It was the first of the three games that I dubbed "Judgement Week" for LSU, and it was a loss. That is, of course, referring to the previous game against the Florida Gators last Saturday. Before I jump into a little bit of what happened during the game, I'd like to point out how the postseason might be affected by Johnny O'Bryant's injury.
As it stands right now, we've played relatively poorly since O'Bryant went down with a broken finger. In the eyes of the NCAA selection committee, injuries are taken into account when judging teams. If we don't win some games soon, it might be the NIT committee that will have to judge us. However, the point that needs to be made is that if we do get Johnny O'Bryant back and playing, it could help us more than from just a production standpoint.
The way they judge injuries is that they must have missed time, the team must have played worse because of it, and after a player's return they returned to playing at a superior level. It's easy to see with players like Jared Sullinger. Ohio State clearly wasn't as good without him, and have played pretty well since getting him back. In LSU's case, we've gone 2-3 thus far since losing O'Bryant. So long as we get hot at the right time, it's a point that Trent Johnson should make if we do end up back on the bubble.
As for the game against Florida, the final ended up pretty much where I expected it to. 12 points gave LSU the win ATS, but it's not much of a consolation at all since it was still a 12 point loss.
What else can be said other than that Justin Hamilton is a beast though? 27 points and 8 rebounds without even taking a free throw. I do think there were times that he was fouled and deserved shots, but it didn't seem like the referees were giving LSU the benefit of the doubt. I thought in the first half there were times he was pushed out of the lane while on shots causing misses. Perhaps his body control, and his lack of flailing his arms makes it harder to see when he is fouled.
All in all though, I thought LSU actually played pretty well. They improved against the press, but obviously still have work to do in that area. They forced Florida to shoot very poorly from 3, going only 7-21 for 33%, which is a decent mark against a high powered offensive team.
Mississippi State is the next road opponent, and LSU tips off against them at 7:00 CT tonight. The Bulldogs are a completely different team from Florida, and instead rely a whole lot more on their forwards. The 16th ranked team is coming off a big overtime road win against Vanderbilt, but might also be looking ahead to their game against Florida on Saturday.
The story for Mississippi State is really the emergence of Arnett Moultrie, who is averaging a huge 16 points a game and 11 rebounds, both team highs. Dee Bost, Rodney Hood, and Renardo Sidney make up the bulk of the team, and it's the combined experience of all four of these players that makes the Bulldogs such a tough team.
You may recall that last year it was LSU's last win of the season when they went to Starkville and won 84-82 over the Bulldogs. A lot has changed, since then, however, as only 5 of the 10 starters of that game will be starting today. It was Aaron Dotson and Garrett Green that led the way for LSU, so obviously new players will need to step up tonight if the Tigers are to win.
More to come on that later with the gamethread.