The 61-53 win over Georgia on Wednesday night extended LSU’s winning streak to four straight and winners of five of their last six. Yea, the average fan could poke holes at this winning streak saying that two of those came against the two worst teams in the conference, and one came against a good team missing majority of their starters. The thing is, I am no average fan, I am a LSU fan and for the past two years LSU basketball has been horrendous. Any streak, no matter how weak it is, is still a streak.
The Tigers latest win might be their strongest of the season. Against Georgia, LSU not only relied on their strengths to win the game, but also used other measures to win the game. The Tigers out-rebounded Georgia 36-30 overall and 10-9 on the offensive glass. The Tigers also used their size to get to the three throw line. Wednesday night LSU made 13 more free throws that the Dawgs (LSU 18-30, Georgia 5-7). Georgia had dominated the glass department in their last four games, but could not handle to four LSU big men.
Yes, I said four. Johnny O’Bryant led the charge inside with 14 points and eight rebounds (three offensive). O’Bryant continues to improve each game as he shot 5-10 from the field and 4-6 from the free throw line. Justin Hamilton struggled with foul trouble for most of the game, but added seven points (5-6 free throws) and nine rebounds. Storm Warren put together another solid performance with six points and five boards in only sixteen minutes of action. That is only three big men, who was the four. Ladies and gentlemen I present to you Malcolm White. White was the butt of most LSU jokes from me last year and rightfully so. White looks the part; he’s big, strong and athletic, but struggled stopping opposing centers, and was a black hole on the LSU offense. This year he has been regulated to the bench for most of the season, but on Wednesday night, he decided to use his strengths. White added five points and three offensive rebounds. In his limited play. That is not going to earn you player of the game honors, but the extra body in the rotation contributing solid minutes is something other SEC teams will have to worry about.
Hamilton’s struggles to stay on the floor is what helped White see his playing time extended. He wasn’t the only star to have a rough night. Anthony Hickey could not get into any type of rhythm all night long. Only shooting 1-4 from the field, Hickey only scored two points and dished out a weak two assist. Picking up the slack was Andre Stringer. Stringer scored a team high 18 points and added four, three-pointers on nine attempts. LSU jumped out on a 10-0 lead to start the game, but Georgia shrunk the lead to three with only 10:00 minutes left in the game. It was Stringers 12 second half points that sealed the win for LSU.
Think about this if you can. LSU won this game in part to the performances of Andre Stringer and Malcolm White. The strong progression of Johnny O’Bryant should be the story of the game, but it isn’t. It is the two most ridiculed players on the team stepping up when the usual contributors struggled. This is huge because it proves that LSU isn’t just a two or three trick act, but they have bought into the system and multiple players have the opportunity to contribute for the team. This is what winning does for your team, to breeds confidence to players who shouldn’t have any.
A few national media outlets are starting to take notice to the recent success of LSU and are starting to evaluate them as a serious NCAA tournament team. I have been driving this bandwagon for a few weeks. If the Tigers can continue to play like they did on Wednesday night and get better games from Hamilton and Hickey, who knows just how good this team is. When you can rebound the ball, play solid defense, and shoot 45 percent from the field, you are going to win most of your game.
The win improves LSU overall record to 17-10 and 7-6 in the SEC. The Tigers are currently tied with Tennessee for fourth place in the SEC (Alabama plays on Thursday night, and a win would put them in a tie for fourth). LSU’s next game they travel to Oxford of face the black bears.