BATON ROUGE, La. (WVLA) — When the LSU Tigers battle No. 2 seed Michigan State on Friday, they’ll do so with 44 on their minds.  

The team dedicated their successful season to the memory of Wayde Sims, their teammate shot and killed in late September.

It’s huge for these guys, interim coach Tony Benford said. They’re the ones that paid the price. They’ve been through a lot. … I give it to these guys. They have taken ownership of this team.

Sims, 20, was entering his third season with the LSU basketball team. In his sophomore year, he averaged 5.6 points with 2.9 rebounds in 32 games. The Baton Rouge native came to the school after leading University Lab High School to three consecutive state titles from 2014 to 2016. He was named the 2014-15 Louisiana Gatorade Player of the Year.

Sims wore 44 on the back of his jersey.  The number has become a battle cry for the Tigers in 2019.

He was on an upward trajectory, said LSU basketball coach Will Wade back in September. It’s a tough one, taken too soon.

Despite the loss, it’s been a special season for LSU.  The Tigers are in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2006.

They trust each other and respect each other, they love each other, and when you have a team like that, you have a chance to win games, Benford added.

Tremont Waters drove by three defenders and scooped in a banking layup with 1.6 seconds remaining to give third-seeded LSU a 69-67 victory over sixth-seeded Maryland in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)