The Tigers came out Saturday with the confidence of a team not looking for a win, but a team expecting to win. This is something we haven’t seen from LSU all season. Sure, the 68-58 win over South Carolina was against the worst team statistically in the conference, but a win is a win.
LSU came out of the gates with some hot three-point shooting. Ralston Turner, Anthony Hickey and the most irrationally-confident player in college basketball (Andre Stringer) all hit early threes to open a 13-6 lead. The Gamecocks would make a game out of it. Down seven, South Carolina went on a 10-2 run, and closed out the half only trailing 25-22.
The Tigers used their power on the interior in the second half to grow their lead to double-digits. Led by leading scored Justin Hamilton (18 points, 5 rebounds), who had multiple put-back shots from offensive rebounds. Hamilton wasn’t the only big man to carry the load. Storm Warren added 12 points and shot 60 percent from the field. Storm is playing like a poor-mans Karl Malone and this team needs those mid-range jump shots. Johnny O’Bryant gave the team the spark they needed to make the second half run. His eight points and seven rebounds in only 16 minutes were nice, but it was his interior defense that was huge. JOB had two intimidating blocks in the last eight minutes of the game that helped keep the Gamecock guards out the paint late.
Those three helped LSU shoot a season best 49 percent from the field and out rebound South Carolina 35-23. The big three took pressure off the LSU guards and limited South Carolina’s pressing ability. Hamilton’s 18 points were even more impressive considering he was double-teamed most of the game. Hamilton finished the game shooting four of four from the free throw line, shot eight for eight on the game, to close the game out with a ten point win.
The win improves LSU’s record overall to 16-10 and 6-6 in conference. With a 6-6 record the Tiger find themselves tied for fifth place in the SEC and only one game behind fourth place Mississippi State. (ed. note: this article was written before the Miss. State/Auburn game, I am expecting State to win the game easily and keep a one game lead, but if they lose then LSU will be tied for fourth place.)
LSU is now tied with Alabama and Tennessee at 6-6, so next week is very important for the Tigers. LSU host Georgia on Wednesday night and travels to Oxford next Saturday. If, and a big if, LSU was sweep the week, then even the national media will be discussing LSU as a potential bubble team. Finally, I can be vindicated.