It wasn’t hard to miss the jet-lag coming off LSU early on in the first half. LSU had to travel across the country to play Oregon in the first round of the NIT. The Tigers jumped out to an early 12-8 lead. Their defensive speed at the guard position and its ability to score on the interior looked to allow them to make a game out of it. Oregon had other plans. After falling behind early, the Ducks finished the first half on a 42-21 run to lead at the half 50-33.
Oregon forced LSU to play its up tempo brand of basketball and LSU could not hang with them. The Ducks shot 55 percent from the floor in the half and only committed five turnovers. Time after time the LSU defense could not keep their man in front of them and the basket, setting up easy jump-shots and layups. Oregon’s ability to make shot and shot eliminated LSU’s rebounding advantage. What also hurt LSU was key players in early foul trouble. Anthony Hickey picked up two quick fouls in the first half and had to watch Chris Bass try to navigate the Tiger’s offense against the Oregon press. Hickey wasn’t alone. During most of the Oregon run here is the lineup LSU had on the floor: Chris Bass, John Isaac, Eddie Ludwig, Justin Hamilton and Johnny O’Bryant. With that lineup LSU basically told Oregon they only needed to guard two player (Hamilton and O’Bryant). This lineup rarely got to play with one another, so they consistently had to settle for bad shots or turned the ball over. On the game LSU had 17 turnovers, 10 of those came in the first half.
If you really watched this LSU team all year, you knew they weren’t going to just roll over, but you also knew they didn’t have the offense to comeback. Oregon eventually grew its lead to 20, but LSU did make two late runs at them. With LSU’s starters back on the floor, on two separate occasion the closed the lead to 10. The first time came with 5:06 left in the game at 79-69, the second came two minutes later at 84-84, but the Ducks pulled away both times. Oregon finished the game on a 9-2 run to earn the 96-76 win.
LSU second half run was largely due to the play of Ralston Turner and Justin Hamilton. Hamilton finished the game with 21 points and nine rebounds. Even better was that Hamilton got to the free-throw line nine times and made all nine shots. Turner, who I have called the invisible man for most of the season, shot lights out in the half. Finishing the game with 14 points on five of 10 shooting from the field. The two played well on offense, but fell way short on defense. Neither on of them could stop their man all game long, don’t believe me? Just look below.
Oregon’s MVP of the game had to be Devoe Johnson. He finished with a game high 25 points. He was unstoppable most of the game shooting 11 for 17 on the night. I mentioned in the preview that Oregon would need big production from Tony Woods to seal the victory and he delivered. Woods scored 14 points and grabbed four rebounds to help off set LSU’s interior productions.
When Trent Johnson and the rest of the team looks back on this game they are going to notice two things. The first will be how more fresh and athletic Oregon looked all game long. The second is how well the Oregon bench played compared to LSU. The two play together and Oregon’s bench outscored LSU 27-17. Oregon scored 22 points off LSU turnovers. Even though there were other area I could concentrate on to how Oregon won, those two give us a clean 20-point advantage.
The loss ends LSU’s season, check back in a few days where we will post their obituary.