COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Antonio Blakeney scored 24 points in LSU’s conference-opening 96-89 loss to Vanderbilt last Thursday.
While Blakeney doesn’t necessarily consider LSU’s offense “his” offense, he did take it upon himself to help LSU bounce back in its first conference road test.
Blakeney hit 3 of 4 from 3-point range, finishing with 24 points for the second consecutive game as LSU beat Missouri 88-77 on Wednesday night.
“We took a hard loss so we had to try to come get one back on the road,” Blakeney said. “I’m a real good scorer, and our offense is good for any good scorer, so just running through the offense, I’ll get open looks…Just going out there playing hard, playing aggressive, and making plays when I had to.”
Aaron Epps and Jalyn Patterson added 11 points apiece
Jordan Barnett scored 18 points and grabbed nine rebounds for Missouri, but had just four points in the second half behind 1 of 5 shooting.
Blakeney said the team keyed in on Barnett after his big first half.
“He was shooting it well at first. I think we gave him a little bit of space, so coming into the second half, we just tried to get up in him, and he took those same shots, I think, and he missed them,” Blakeney said.
Kevin Puryear added 15 points and seven rebounds, and Jordan Geist scored 13 in his second career start. Terrence Philips, who came off the bench after starting in his first 43 games, had 12 points, eight assists and seven rebounds.
“I thought he played really well,” Missouri coach Kim Anderson said of Phillips. “I thought maybe he would give us a boost when he came off the bench. I thought that he would have a chance to sit there and kind of study what’s going on and come in and play.”
Missouri (5-8, 0-1 Southeastern Conference) led 40-35 at halftime, but LSU opened the second half on a 9-4 run and took the lead with 14:25 remaining following a 3-pointer by Blakeney.
Puryear tied the game at 54-54 before LSU (9-4, 1-1) made seven of its next eight shots during a 17-4 run that sealed it.
“I would say those two turnovers to start the half, that definitely set the tone for the second half and it kind of deflated us,” Puryear said. “And then, they came down and hit two quick three’s, and then I thought that was pretty much the end, and then we played like it was, and just really couldn’t climb back into it.”
Missouri shot just 38.7 percent, including 1 of 13 from 3-point range, in the second half.
“Going into halftime with a deficit, we were fortunate to come back out and have a good first four or five minutes in the second half, and continued to battle and down the stretch,” LSU coach Johnny Jones said. “It was fortunate that our defense was able to pick up and take it to a different level.”
With 9:21 remaining in the first half, Phillips stole the ball under LSU’s basket and, just after crossing half court, found Barnett streaking near the baseline for an emphatic alley-oop slam that gave Missouri a 26-19 lead.
Wednesday afternoon, Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk issued a statement addressing the current state of Missouri basketball.
“Evaluations of all staff take place throughout the year, and continue until the season is over,” Sterk said. “Any decisions that need to be made based on those evaluations will be done at the appropriate time.”
Anderson, who is now 24-52 in his third season coaching his alma mater, addressed Sterk’s statement post-game.
“Obviously, I’m disappointed,” Anderson said. “There’s no way around that. I understand his statement. We haven’t produced the results that we need to produce. But I do appreciate his support. He’s been very supportive in the time here. We’ve had a lot of challenges. For me, my goal is to obviously improve these guys. I actually thought we did improve, but we obviously have to start winning some games.”
LSU: After losing the dynamic duo of Tim Quarterman and Ben Simmons, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft, LSU had holes to fill in the frontcourt and on the perimeter entering the season. Sophomore guards Brandon Sampson and Blakeney are averaging a combined 36 points per game, while forwards Wayde Sims and Duop Reath are helping to fill the void left in the post by Simmons. Sims and Reath combined for 19 points and 12 rebounds against Missouri.
Missouri: In the 2015-16 season, Missouri was 9-0 when leading at halftime, and 0-23 when tied or trailing. This season, Missouri has lost three games in which it led at halftime, including a 67-64 home loss to Eastern Illinois.
LSU: Hosts Mississippi State Saturday. LSU won the last meeting, defeating the Bulldogs 88-77 on Feb. 6, 2016 in Baton Rouge.
Missouri: Visits Georgia Saturday. Missouri lost twice to Georgia last season, including a 77-59 loss in Athens on Jan. 6, 2016.
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