Saturdays win over Arkansas was the game this LSU team has been looking for all year. Finally, the Tigers put forth a great effort against a quality SEC opponent. LSU took the lead in the game early on and never looked back. The Tigers took the early led by forcing 10 turnovers and limited the Razorback to 33 percent shooting in the first half. The good or bad thing about this game (depending on your take), LSU did not even come close to playing their best ball.
On the good side, LSU played aggressive on both sides of the ball. Whatever confidence issues they were struggling from their last three games, went away Saturday. I need to take a minute to welcome back Ralston Turner’s ego. Turner played outstanding on Saturday. His 16 points and four rebounds were nice, but it was his driving the ball to the basket that impressed me the most. Due to Turner’s dribble penetrations, he went to the free throw line eight times, and converted seven of them. No one questions Turner’s defense or shooting ability. It has always been can he take over a game and consistently break down the opponents’ defense. Saturday he took steps in the right direction in this area.
Aiding Turner, Anthony Hickey and Justin Hamilton put in their normal production. Hickey finished the game with 12 points, and was able to penetrate of the Arkansas defense for easy baskets. His defense is what stood out the most. Having to guard on of the best point guards in the conference BJ Young. Hickey kept Young in foul trouble all game and limited him to only three points on one for five shooting (Young averages 14 points per game). Hamilton had a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Arkansas tried several different defenses, but could not slow down the big man. Just like in their first meeting, most of Hamilton’s points came from offensive rebounds.
During the game, LSU decided to have a block party. LSU totaled 12 blocks and forced Arkansas to think twice before driving for a layup. Hamilton led all with four blocks and Storm Warren added three in only 10 minutes of action. Johnny O’Bryant even had two blocks. Speaking of O’Bryant, watching him play seems like I am watching a pet that hasn’t been house trained yet. He had eight points and 11 rebounds Saturday, but it looked rough. Without question, he is the most athletic player on the floor for LSU, but too often he plays out of control. It as if he is trying to do too much instead of (insert cliché) letting the game come to him. Saturday, he fell down at least three times in transition. When he touched the ball on offense, at times he is too timid in getting to the basket, or when he absorbs the double team, he is reluctant to pass the ball and forces low percentage shots. It is not a matter of if but when O’Bryant turns into the player LSU needs, look out.
Eddie Ludwig decided to have a nice game against Arkansas. Ludwig isn’t the best overall player, but contributed solid minutes for LSU on Saturday. His 12 points and four rebounds are the kind of production off the bench that LSU needs in making a late season surge. Sure, Ludwig is a huge liability on defense, but move so well on offense without the ball, allowing Anthony Hickey and Justin Hamilton easy outlet passes when they get in trouble. He doesn’t wow you, but his production like this will be huge in LSU’s success down the stretch.
The bad side of the game continues to be shot selection. A big circle has to go around Andre Stringer. Stringer played 35 minutes Saturday, and had a total on four points. Stringer wasn’t afraid to shoot the ball, every one in the building new that, but shooting 1-8 from the field and 0-7 from three, ouch. He was as irrelevant as Carson Daly on The Voice. The one thing that has killed this guy in his two year at LSU has been shot selection. Stringer has got to notice when he isn’t feeling it and get into the flow of the offense. Luckily for LSU, they were able to out rebound Arkansas 43-39 and had 14 offensive rebounds.
The difference in the game was rebounding and free throw shooting. LSU converted on 21 of 33 free throws, while Arkansas was only 16 for 33. A five point swing in a six point victory, yea that was huge. The win improves LSU to a 3-5 record in the SEC. Next up for LSU they travel to Nashville to play Vanderbilt.