It wasn’t pretty, but a win is a win. LSU learned Saturday afternoon that Alabama would be without the services of point guard Trevor Releford, their leading scorer Jamychal Green and Andrew Steele for the game. The team was already without Tony Mitchell and left only one starter left in Baton Rouge for the Tide.
LSU led the game from the start, and never looked back. In the first half, Alabama was looking to try to find itself. Late in the first half, Alabama had made only seven field goals, allowed seven turnovers and committed eight fouls. The Tides struggles ended in a 31-15 halftime deficit and the game looked like a run away.
Except it wasn’t a run away. Alabama came out in the second half and immediately closed the lead to four. The comeback was due to great full court pressure on LSU and the play of Rodney Cooper and Nick Jacobs. What, you never heard of them? Apparently neither had LSU. Cooper went off for a game high 28 points, added three rebounds, and five steals. Copper was only averaging seven minutes a game in SEC play, but after Saturday, that should change. Jacobs scored 14 points and added four rebounds. It took LSU most of the second half to figure out the Alabama defense, but once they did, the lead started to grow.
LSU finally learned that if you get the ball inside to Justin Hamilton or Johnny O’Bryant, good thing will happen. Hamilton scored a team high 21 points on nine of 12 shooting. O’Bryant added 17 points and nine rebounds. O’Bryant was fierce at getting to the rim on offense and was rewarded by getting to the free throw line nine times (he made seven). Early on, LSU tried to attack the Alabama’s defense by jacking up threes. Once again LSU struggled shooting the ball from outside (2-11). On a positive note…I think, Andre Stringer made a three point shot ending his 0-17 streak. Stringer actually had a good game, scoring 15 points on five of 11 shooting. What I liked even more than that was Stringer shooting four of five from the free throw line. With Alabama playing zone most of the game, you need a guard that is willing to get into the paint to score, and surprisingly he was willing to go it.
Even though LSU won the game, there was a lot to be desired. Let’s break this down into a few categories to avoid crossing over on previous points.
For most of the game LSU utilized a 2-3 zone to attack Alabama. It worked in the first half as they help Alabama to only 38 percent shooting, but broke down in the second. The biggest problem with the zone was the play of Anthony Hickey and Andre Stringer. Too many times I saw one of them trying to defend the ball carrier at mid-court. The problem with this is they allowed Alabama to play a three on one game around the perimeter until Hickey or Stringer got back into proper defensive position. Because of the poor defensive alignment, Alabama was able to shoot five for 10 from three point range in the half. The defensive problems didn’t end at with whose two. The reason LSU couldn’t go man was when they tried it out, Alabama dominated them.
Starting in the second half LSU switched to a man defense. Alabama immediately went on a 10-0 run to eliminate the large LSU lead. I was amazed watching Justin Hamilton struggle to defend the 6’8 Alabama center Nick Jacobs. Jacobs was able to gain position on Hamilton at least four times for easy hook shots over the seven- footer. Ralston Turner just did not look interested in playing defense all night. When LSU was in a zone, Turner struggled to get off the defensive block and close out on the perimeter, and in man he could not keep Rodney Cooper from going off offensively.
Lack of Production
What happened to Ralston Turner and Anthony Hickey? Both were playing well in there last few games, and Hickey had emerged as the second best offensive threat. Turner finished the game with only two points and four rebounds. Hickey had a nice overall game with four points, four rebounds and five assist, but really was a non-factor Saturday night. In Hickey’s defense, he only attempted two shots and one of them was a big three pointer late in the game to help extend LSU’s lead. Turner has no defense, like his defense, it seems like if he is not feeling his shot early on, he just quits. Not a sign you want out of your best overall player.
Where was the bench? With exception of John Isaac’s six points, no other bench player played a significant role in the game. Chris Bass only contributed one assist and one turnover in ten minutes (not what you want in your back-up point guard). Storm Warren showed promise the last few games of being comfortable finding his shot, but Saturday only scored two points in ten minutes. The rest of the player made zero contributions. The scary thing about the lack of production from this group is this is the easiest line-up they will face the rest of the year. And the bench could not make an impact? Trent Johnson has got to do a better job inserting these bench players into the game to make contributions. The starting five isn’t going to be able to run through the rest of the schedule successfully without them. The scouting report isn’t difficult with out them; stay in a base 2-3 zone and front Justin Hamilton. The end…
Breaking a press
It still amazes me that LSU looks totally confused when a team tries to press them. At times, no one knew who was supposed to in-bound the ball. Most of the time they didn’t even run a play to make in-bounding easier and twice LSU’s center was the first to catch the ball. Not exactly the guy you want trying to advance the ball. Why is this so hard? Nick Saban isn’t calling the defense. All of these players have played against the press since they were in biddy ball, so what is the problem? If I am a upcoming opponent, whether or not I have a press defense installed, I am working on one fast.
Yea, I am breaking this game down more in-depth that I usually do, but this was a huge game. LSU needed this win to maintain any hope of post season play. The win moves them only two games out of fourth place in the SEC. Why is that important? If you finish this year in the top four, then you earn a bye in the SEC tournament. I am not saying this will happen, but it gives them a better chance that if they would have lost. LSU has their toughest part of the schedule out of the way and with a remaining schedule of: Mississippi State, at South Carolina, Georgia, at Ole Miss, Tennessee and at Auburn. LSU could go 5-1 or 4-2. Putting them in position for the NIT tournament of better, but only if they show improvements in the mentioned areas above.