It was only a matter of time before Ja’vonte Smart found his footing again. He did just that against Alabama.
The hometown freshman may have started the game on the bench — ending his 13-game starting streak — but he dominated the game from the moment he stepped onto the floor.
Smart finished the game with 15 points and five assists to help lead LSU past Alabama, 88-79, to end the Tigers’ 5-game drought against the Crimson Tide.
Smart had plenty of help though, too.
Tremont Waters added 19 points, Darius Days scored 14 points and Kavell Bigby-Williams chipped in 14 points and had 13 rebounds for his third double-double of the year in LSU’s 16th straight win inside the PMAC.
LSU ended the first half on a 6-0 run — 3-pointers by Smart and Days — and picked up where it left off in the second half. Bigby-Williams opened the second frame with a layup and Naz Reid crushed the rim to give LSU a 19-point lead.
But the lead didn’t stay comfortable.
Alabama (10-4, SEC 1-1) did its best to cut into the deficit and slowly chipped away, taking advantage of LSU’s 3-of-17 stretch. The Crimson Tide also took 20 free throws in the second half, making 18 of them to help close the gap.
With under two minutes to go, Alabama was within two possessions. But Bigby-Williams threw down a slam with 79 seconds to go to give LSU a 6-point lead.
The final daggers came with 20 seconds to go when Skylar Mays made both his free throws to put LSU up by nine points.
LSU (11-3, SEC 1-0) went off in the first half from behind the three, hitting 8-of-10 from long. Smart made three of those on his own. And so did Days. Williams hit his first 3-pointer of his LSU career, and Waters rounded out the eighth. LSU finished the game with 10 3-pointers
Smart’s first-half contributions weren’t just from hitting shots. He had four assists too, having a hand in the last 19 points of the first half.
Smart may have dominated the first half, but Bigby-Williams made his name for him in the second half. The senior scored 12 of his 14 points in the second frame, and added eight rebounds after the break too.
The Crimson Tide spread around the minutes, suiting up 11 different players.
Kira Lewis Jr. led Alabama with 15 points. Riley Norris added 12 points, while Herbert Jones added 10 points.
Up next: LSU travels to Fayetteville, Arkansas, to take on the Razorbacks on Saturday. That game tips off at 5 p.m. … Alabama hosts Texas A&M on Saturday.