Predicted No.1 NBA draft pick Ben Simmons has led Louisiana State to a nervous 89-85 Southeastern Conference college basketball victory over the University of Georgia Bulldogs.
Rising Australian star Simmons dominated, pulling down 14 rebounds and scoring 22 points in a complete performance for the Tigers who almost let a large second-half lead slip.
Simmons often forced his way into the paint and then on to the free-throw line with Georgia unable to contain his size, especially early in the game.
The Australian had 10 points and six rebounds at halftime when his Tigers led by three points, the highlight being a Tim Quarterman long-range alley oop to Simmons from half-court.
LSU extended their lead early in the second half as Simmons continued his dominance close to the basket, but the Aussie appeared to tire as the half grew longer, failing to be a scoring option as he received double-teams from the Bulldogs.
The Tigers, however, extended their lead to 14 points when Quarterman made a two-point jumper to go 80-66 with 2:30 remaining.
The Bulldogs bit back as guard JJ Frazier led them on a scoring tear to almost steal the game, getting them to 84-83 after draining a three from 'Steph Curry range' before Antonio Blakeney made free-throws to get LSU home.
Simmons was lost for words when interviewed on ESPN Sportscenter post-game as to how his team nearly lost from their strong position.
"I can't even explain it," Simmons said.
"We had a good lead and we lost it. They got back within one so anything can happen in games.
"We kind of got comfortable and it wasn't too good."
Simmons, who some analysts think isn't taking enough shots, said the reason for him playing inside was due to most of his opponents being smaller than him.
"I think it depends on what match-up I have. If I have a smaller guy, I take him to the post and if I have a bigger guy, I try and shoot."
With the NCAA tournament looming and Simmons keen to showcase his game at a higher level again, he thinks his team are improving at the right time.
"I think we've really picked up the last few weeks. We had a bad loss at Texas A&M but we have picked up."
The win over Georgia lifts the Tigers to 13-7 and on Sunday (Monday AEST) they host the 16-2 Oklahoma Sooners in a match that will show them just where they are at.