LSU downs North Florida 119-108 behind Simmons
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — LSU fell victim to deadly long-range shooting in the first eight minutes against North Florida on Wednesday.
The Ospreys knocked down 7 of 9 3-pointers in taking a double-digit lead before the Tigers eventually established superiority in the paint to rally for a 119-108 victory.
LSU (4-3), which ended a three-game losing streak, scored 76 points in the lane. With 43 points, Ben Simmons was the player most responsible for those points in the paint.
Simmons shot 15 of 20 from the field and made 13 of 15 free throws. Simmons really made his presence known in the second half when the Tigers erased an eight-point deficit and he made all but one of his 10 field goal attempts and sank all seven of his free throws.
His 43 points were the most for a Tigers player since Shaquille O’Neal had 43 against Northern Arizona on Dec. 28, 2001. Simmons also had 14 rebounds, seven assists, five steals and three blocked shots.
“I’m tired of losing,” Simmons said. “I just wanted everyone to get energy and try to play as a team. The three losses fueled the fire a little bit. I definitely felt like they couldn’t stop me in the post. My teammates built my confidence by throwing me the ball. Once I had it, I knew where I was going.”
Four other LSU starters also scored in double figures. Both Tim Quarterman and Josh Gray had 20 points, while Aaron Epps had a career-high 14 and Jalyn Patterson had 11. The Tigers shot 64 percent from the field (45 of 70).
“North Florida is a tough matchup for anyone,” said LSU coach Johnny Jones. “Our guys did a tremendous job of fighting in the first half to stay connected in the game and not allowing them to get away from us. In the second half, we were patient. We got the ball inside and utilized our size and quickness in the paint.”
Both Beau Beech and Dallas Moore had 31 points apiece for the Ospreys (6-3), a career high for Beech. Demarcus Daniels scored 18 points and Trent Mackey had 13.
“Obviously when you score 108 points, you feel like you are going to win the game,” North Florida coach Matthew Driscoll said. “When they get downhill with Simmons being the lead guy, they’re so hard to guard because he’s so unselfish.”
Beech made five of the nine 3-pointers the Ospreys made in the game’s opening minutes.
The Tigers did a much better job defending the 3-point shot the rest of the half and pulled within 45-42 on a basket by Gray with 3:02 before halftime. North Florida was just 3 of 7 on 3-pointers after the opening eight minutes, but was able to keep scoring.
North Florida answered with six straight points on a field goal by Daniels and four foul shots by Moore. The Ospreys took another double-digit lead at 56-46 on a 3-pointer by Daniels with 34 seconds left in the half. Simmons made two free throws to leave the Tigers behind 56-48 at halftime.
Simmons took over the game on the offensive end of the floor at the start of the second half, accounting for 12 of LSU’s first 14 second-half points. Simmons’ field goal with 15:38 remaining pulled the Tigers within 66-62.
LSU finally grabbed the lead by scoring eight points in less than 30 seconds. Brian Bridgewater made a shot in the lane and was fouled. He missed the free throw attempt, but Simmons scored after grabbing the rebound.
Then, the Tigers’ press led to two turnovers and baskets by Patterson and Gray to put them ahead 72-71 with 14:25 left. LSU pushed its advantage to five points at 80-75 following field goals by Brandon Sampson and Quarterman.
A field goal by Moore pulled North Florida within 85-84 with 9:57 remaining, but the Ospreys would never regain the lead. A 3-point play and two baskets by Simmons sparked an 11-5 run which put the Tigers ahead 100-91 with 4:49 to play and North Florida wouldn’t get closer than seven points.
North Florida: The Ospreys improved their 3-point statistics against LSU. North Florida entered the game first in the country in 3-pointers with 96, second in 3-pointers per game with 12.0 and sixth in 3-point shooting at 44 percent. The Ospreys made 58 percent of their 3-point shots (19-of-33).
LSU: The Tigers scored 100 points and allowed 100 points in the same game for the first time in 11 seasons. LSU defeated Ohio State 113-101 on Jan. 15, 2005.
Ben Simmons placed his name in the same company with Mahmood Abdul-Rauf (formerly Chris Jackson) and Shaquille O’Neal. In the last 40 years, Abdul-Rauf and O’Neal were the only LSU players with 43 points in a game. Abdul-Rauf scored at least 43 points eight times, while O’Neal did it twice.
ANOTHER LOSS TO SEC TEAM
North Florida saw its record against teams currently in the Southeastern Conference fall to 0-12. Four of the defeats have come against both Alabama and Florida. The Ospreys lost despite shooting 51 percent from the field (39 of 76), 58 percent on 3-pointers (19 of 33) and 85 percent at the foul line (11 of 13).
The last time both teams in a LSU game scored at least 108 points was in the 1990-91 season. The Tigers beat Loyola (Marymount) 122-114 on Dec. 20, 1990.
North Florida plays at Dayton on Saturday.
LSU plays at Houston on Sunday, Dec. 13.