level Media