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LSU returns to action in Columbia, SC for the second of two games against the Gamecocks this season. After having their three game winning streak snapped by Alabama, can LSU find some consistency from the guards and avenge an earlier loss to South Carolina?
Although LSU was unable to extend their winning streak to four games, they still have done enough in the last month to get out of last place and into a position to get a bye in the SEC tournament. With only eight games left, it's more important than ever for LSU to continue playing like a cohesive unit. I think the biggest improvement that we've seen from the team is the guards ability to set each other up. Unfortunately, they haven't yet been able to get all five players in sync at once.
For the most part, LSU is content to get Johnny O'Bryant the ball on offense and let him make plays one on one, or to pass around the outside of a zone for a three pointer. When the shots are going in, it's fine, and LSU can win. When it's not fine, we get results like we have six times in SEC play so far. The shooting was a problem against Alabama in the previous game, and it wasn't even all that spectacular in the wins.
Shavon Coleman is likely the player that has missed out most in SEC play; his scoring average before SEC play was 14 a game, where it is now only 8 a game in SEC play. His playing time has remained quite steady, but it doesn't seem as though he is a target for the ball on offense. Part of the problem is that Anthony Hickey has become a volume shooter; not once in SEC play has he taken less than 10 field goals, while he did so five such times in the non-conference(in addition to two DNP's). As a point guard, Anthony Hickey has to find ways to include Shavon Coleman in the offense, as it will benefit the entire team by getting a better offensive player the ball more and allowing for more openings and less double teams on Johnny O'Bryant.
In this game tonight, it's going to come down to the forwards to make plays. Against South Carolina in the first game, LSU was unable to stop Michael Carrera, who finished with 23 points and 10 rebounds. In total, however, the South Carolina forwards only missed 8 totals shots on 27 attempts, and had 31 points in addition to the 23 of Carrera. Part of the problem was LSU's defense tended to sag off the shooters, and SC's forwards are perfectly capable of making mid range jumpers. At the same time, 11 offensive rebounds were available, and I'm sure at least 10 points came from that.
That's why I think it is imperative that Hickey looks inside to both Coleman and Del Piero to make it as easy as possible to foul South Carolina's forwards out. Getting it inside will also allow for better outside shots and less turnovers if the forwards can keep the defense honest and make any available free throws. LSU was able to make quite a few threes in the first game, but it didn't matter. It was South Carolina's stubborn insistence that they beat us inside that won them the game. LSU has to counter with the same game plan.
Vegas set this game as a pick'em, but South Carolina has since become one point favorites. I think that's a pretty fair line; LSU tends to lose on the road, while South Carolina is trying to end their own four game losing streak. The over/under is set at 136, suggesting that it will be another higher scoring game. After two straight games that didn't make it to 120, LSU should like the uptempo pace that South Carolina plays at. Both Alabama(325th) and Vanderbilt(328th) are slower than erosion in terms of pace rated in kenpom.
Game time is set for 6:00 CT and the game can be seen nationally on ESPN2.