The men’s basketball team tries to get back on track following a tough loss at Vanderbilt. LSU host Alabama on Saturday night a 6:00, and are looking for some retribution from their 69-53 loss a month ago against the Tide. Both teams come into the game playing some of their best ball, and both have some differences in their line up from last month.
In their first meeting, Alabama’s Tony Mitchell and Trevor Releford led the way in the win. This time around Mitchell will not be with the team, as he was suspended indefinitely early this week. His 11 point and 10 rebounds helped Alabama outscore LSU in the paint, 32-16. Trevor Releford had a team high 20 points on nine of 11 shooting. Releford played great defense against the LSU point guards and helped force 15 LSU turnovers that resulted into 25 points.
The story of the first meeting was the Alabama defense. The Tide held LSU only 35 percent shooting from the field, while they shot 50 percent. Jamychal Green basically shut down Justin Hamilton. Hamilton had been red hot and was named SEC player of the week before the matchup, but Alabama held him to only 12 points on three of 12 shooting. Including Hamilton, Ralston Turner had perhaps his worst game of the season. Held to only two points on one of seven shooting, Turner never found his grove and LSU only score 19 first half points. Andre Stringer being LSU’s leading scorer is not a good thing. His 13 points came from an array of ill-advised shots, but he was three of six from three. Stringer seems to have accepted his role as a support player, and the basketball rims across the SEC would like to thank him.
This game will be different because of the return of Johnny O’Byrant. Since his return, JOB has been an additional presence in rebounding and forcing teams to limit doubling up on Hamilton. Also his return has allowed players like Storm Warren to return to their normal role. If you haven’t noticed, Warren has been sneaky good the past two weeks. He floats around more on offense and has hit numerous mid-range jumpers. He has always been a liability on defense due to his aggressive play, but with the added depth with JOB, he can attempt to block more shots without the fear of foul trouble.
Also a big difference between the first two meetings is the improved play of Anthony Hickey. Since the first game, Hickey has not only become one of the Tiger’s best players, but their go-to scorer. In the first meeting he scored eight points and had five assist. Since then he has been the only Tigers to consistently play with confidence during the Tiger’s struggles.
With the absence of Mitchell and the improve play of LSU, this game should be closer than the last one. LSU is on their last leg, a loss to Alabama would drop the Tigers to 3-7 in conference play. With six games remaining, LSU would have to go 5-1 to have any chance at the NIT tournament. I might be the only LSU fan left that thinks they have a shot to get there, but they do. A win would add much needed confidence to the team as they begin a much easier stretch of their schedule.