Simmons, Quarterman lead LSU over No. 15 Texas A&M, 76-71
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Ben Simmons didn’t have to shoot particularly well or throw down any flashy dunks to provide an invaluable, dynamic, wire-to-wire presence for LSU.
Simmons had 16 points, 11 rebounds, and seven assists, and LSU defeated No. 15 Texas A&M 76-71 on Saturday, the Aggies’ fourth straight loss.
Playing all 40 minutes — sometimes in the post and sometimes at guard — the 6-foot-10 Simmons shot only 4 of 11 from the field, but was 8 of 9 at the free throw line to go with three steals and a blocked shot without a turnover.
“Any time you play against a really solid defensive basketball team like Texas A&M and not have any turnovers and you’re handling the ball for the percentage of time during the game like that, it speaks volumes of his ability to see the floor and make the right plays and the right passes,” LSU coach Johnny Jones said of his star freshman. “Great all-around game for him. ... He can impact the game without taking shots and that’s how good he is and that’s how effective he is — and I think he gives guys confidence around him.”
Craig Victor scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half and Keith Hornsby added 15 points for the Tigers (16-9, 9-3 Southeastern Conference), who remained tied atop the SEC standings with Kentucky.
“Victor was a big difference around the basket,” A&M coach Billy Kennedy said. “We had no answer for him. I thought we got out-toughed.”
Danuel House scored 20 points for Texas A&M (18-7, 7-5), which has lost five straight conference games. Alex Caruso scored 14 points and Jalen Jones added 12 for the Aggies, who led by as many as seven points early in the second half, but faded down the stretch for a fifth loss in six games, which could drop them out of the AP Top 25.
“We’ve just got to go back to the drawing board and find ways to win on the road,” House said. “We’re a good team. We’ve just got to put pieces back together.”
Antonio Blakeney scored 10 points for LSU, which won for the second time in four games against ranked opponents this season.
“It was huge,” Simmons said of the victory, which came as LSU tries to solidify its NCAA Tournament credentials. “It was a great opportunity for us to get that win.”
Texas A&M had its largest lead of the second half when Jones’ 3 made it 42-35. LSU then tied it with a 7-0 run that included Victor’s four free throws, and the game was a tense, back-and-forth affair for most of the final 16 minutes.
The Tigers were clinging to a 65-64 lead after Caruso’s free throws with 3:25 left, but Hornsby and Tim Quarterman combined to quickly give LSU a 70-64 lead; Quarterman set up Hornsby’s 3, then Hornsby’s steal led to Quarterman’s breakaway layup.
Texas A&M trailed by six with a minute remaining, but Blakeney stripped House, and the Aggies were forced to start fouling. Quarterman made two free throws and House missed a 3-point attempt, virtually sealing the result.
LSU players singled out Hornsby for providing an emotional lift when he dived for a loose ball in the backcourt in a race with two Aggies who toppled on top of the Tigers’ guard. Hornsby’s hustle forced a turnover when the ball deflected out of bounds off Texas A&M. Hornsby then got up and waved his arms to rile up the crowd.
“Now I have this strawberry on my back, but that’s OK,” Hornsby said. “I’ll see that and it’ll remind me of this good win.”
Starting guard Alex Collins played 5 minutes in the first half before leaving the game for good with what Kennedy later described as an apparent stomach illness.
Kennedy said losing the senior guard’s poise and ball-handling ability might have contributed to A&M’s 19 turnovers, but added, “That is no excuse. Our guys are good enough to have won that game. We can’t turn it over that many times.”
Texas A&M: Texas A&M had won the previous three games in the series, including one this season, 71-57, in College Station, Texas. ... Caruso, the NCAA’s active leader in steals, had three to increase his career total to 257. ... Admon Gilder scored 11 points. ... The Aggies shot 55.8 percent (29 of 52) but were hurt not only by committing 10 more turnovers than LSU, but also by being outscored 23-6 on free throws. “It makes it hard to win,” Kennedy said of the free throw and turnover differentials. “We had our chances. That’s how well we did some other things. We will build off that.”
LSU: The Tigers have won 13 of 15 games in the series that have been played in Baton Rouge. ... LSU improved to 6-0 in home SEC games.
Texas A&M: Hosts Mississippi on Tuesday night.
LSU: Hosts Alabama on Wednesday night.