JACKSONVILLE, FL (WAFB) - No. 3 seed LSU survived a late rally by No. 14 seed Yale to move on to the next round of the NCAA Tournament.
The Tigers held on late to beat a tough Yale squad, 79-74.
Skylar Mays led the scoring attack for LSU with 19 points.
Tremont Waters added 15 points and dished out 7 assists.
Both Naz Reid and Kavell Bigby-Williams finished with double-doubles. Reid had 14 points and 10 rebounds, while Bigby-Williams had 10 points and 10 boards, as well as four block shots.
Javonte Smart and Emmitt Williams came up big off the bench for the Tigers. Smart had nine points and six rebounds and Williams had eight points and five rebounds.
The Tigers improved to 27-6 on the season.
“First of all, we’re excited with obviously being able to survive and advance,” said interim head coach Tony Benford. “I thought our guys came out and especially in the first half, we really executed our game plan. We wanted to attack the paint, and I think - paint points in the first half, we kind of dominated them in the paint. And I thought we were good defensively in the first half. We did a great job getting to their shooters, making it tough for those guys to get to the paint. I thought the second half we came out and gave up some easy baskets, but I give them all credit. They’re a good team. They play with a lot of confidence, a lot of poise, and they made some big shots when they needed to. But we were able to make some free throws down the stretch that enabled us to win the game. We got some stops that we needed down the stretch. But we’re really, really happy to have the win.”
LSU got off to a hot start, taking the early 9-0 lead and was up 45-29 at halftime, but struggled down the stretch once again, allowing the Bulldogs to cut the lead to three before Skylar Mays hit two free throws to seal the victory for the Tigers.
“I’d just say we were aggressive and we had a great game plan getting into the paint and using our size advantage and Naz did a great job getting in the paint,” Mays said about the team starting out hot on offense. “Tremont was all over the place and all these guys did a great job.”
LSU led by as many as 18 points in the second half, but Yale was able to come within three points in the closing seconds of the game.
Alex Copeland led the Bulldogs in scoring with 24 points.
Jordan Bruner had 16 points and nine rebounds and Azar Swain added 12 points and five rebounds off of the bench.
The Tigers held Yale’s star guard, Miye Oni, to five points on just 2-of-16 shooting.
“Just controlling the lead, controlling the tempo on both sides of the floor,” Reid said about learning from this game moving forward. “As far as the whole team, just playing our best and going out and playing hard as we can. Going forward, it’s a lot. No discredit to Yale, but it’s going to be a lot of tougher teams going forward, so we’ve just got to be able to balance everything out and do what we do best.”
This was LSU’s first win in the NCAA Tournament since 2009.
LSU will next face Maryland Saturday after the Terrapins beat Belmont, 79-77.