Welcome to the Tad Pad, one of many House of Horrors for LSU in the now-defunct SEC West.
Only Arkansas' Bud Walton Arena has been more unkind to LSU in recent years, with the Tigers managing just one win in six Oxford visits since the 2006 Final Four season. They get a chance to exorcise some demons tonight in a game that has far-reaching RPI and potential SEC Tournament seeding implications.
LSU got a road win it desperately needed last Saturday at South Carolina, but they didn't look good doing it. That's not an option tonight. Ole Miss just lost to Mississippi State, perhaps the league's worst team, but the gunslinging, shooting high that is Marshall Henderson is back for the Rebels.
Unfortunately for LSU, they're getting Henderson at perhaps his most feisty following a two-game suspension to open league play. While he's more than capable of going off at any time, there's a dirty little secret about Henderson this season: He hasn't been as good.
Henderson hoists 3s at an incredible rate this year, with shots beyond the arc accounting for a whooping 79 percent of his shots. He's just 10-of-37 when he takes 2-pointers, and attempts a staggering 37 percent of the Rebels shots when he's on the floor. So Ole Miss' offense is going to run through him. He's making just 36 percent of his shots.
Unfortunately LSU doesn't quite have the lengthy perimeter defenders that normally bother him. Given Andre Stringer and Anthony Hickey's shooting struggles and Henderson's hesitance to shoot deuces, I could see Jarell Martin or Shavon Coleman getting more playing time and guarding him for long stretches. It wouldn't be surprising to see Malik Morgan get another start for the express purpose of bothering Henderson.
With so many 3s likely to go up, LSU has to finally put together another dominant performance on the glass. The Tigers were better against the Gamecocks, but long caroms hurt them against Tennessee last week, though the Vols are also more active in the paint than the Rebels. That USC game was just the second game since November that LSU finished with a rebounding advantage. Johnny O'Bryant III and Jordan Mickey must show up early, unlike their abysmal opening halfs against USC. LSU has the advantage inside here, though Jarvis Summers has been superb for Ole Miss this season.
Road games and fouling. It's a huge issue for this team. Though the sample size is small, LSU's foul issues cannot be ignored in three road games. JOB was in foul trouble against USC, while the Texas Tech and UMass games were 30-foul explosions. Those wins in Lubbock and Columbia were by a combined five points. Ole Miss is better than either of those teams, though probably not quite on the Minutemen's level. Simply eliminating unnecessary hand checks (that we know by now will be called, per the new NCAA rules) could easily make LSU five points better on the road.
Tonight's game is a tone-setter for this team. Emerge with a victory, and there's two very winnable home games on the horizon. But if the Tad Pad produces another ghoulish outcome for LSU, it will quickly become make-or-break time for the Tigers' season. Expect a close game - complete with some #SECBasketballFever along the way - that could come down to whether Henderson has the hot hand in the final minutes.