With the SEC game starting 11 days later, LSU first-year head coach Matt McMahon is looking for forward KJ Williams to help score.
Over the past two games, McMahon has found the Fountain of Youth.
Mississippi State forward Derrick Fountain’s season-high 17 points and 14 rebounds helped the 9-1 Tigers defeat a troublesome 67-57 North Carolina Central at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center on Tuesday night.
“I’m really excited about Derrick’s progress. It’s no coincidence that he’s played in the last few games,” McMahon said of Fountain, who made his first start of the season in LSU’s 72-70 victory over Wake on Saturday. said. Woods. “This is how he’s been playing every day in practice for about a month.
“He is the hardest working person on the floor, brings great energy, and has really established a habit of connecting people. ‘s communication and leadership has been excellent.”
Williams is the second-leading scorer in the SEC and reigns SEC Player of the Week with a 35-point performance against Wake Forest, with 18 points and 12 rebounds.
Also, North Carolina transfer guard Kam Hayes, who averaged seven points off the bench in LSU’s first eight games, scored a season-high 14 points in his first start.
McMahon said of Hayes, who had to be rescued from the floor after cramping in the final three minutes after trying to block Central, North Carolina’s shot, “probably a month ago he was 11 in the rotation. I think I was the 12th person,” he said. “He came to work. Efficient. You have to get him on the floor.”
Over the last two games, Fountain and Hayes combined for 27.5 points and 15.5 rebounds while shooting 61.8% (21 of 34) from the field.
LSU needed three outstanding players against a tenacious Eagles (5-6).
LSU’s rebounding dominance – blowing NC Central 45-31 on the board and scoring 18 points on 15 offensive retrieves – helped the Tigers weather tight moments.
“In Saturday’s game[against Wake Forest]I was only allowed four offensive rebounds[against Central, North Carolina]. In the last 24 minutes of play, I gave up just one offensive rebound,” McMahon said. Told. “So, salute to our players. That was clearly an area of focus for us to improve.”
The Tigers’ only glaring flaw in Tuesday’s victory was the below-average offense of starting guards Juice Hill and Adam Miller.
Hill and Miller combined for just 8 points and hit 3 of 21 shots, including 1 of 13 3-pointers. Miller, who scored a point after missing 10 field goal attempts (0 of 8 3-pointers), has now scored in his last two games, including 1 of 14 3-pointers. From the field he has 1 of 21 successes. He missed his 3-pointer for his 13th straight.
Luckily, Hayes picked up Miller’s scoring slack and Fountain’s continued improvement was a boost.
It took LSU about 18 minutes to build an opening double-digit lead over the Eagles, eventually leading 40-26 at halftime. With 10 lead changes, the Tigers couldn’t pull away early, with LSU missing his 3-pointer on his first 10 and Williams going scoreless in his 11-and-a-half minutes of the game.
Still, LSU kept afloat offensively by relentless fountains. His energy produced 15 points (11 in 6:44 in the first) and had eight rebounds, including four offensively.
The Williams offense geared up. He scored all of his 14 points of the first half in his last eight and a half minutes, including 10 in LSU’s 16-4 final run in the final 6:24 of the first half.
The Tigers made the last five of six field goals, including Hayes and Williams 3-pointers, while the NCU missed the last seven of eight shots.
NC Central manager Rebel Morton said, “We didn’t end the second half the way we wanted to. “(LSU’s) frontcourt really dominated the first half. They (Williams and Fountain) are great players. I thought we did a great job protecting their guards, and Kam Hayes came in and made some big shots.”
The Tigers will play Winthrop at home on Saturday at 6pm (5-6). The Eagles are the 2020 and 2021 Big South Conference regular season and tournament championship winners, and the last time he played in his NCAA Tournament was in 2021.
Over the past three seasons, Winthrop has won 48 of the Big South’s 54 regular-season games.