LSU used a big second half to defeat No. 15 Texas A&M 76-71 on Saturday afternoon. The Tigers overcame a four-point halftime deficit to outscore A&M 43-34 in the second half.
The win was revenge for a Tigers team that lost by 14 to the Aggies on Jan. 20. At the time, the Aggies were ranked 10th in the nation.
LSU doesn't have much depth, but it didn't need it Saturday. Craig Victor II, Ben Simmons, Antonio Blakeney, Tim Quarterman and Keith Hornsby, LSU's starting five, combined for 66 of the Tigers' 72 points.
Simmons led the way in recording the 17th double-double in 25 games with 16 points and 11 rebounds. He was three assists shy of a triple-double, showing off his facilitating capabilities, per Cody Worsham of the Tiger Rag:
Ben Simmons might have eyes on the back of his head. Finds Josh Gray for the layup. https://t.co/JQNABfusVa— Cody Worsham (@CodyWorsham) February 13, 2016
CBS Sports' Seth Davis resorted to stating the obvious:
Ben Simmons is really good at basketball.— Seth Davis (@SethDavisHoops) February 13, 2016
The Tigers had the faster start, beginning the game with a 7-0 run that cast Texas A&M in a sizable enough hole that it spent a good portion of the first half playing catch-up. LSU used its size down low to create second-chance points, hauling in 14 offensive rebounds.
At times the Tigers were also downright unstoppable in the paint, as CBS Sports showed:
However, the Aggies chipped their way back into the game and, with the score tied at 22, went on a 7-0 run of their own to take a 29-22 lead. It helped them take a four-point lead into halftime.
The Aggies were led by guard Danuel House, who led all scorers with 20 points on 9-of-14 shooting.
But LSU wasn't going anywhere, as the second half turned into a frenzied affair where the teams traded baskets with little resistance.
Davis prepared for an exciting finish:
Buckle up for a great finish on CBS. LSU and Texas A&M tied at 60 with 5:30 to go.— Seth Davis (@SethDavisHoops) February 13, 2016
One of the biggest things that hindered Texas A&M was its inability to hold on to the ball. The Aggies committed 19 turnovers on the day, which left the door wide open for an LSU victory.
Holding a one-point lead at 65-64, LSU scored five straight points, including a big three form Hornsby, and took a six-point lead with under three minutes remaining. The Tigers defense went from tough to stifling, as it held Texas A&M to just three field goals in the game's final 2:32.
With the win, LSU improves to 9-3 in the SEC, which keeps the team in a tie at the top of the conference with Kentucky and bolsters its NCAA tournament resume.
Meanwhile, the slide continues for Texas A&M, as this was its fifth loss in six games. It's also the Aggies' fifth consecutive loss in SEC play. Just a few weeks ago, they were ranked fifth in the nation. Now, they sit two games behind LSU and Kentucky for the top spot in the conference.
With another knock on his postseason chances, Texas A&M head coach Bill Kennedy believed that the SEC should have a number of teams headed to the big dance, per WAFB's Jacques Doucet:
Texas A&M Billy Kennedy says #LSU is an NCAA tournament team and Aggies are as well. Believes six SEC teams should get in.— Jacques Doucet (@JacquesDoucet) February 13, 2016
And in order for LSU to get there, they'll need Simmons, who didn't get much rest on Saturday, per LSU Reveille's Christian Boutwell:
Johnny Jones on Ben Simmons playing all 40 minutes: "He played all 40? Dang."— Christian Boutwell (@CBoutwell_TDR) February 13, 2016
With most of the attention on Simmons, LSU head coach Johnny Jones was quick to remind everyone of his supporting cast, per Doucet:
I thought Tim (Quarterman) was excellent today. #LSU Johnny Jones— Jacques Doucet (@JacquesDoucet) February 13, 2016
There also was a big focus on play from the charity stripe, per Boutwell:
#LSU made 23-of-29 free throws. A&M made 6-of-7.— Christian Boutwell (@CBoutwell_TDR) February 13, 2016
Johnny Jones: "That was the difference." Billy Kennedy said FTs and turnovers were "key"
For both teams, there's still plenty of work to do before they can even think about the NCAA Tournament.
Texas A&M has a huge roadblock in No. 22 Kentucky as their last big opponent of the season. LSU has a number of tough matchups including the same Kentucky along with Tennessee and Arkansas, two teams that beat the Wildcats. They also have one more game against a Florida team that beat them earlier this season.
Stats courtesy of ESPN.com