EditorsNote: fixes typo in 3rd graf
Javonte Smart scored 21 points as LSU began the defense of its Southeastern Conference regular-season championship with a 78-64 victory over Tennessee on Saturday afternoon in Knoxville, Tenn.
Smart, who scored 29 in the Tigers’ 82-80 overtime win against the Volunteers last season, was 5-for-9 from 3-point range. Skylar Mays added 17 points and Trendon Watford had 15 as LSU (9-4, 1-0 SEC) scored 20 points more than the Volunteers’ defensive average, which ranked eighth best in the country entering the game.
Yves Pons and Santiago Vescovi scored 18 each and Josiah-Jordan James added 13 to lead Tennessee (8-5, 0-1), which lost for the fourth time in five games and had its 17-game home SEC winning streak ended.
Pons’ jumper started the second-half scoring and gave the Vols a one-point lead, but Watford’s layup put the Tigers back on top.
Mays’ jumper pushed the lead to three, but Tennessee twice got within one point before LSU started to pull away.
Smart made a 3-pointer and passed to Emmitt Williams for a dunk before Darius Days made a layup for a 51-43 lead.
Pons sank a 3-pointer, but the Tigers’ lead reached 59-49 on Smart’s jumper with 12:10 remaining.
LSU led by 11 on two occasions before Vescovi’s 3-pointer pulled Tennessee within 65-57 with 6:23 left.
Watford made a free throw and Mays added a 3-pointer and a dunk to give the Tigers a comfortable 71-57 lead with 3:46 left.
Smart scored five points as LSU took a 7-4 lead, but that was the Tigers’ last lead until late in the first half. Vescovi made a 3-pointer to tie the score and trigger an 11-0 run by Tennessee.
A jumper by Watford stopped the run and LSU pulled within 20-18 on two free throws by Marlon Taylor.
The Vols rebuilt the lead to eight, but the Tigers got within one point before Vescovi made a 3-pointer and Pons hit a jumper to give Tennessee a 37-31 lead.
Mays’ dunk started a 7-0 run by the Tigers to finish the half. Smart made two free throws and a 3-pointer to give LSU a 38-37 halftime lead.
—Field Level Media