GEORGE TOWN, Grand Cayman - The LSU Tigers played a near flawless opening 20 minutes and eased to a 77-61 decision over Illinois State in a first-round game of the Cayman Island Classic here Monday morning at John Gray Gymnasium.
The Tigers made the events return to the islands in three years a special one by opening a 45-18 halftime advantage in going to 4-0 on the young season and advancing to Tuesday's semifinal game at 12:30 p.m. CST against the winner of the Akron-Western Kentucky game.
Fifth-year senior KJ Williams had a spectacular tournament opener with 33 points, 22 in the opening half. It equaled the second highest scoring game of his college career and the fifth time he had 30 or more points in a college game.
Williams was 13-of-19 from the floor with a three-pointer and 6-of-6 from the free throw line.
Of Williams, LSU Coach Matt McMahon said: "I love that he can make threes. but I had to give him a friendly reminded that he was shooting a layup every time he was down in the paint, so let's get you in there. Credit to his teammates, that doesn't just happen with a one man show. The screening execution to get him the ball inside the charge circle was really good. We played really unselfishly. I thought we looked like a fundamentally sound offensive team in the first half that shared and moved the ball well."
Adam Miller added 13 points for LSU and Cam Hays had 10 to led the LSU scoring.
Illinois State (2-3) was led by Darius Burford with 17, while Seneca Knight had 14 and Colton Sandage 12.
LSU seemed very excited and aggressive in pregame warmups and that was even more apparent after the game got under way with a nice group of Tigers traveling to watch the contests.
Illinois State got the early advantage at 3-2, but LSU took off from there.
Adam Miller's jump shot gave the Tigers the lead for good at 4-3 with 17:44 to go in the opening half, starting a 13-0 run that allowed LSU to take a 15-3 advantage at the 13:21 mark.
After an Illinois State bucket, LSU started another run of 10-2 to make the lead 18, 25-7, and the Tigers finished with seven straight points for the 27-point advantage at the break.
The Tigers shot 59.3 percent in the first half (16-of-27) with two treys and 11-of-15 free throws. Illinois State, which committed 10 turnovers under the LSU pressure, shot just 25.9 percent in the first 20 minutes (7-of-27), with just 1-of-13 from the arc.
"It was an awesome first 20 minutes," said Coach McMahon after the game. "The first half was great. I thought our guys were locked in and had a laser focus on the defensive end. We did the things we wanted to accomplish. We held Illinois State to 1-13 from three, we thought we could turn them over with our pressure and ended up forcing ten turnovers. We wanted to defend without putting them on the line and were able to dominate the free throw line as well."
The final margin was as close as Illinois State was able to get in the second half.
For the game, LSU shot 49.1 percent (26-53) with three made three-pointers and 22-of-30 at the free throw line. For the game Illinois State ended up at 42-.3 percent (22-52) with five treys and 12-of-14 at the line.
LSU had 40 points in the point and 12 second chance point as it pushed its record to 94-0 since the 1966-67 season when it had a 20-point lead at the half.
The game Tuesday will be broadcast on the affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network (Guaranty Media flagship Eagle 98.1 FM in Baton Rouge) with the Voice of the Tigers Chris Blair and former LSU head coach John Brady on the call. The game will be streamed on FloHoops.