Instead of enjoying some turkey in Baton Rouge, Johnny Jones and the LSU basketball squad headed to the Old Spice Classic that featured teams like Oklahoma State, Memphis and Butler. While many went into it thinking they wouldn't win it, the team showed a lot of promise throughout the four-day tournament.
LSU 82, Saint Joseph's 65
LSU's opening round opponent was the Saint Joseph's Hawks, a team rich in tradition and normally with talent but it was apparent the talent portion isn't full there this year. With a 3-pointer from Andre Stringer with 7:22 left in the first half, LSU took a double-digit lead that they maintained the rest of the way, winning 82-65. It was an inside-outside show that saw four Tigers reach double-digit points with Hickey leading the way with 18 points. Mickey notched a double double with 14 points and 10 rebounds as LSU just had too much size and length down low for Saint Joseph to deal with.
Memphis 76, LSU 69
Someone must have left the A/C on that night in Stringer and Hickey's hotel room because the two guards came out ice cold against their semifinal opponent No. 21 Memphis, losing 76-69. While Stringer led the squad in points with 20, his 4-for-14 from beyond the arc never allowed LSU to get into a solid rhythm, something they had the previous night against Saint Joseph's. At the same time, Hickey missed all three of his three-point attempts and only had 2 points to finish the night. Johnny O'Bryant had a dreaded double-double, putting in 14 points but also committing 10 turnovers something that can partially be attributed to the poor outside shooting. When you are cold from the outside, that defense will tend to close in, limiting space for the low post players to move around. Meanwhile, Memphis' 3 senior guards combined for 40 points, 9 assists, 7 steals and 14 free throw attempts, the difference in who won and who lost.
LSU 70, Butler 68
With the loss, the Tigers were placed in the 3rd place game against the Butler Bulldogs, a solid squad but not as talented as previous seasons. LSU quickly saw Butler's weakness in a lack of big low post defenders and attacked them with an onslaught of JOB III, Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey. The trio combined for 41 points on 50% shooting, 21 rebounds and were very effective down low. Unfortunately, they had issues on the defensive glass, giving up 18 offensive rebounds to Butler, a stat that kept the Bulldogs in the game. A clutch three-pointer from Anthony Hickey with five seconds left in regulation sent the game into overtime, where the big trio scored seven of the Tigers' nine overtime points to lead them to a 70-68 victory.
What Did We Learn
It became more apparent throughout the tournament judging by shot selection that Jones wanted to use his two young freshmen Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey, along with returning junior Johnny O'Bryant III to establish dominance in their games. While he went 5 for 12 in the Butler game, it was nice to see Jarell Martin get more shooting opportunities, a number of them coming off of set plays by Johnny Jones to get Martin more involved. With the talent between those three, LSU will have a number of games where they can use that height to take over contests.
Two problems became apparent throughout the Old Spice Classic and they both revolve around the guard play. When Hickey and Stringer are not hitting their shots from deep, it causes problems for a post player like JOB III, allowing the guards to slack off and not give O'Bryant the space needed to take on his defender. Another issue is the amount of driving from the two guards which creates a lack of free throw attempts. Hickey is a porous free-throw shooter that forces him to gravitate around the three-point line and Stringer needs to drive more often that will cause the defense to collapse and give the other four more open and better looks.
The Tigers pretty much have two whole weeks off before their next game against ULM and five more games before conference season starts up, giving them a lot of time to work out the kinks before the real basketball starts up. There is a lot of promise with this team and I feel that Martin is only beginning to scratch the surface of his abilities. Mickey will continue to be a force on the inside on both sides of the court, which will help take some slack off of O'Bryant. If the Tigers can get more consistent shooting and play out of the Stringer-Hickey duo, it will go a long way in determining what tournament this team will be playing in come March.
Let's get that PMAC rocking folks since Johnny has this program on the definite upswing, which was apparent in Orlando