LSU avoided losing its fourth straight game thanks to a high-scoring effort from its entire team, paced by star freshman Ben Simmons’ career-high 43 points in a 119-108 win against North Florida.
Simmons had his most impressive offensive performance of the season, scoring 43 on 75 percent shooting from the field and a 13-for-15 showing at the line. He added 14 rebounds, seven assists, five steals and three blocks just to complete the punch card for the most well-rounded game you could ask for from the star freshman.
Both teams welcomed an up-and-down game and North Florida had control for most of the first half, leading by as many as 14 and taking a 56-48 lead into halftime. But from the very beginning of the game you could tell that Simmons was going to have a big night.
No one on North Florida’s roster could guard him down low, and as the possessions increased in the fast-paced game so did Simmons’ touches. He had 18 points at halftime, a quick six in the first minute of the second half. As LSU turned North Florida over and took control of the game after halftime it was Simmons who continued to keep his foot on the gas on the way to his career-high offensive total.
Simmons is the first LSU player to score at least 40 in a game since Tasmin Mitchell did it in 2009 with 41 against Mississippi State. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Simmons is the only major conference player in the past 20 seasons with 40 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and five steals in a game.
But what was really cool is Simmons putting his name next to two LSU legends in the 43-point club.
Ben Simmons finished the night with 43 points. The last two Tigers to finish a game with exactly 43 points were Shaq and Pete Maravich.
— LSU Basketball (@LSUBasketball) December 3, 2015
Simmons has received criticism for being passive at times this season, and he shot just 31.4 percent in the previous three games, all LSU losses. This kind of performance does not need to be the norm for LSU to win, but it felt like the home crowd was climbing out of this recent slump with Simmons, and the rest of the team, with every made bucket.
North Florida’s ability to just make it rain from outside — the Ospreys hit 19 of their 33 3-point attempts! — led to enough touches for five LSU players to finish in double figures, with Tim Quarterman and Josh Gray scoring 20 each. Dallas Moore’s 31 points led North Florida, a team that should continue to put up silly scores when it faces Atlantic Sun competition this season.