For the second time in three days, the LSU basketball team gave up too many 3-point field goals in Saturday’s game against Saint Louis University in the Billiken Classic in St. Louis.
But in the eyes of Tigers coach Will Wade, it wasn’t what hurt the most in an 85-81 loss to Saint Louis in Chaifetz Arena.
Even though the Billikens knocked down 10 of their final 15 shots from beyond the 3-point arc after misfiring on their first nine attempts from long range, Wade pointed to Saint Louis’ 12 made layups as a major factor in the game’s outcome.
“We’re going to give up some 3s with the way we’re playing,” Wade said. “The bigger issue was the layups that we gave up. We can’t give up the layups and the 3s, so that was a bigger issue.”
Saint Louis’ Javonte Perkins did a lot of both, going inside and outside for a game-high 32 points —26 of them coming in the second half — to help the Billikens hold off a scoring onslaught by LSU’s duo of Cam Thomas and Trendon Watford.
Thomas poured in 21 of his 25 points in the second half and Watford got 16 of his 24 after intermission to help LSU (1-1) climb almost all the way back after trailing by 10 points at halftime and by 12 early in rhe second half.
They combined for 37 of LSU’s 53 points in the second half, but the Tigers came up just short after Thomas pulled his team to within 80-79 with 47.5 seconds to play.
With the shot clock winding down, Perkins was fouled by Javonte Smart on a 3-point attempt from the corner and he knocked down all three for a four-point cushion.
Then, after Darius Days put back a Watford miss with 8.7 seconds left, Perkins iced the game for Saint Louis (2-0) by making a one-and-one with 4.8 seconds to play.
By that time, Perkins had made 10 of 18 shots from the field — going 4 of 8 from deep — and Gibson Jimerson was 6 of 11 overall from the floor in hitting 4 of 9 on 3-pointers.
“Perkins is a great player, 24 (Jimerson) is a great shooter,” Wade said. “We had a couple issues there. But I’m more concerned with the layups we gave up than the made threes.”
Together, they helped Saint Louis, which went 23-8 last season and is picked to finish second in the Atlantic 10, shoot 61.5% in the second half and 55.4% for the game.
On the other hand, Thomas was 10 of 18 — including 4 of 10 from long range — and Watford was 8 of 12 as LSU hit 61.3% in the second half and 53.8% for the game.
Smart added 18 points for the Tigers, while Days had nine points and 11 rebounds.
Jimerson scored 16 points for Saint Louis, while Demarius Jacobs had 13 in going 5 of 5 from the field and Jordan Goodwin finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
“It was a really, really good game,” Wade said. “I was proud of our guys in the second half … we battled in the second half. Our offense got a little bit stagnant in the first half and we weren’t as sharp as we need to be.”
He attributed part of that to Thomas picking up two fouls in the first four minutes of the game and going to the bench for nine minutes.
“It’s just one of those deals where I think we bogged down and we held the ball too long,” Wade said. “We let the defense get set and they were sitting in the gaps for us.
“It wasn’t a deficit we couldn’t overcome and we gave ourselves a chance to win at the end. We just couldn’t get the stop and loose ball when we needed it. It was a good game between two high-level teams.”