Epps, Seniors Shine On Their Day In Victory Over MSU, 78-57

Seniors Aaron Epps (21) and Duop Reath (1) combined for 28 points in their home finale. Gus Stark/LSU Photographic Services
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BATON ROUGE, La. -- It started as a nice typical Senior Tribute Day for the LSU Basketball Team. Hugs, loud applause, presentations and a few teams as seniors Aaron Epps, Duop Reath, graduate transfer Randy Onwuasor and walk-on Reed Vial were honored.

It ended in one of the best overall Senior Days in recent times here at LSU as the Tigers were able to win a sixth consecutive home game in easy fashion, 78-57, over Mississippi State at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, and give walk-on Vial a chance to close out the afternoon on the floor making a three-pointer that led to the walk-on being mobbed by his teammates as the horn sounded and even earning him an invitation to post-game media.

Vial’s five points (he also cashed in two free throws prior to the trey as LSU point guard Tremont Waters did his best to get him the ball) was a footnote to an afternoon when LSU certainly played one of its better games in not only picking up its eighth top 50 RPI win, but its 11th straight dating back to last season when shooting 50 percent or better from the field.

Senior Epps again showed how much progress he has made under Coach Will Wade by scoring 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting (including 4-of-8 from the arc) with three rebounds in 24 minutes. Brandon Sampson showed some of his old spark getting 16 points on 4-of-7 shooting that included a trey and 7-of-7 at the line. He also had three steals in 24 minutes.

Tremont Waters had his fourth double double and fifth double figure assist game with 10 as scored 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting with 3-of-4 from the arc in 34 minutes and Reath closed out his regular season home career with 12 points and a team high eight rebounds.

LSU, with wins in the final six regular season home games, finishes at 17-13 and 8-10 in the league and will earn a first round bye and play on Thursday at 6 p.m. CT in the third game of the second round and for the second straight year they will play the opening game against Mississippi Stage after meeting the Bulldogs in the final game of the regular season. Alabama and LSU tie for ninth but the Tide won both meetings and puts LSU in the 10 seed. The Tigers were predicted to finish 14th in the preseason media polls.

State dropped its second consecutive game to fall to 21-10 and 9-9 in the league. Lamar Peters had 14 points to lead the Bulldogs, while Q Weatherspoon had 12 and Nick Weatherspoon 11.

The Bulldogs had two three-point leads in the first six minutes of the game and that was about the end of their success although they made LSU battle for a good portion of the second half before LSU separated away.

LSU would eventually take the lead for good at 23-21 with 9:06 to go in the LSU half on a Reath jumper and then Sampson off a Brandon Rachal steal threw in a dunk, followed by buckets by Waters and Onwuasor and a free throw by Reath to make it a 30-21 advantage. At the half, LSU was up 37-32.

Mississippi State would cut the game to two, 47-45, six minutes deep into the second half on a Lamar Peters layup, but LSU countered on a Sampson jumper followed by three possessions with no points for the Bulldogs. Waters would hit a three to make the lead 52-45 with 11:59 to play. The lead pushed to double figures in the second half, 57-47, on a Brandon Rachal jumper.

It was Vial’s three-pointer that would make the game’s biggest margin for LSU as he took the pass from another walk-on Marshall Graves and put it through.

LSU finished the game hitting 51.9 percent (28-of-54) and 14-of-25 (56 percent) in the second half. The Tigers finished 11-of-23 from the arc, in the process topping the old single season team mark for threes with 234 (2012-13). LSU now has 241 treys for the season. LSU was 7-of-14 from the arc in the second half.

Mississippi State finished the game at 41.1 percent (23-of-56), but just 26 percent from the arc, making 6-of-23.

LSU had a 28-26 advantage in points in the paint and 18-12 in points off turnovers.

LSU is expected to leave for St. Louis either early or late Tuesday depending on first game date and time. The games will be broadcast on either the SEC Network or ESPN and all LSU games will be broadcast on the affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network.

Head Coach Will Wade will review the 2017-18 season on Monday at the final Tipoff Luncheon delivered by UPS at the L’Auberge Casino at the Bon Temps Buffet. The buffet opens at 11:30 a.m. and the program starts at approximately 12:10 p.m.

SEC Tournament Seeding
March 7-11, 2018
St. Louis, Mo.

Seed, Team, Record
1. Auburn 13-5
2. Tennessee 13-5
3. Florida 11-7
4. Kentucky 10-8
5. Missouri 10-8
6. Arkansas 10-8
7. Mississippi St. 9-9
8. Texas A&M 9-9
9. Alabama 8-10
10. LSU 8-10
11. South Carolina 7-11
12. Georgia 7-11
* 13/14. Ole Miss 5-12
* 13/14. Vanderbilt 5-12

* game played late Saturday; winner is No. 13 seed; loser is No. 14 seed

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