By BRETT MARTEL , AP Sports Writer
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Tremont Waters had 19 points and 10 assists and No. 21 LSU overcame a sluggish start to beat Auburn 83-78 on Saturday.
Skylar Mays had 20 points for LSU (19-4, 9-1 SEC), which bounced back from its lone conference loss with a pair of league victories heading into its toughest road test yet at fifth-ranked Kentucky.
While Auburn shot better from deep, Naz Reid and Kavell Bigby-Williams helped LSU own the paint, where it outrebounded Auburn 47-34 and outscored it 38-18.
Reid finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds, including a reverse, tomahawk dunk late in the second half. Bigby-Williams, an Oregon transfer in his first eligible season at LSU, grabbed 10 rebounds to go with seven points, highlighted by a couple of vicious two-handed dunks.
Jared Harper scored 25 for Auburn (16-7, 5-5), which saw its three-game winning streak snapped.
Harper sank five of Auburn’s 16 3-pointers, his last with 31 seconds left to trim LSU’s lead to 79-76. LSU then turned the ball over on a 5-second violation, and Auburn made it 79-78 on Chuma Okeke’s layup with 26 seconds left.
After Mays hit two pressure free throws, Harper’s heavily guarded 3 for the tie missed. Auburn corralled the offensive rebound for one more chance, but Bryce Brown appeared to be hit from behind as his 3 missed. Auburn coach Bruce Pearl screamed and gestured at officials, pleading for a foul call he never got, and Waters sealed it with two more free throws in the final second.
Auburn hit eight 3s in the first nine minutes of the game, taking its largest lead when Harper hit from deep to make it 26-10.
Harper hit four of his first five from long range, reaching 14 points when his fast-break layup gave Auburn a 41-31 lead with 2:28 to go in the opening half.
But LSU held Auburn scoreless until halftime and pulled to 41-38 on Waters’ right-side 3 as time expired.
Auburn: Playing on the road has been difficult for Auburn since conference play began. Auburn is now 1-4 in the league away from home. Auburn exceeded its average of nearly 12 made 3s per game but had more turnovers (19) than assists (10). Auburn is 13-2 when it has more assists than turnovers.
LSU: LSU missed six of its first seven 3s and was sluggish in its perimeter defense early on but held Auburn to five 3s in the second half. LSU attempted fewer 3s (13) than Auburn made, but it was able to use its size and athleticism to impose its will while digging out of its early double-digit deficit.
LSU registered a comeback victory at Mississippi State earlier this week and the victory over Auburn further augments its credentials to climb back into the top 20.
Auburn: Hosts Mississippi on Wednesday night.
LSU: Visits No. 5 Kentucky on Tuesday night.