Freshman Cameron Thomas scored 27 points as LSU held off SIU Edwardsville 94-81 on Thursday night in the Billiken Classic on the Saints Louis University campus.
Darius Days added a career-high 24 points, Trendon Watford scored 13 and Javonte Smart had 10 as the Tigers built an early 22-point lead and withstood a strong comeback to win their season opener.
Mike Adewunmi scored 23, Cam Williams added 14 off the bench, Philip Pepple Jr. scored 13 and Shamar Wright had 12 to lead the Cougars (0-2).
SIUE, which made just 2 of 11 3-pointers in an 89-52 loss to Saint Louis on Wednesday, made 13 of 27 to fight its way back into contention against the Tigers, who are one spot out of the AP Top 25.
The Cougars, who reduced their turnovers from 25 in the opener to 15, whittled the deficit to 15 at halftime and kept chipping away to start the second half.
Adewunmi’s 3-pointer pulled the Cougars within 10, Wright’s 3-pointer pulled them within eight and Pepple’s dunk pulled them within six.
Pepple made a dunk and a layup to pull them within five.
Adewunmi’s 3-pointer got them within two before Thomas answered with a 3-pointer.
Pepple’s jumper got them with two again before Shareef O’Neal made a 3-pointer to give the Tigers a 65-60 lead midway through the half.
Watford had a basket and three of his game-high nine assists as LSU took an 83-68 lead with five minutes remaining and held on.
SIUE started the game as though it was going to be as lopsided as its season opener one night earlier.
Days made four 3-pointers and scored 14 as LSU raced to a 26-4 lead.
But the Cougars fought back after enduring 11-0 and 12-0 runs.
They made five 3-pointers to get within 34-21.
Desmond Polk’s 3-pointer brought SIEU within 41-32.
Thomas scored seven points to lead the Tigers finishing push that produced a 49-34 halftime lead.