BATON ROUGE – Fifth-year senior KJ Williams of LSU recorded his 2,000th career point Saturday at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, but the Tigers were unable to keep pace with the ninth-ranked Tennessee Volunteers, falling 77-56.
Williams who recorded his 1,000th rebound of his career on Jan. 7 against Texas A&M, hit a three-pointer with 17:40 to play in the game, giving him his 11th point and an even 2,000 for his career. He finished with 16 points and now is at 2,005 career points. He is unofficially, the 123rd player in college basketball history to score 2,000 points and grab 1,000 rebounds in a career.
KJ finished 7-of-16 from the floor with two made three-pointers.
“It’s a great credit to him for his work ethic and commitment,” said LSU Coach Matt McMahon. “He is an elite teammate who just wants to help his team get better. He wants to help his team find ways to win. I know he’s had the bonus year here (LSU) but not many players in their college career go over 2,000 points. It’s an even smaller fraternity of players who go over 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds. Obviously very proud of him and the work he has put in over these four and a half seasons.”
Tennessee took advantage of 19 LSU turnovers to earn a 33-7 advantage in points off turnovers against the Tigers and eight first-half three-pointers to earn a 39-22 halftime advantage over LSU. Tennessee would make 12 for the game, hitting 12-of-32 from distance. The Vols also scored 20-second chance points with a 20-12 advantage over the Tigers in that statistic.
LSU stayed close with the Volunteers in the second half, making 13-of-22 (59.1%) including 2-of-2 from the arc. However, the Tigers could only make 6-of-12 free throws in the half. LSU finished with its best shooting percentage in a few games, finishing at 47.7 percent (21-of-44), but only made 4-of-16 from the arc and 10-of-17 from the free throw line.
Tennessee finished 29-fo-65 for the game (44.6%), and 7-of-8 at the line.
Besides Williams’ 16 points, Trae Hannibal was again LSU’s other player in double figures with 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting.
Tennessee (16-3 and 6-1 in the SEC) was led by Josiah-Jordan James with 22 points (9-of-16 overall and 4-of-6 from distance), while Zakai Zeigler had 12 points and 10 assists with just one turnover in 37 minutes of play. Julian Phillips added 10 points.
The Tigers now 12-7 and 1-6 in the league, continue its difficult January stretch at Arkansas on Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Bud Walton Arena. That will be the first rematch game in the league that LSU will play this season. LSU’s next home game is next Saturday, Jan. 28, when LSU hosts Texas Tech in the final SEC/Big 12 Challenge at 1 p.m. at the Maravich Center.
LSU Head Coach Matt McMahon
“Credit to Tennessee, there’s a reason they are a top five team in the country. I think, from our standpoint, when you have an opportunity in a game like this you have to find some way eliminate a lot of mistakes. You don’t see numbers like that often where you turn it over and it leads to so many points. When you are playing a top five team, they make you pay for every mistake, every single mistake and that’s what they did today. Both from points off turnovers, missing a switch, you miss a coverage on a flair screen, and they make you pay every time. So, credit to them. They have a terrific team and for us, obviously we’re being tested. We’re being tested and we will find out what we are about as we start preparation for the next opportunity on Tuesday.
On Tennessee’s Points Off LSU Turnovers …
“It doesn’t give you any kind of chance to win or be in the game. They (Tennessee) are really good at it; I think they lead the country in steals and are the number one defense in the country for a reason. We have to find a way to eliminate some of the simple ones. The simple pass that need to be completed, because now you are playing at a disadvantage in the open floor and as I’ve said before, they make you pay every single time.
LSU Senior Guard Trae Hannibal
On Tennessee’s points off turnovers…
“Tennessee is a great defensive team. Credit to them. Really on our end, we just have to execute, take care of the ball and use our possessions wisely. The difference in the game early in the first half, I think we were down nine. Capitalizing, playing together was the main thing.”
On Coach McMahon’s message to the team…
“Really, we have to find ways to come together as a team. In spurts throughout the game, we lose ourselves mentally. Staying together through everything and learning that this is part of the process. It’s not going to be easy. Non-conference, it was what it was, but now we’re here. We can’t look back and dwell on anything. We just have to prepare for Arkansas at this point and put it behind us.”
On Tennessee’s 3-point shooting…
“That’s a good shooting team. Basically, a lot of miscommunication, defensively, and that goes back to playing together and things like that. Everybody being on one floor, in sync, all together. That’s where the majority of their threes came from—just a lot of miscommunication and that’s something we can control.”
Tennessee Head Coach Rick Barnes
On what it means to go on the road and win without a lot of players healthy …
“I am proud of these guys, I really am. We have not been able to do a lot of what we like to do in practice. These guys, like Josiah(-Jordan James), we have used these games to get them where they need to be with their cardio. Today, I thought he did a good job, he came out early and he helped Julian (Philips) and Santiago (Vescovi). I told these guys, we are a good basketball team right now, but we need to get a lot better. We all have to get better. Coaches have to get better. The players have to get better. There is a lot of basketball left and we cannot stay where we are right now.”
On what he liked about Tyreke Key tonight …
“I think he was terrific. He is one of those guys who has been feeling under the weather. Early in the game they were out rebounding us, and he and Julian (Philips) probably changed the rebounding numbers. Tyreke (Key) got three big offensive rebounds, and I thought he took some great, balanced shots. He worked hard defensively too. I should have put him out there more too, Santiago (Vescovi) played more minutes than I realized, and he really was not feeling well at all. I am proud of both Tyreke (Key) and Santiago (Vescovi) because they have both been sick. Tyreke (Key) came back after not playing at all last game, and I thought he played well.”
(LSU Athletics Press Release)