BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Texas A&M picked the wrong time to leave Jarell Martin alone.
A recent, subtle change in Martin’s jump-shooting mechanics has him playing more confidently on the offensive end, so he was ready to cash in when his defender left him open on the perimeter to help inside against dominant LSU post player Johnny O’Bryant III.
Martin finished with 20 points on 7-of-9 shooting, and LSU resumed its home-court dominance with a 68-49 victory over Texas A&M on Wednesday night.
“If a guy starts to leave me open, that definitely helps me go in and try to take over games,” Martin said. “I’ve got some very unselfish teammates. They share the ball well. They got the ball to me when I was wide open and I took confidence in myself in being ready and prepared to knock down the shots.”
O’Bryant had 15 points and nine rebounds, and Andre Stringer added 11 points as LSU (17-10, 8-7 Southeastern Conference) won its seventh straight at home and improved to 13-2 in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
The Aggies (16-12, 7-8), who beat LSU in the teams’ previous meeting in College Station, Texas, came into the game shooting a league-worst 40.7 percent in SEC games and fared even worse than that at LSU, shooting 30.8 percent (16 for 52).
Part of the Aggies’ problem stemmed from the defensive play of 6-foot-8 LSU freshman Jordan Mickey, who blocked five shots. Another factor was LSU coach Johnny Jones’ decision to play man-to-man defense after having played predominantly zone defense for most of the past eight games.
“We were able to stay in front of our guys,” Mickey said. “When guys did get beat, we helped in the right way and limited them to one shot.”
Jordan Green led the Aggies with 12 points and Kourtney Roberson added nine points and eight rebounds.
Green said the Aggies were caught somewhat off guard by LSU’s switch from zone defense to man-to-man, but also were guilty of abandoning their own game plan, which emphasizes patience and scoring late in the shot clock.
“We started taking quicker shots that were out of rhythm,” Green said. “We were trying to get it going and started thinking too much.”
Martin, a 6-9 freshman, made a season-high four 3-pointers on five attempts and also grabbed seven rebounds. He said he’s been shooting his jump shot with better balance and accuracy after overcoming his tendency to fade back as he lifts of the ground. Now he rises straight up.
His coach, meanwhile, said Martin has further helped himself by taking shots in the flow of the offense, rather than forcing matters.
“He didn’t go shot-hunting,” Jones said. “He was patient and he was able to take what the defense gave him.”
Anthony Hickey had eight assists to equal his career high, which he set in an overtime loss at Kentucky just last Saturday.
LSU turned a six-point halftime lead into a double-digit advantage early in the second half thanks in large part to Martin, who scored nine straight LSU points on a 3, a jumper, two free throws and a fast-break layup, the last giving LSU a 43-31 lead with 11:54 to go.
Martin’s teammates got back into the act with Stringer’s 3-pointer and Shavon Coleman’s layup to make it 48-33.
“We were in the game (early in the second half), and then Jarell Martin exploded on us,” Aggies coach Billy Kennedy said. “Then we were playing catch-up. We’re not a good team to have to press and play catch-up.”
Texas A&M was plagued by poor shooting. During the first 11 minutes of the second half, the Aggies made only 2 of 16 shots (12.5 percent), providing little indication they would be able to rally back from a 15-point hole in the final 10 minutes.
They never got closer than 13 the rest of the way.
“There was one stretch where no matter who we put in the game, we couldn’t score,” Kennedy said. “LSU’s length and size really gave us problems.”
The first half featured drastic momentum swings.
Antwan Space scored five early points, including a layup that gave A&M a 15-7 lead nearly 7 minutes into the game.
The Aggies then went 10 minutes without a single point, missing nine shots and turning the ball over three times during that stint.
LSU cashed in with a 21-0 run during which Stringer scored five of his points, first hitting a 3 and later a layup that gave LSU a 28-15 lead.
Texas A&M broke its scoring draught on Alex Caruso’s layup, and Dylan Johns’ dunk capped a 9-2 run to close out the half and pull A&M to 30-24.
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