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Late Recap: LSU 93, Gardner Webb 82

In the season opener, the Tigers mixed moments of offensive beauty with dreadful defense but avoided the dreaded #SECBasketballFever.

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Forgive me for the late recap, but a weekend drinking in New Orleans beckoned. With all the talk of LSU's dreadful offense in Fayetteville, there was a Tiger team who piled up the points on Saturday.

Yes, LSU basketball is back and while a bit underwhelming, the opener wasn't a harbinger of #DOOM or a sign of a juggernaut in training. No, the Tigers were sloppy defensively and lacked the kind of killer instinct to ever put Gardner Webb away, but also showed their starting lineup will be brutal to match up with.

This wasn't wholly unexpected though, as the Bulldogs finished with 10 wins in Big South play last year and lost by a dozen points or less to four Power 5 opponents. They're not a pushover but they also had no business leading LSU at the half.

Of course, the Tigers took over in the second half, punishing Gardner Webb on the boards and wearing them down with the foursome of Jarell Martin, Jordan Mickey, JuCo transfer Josh Gray and Keith Hornsby, who combined for 77 of LSU's 93 points.

Let's start with the frontcourt. Mickey and Martin were exactly what you'd expect, well on their way to being the premier duo in the SEC. Mickey in particular was mercilessly efficient, leading the team in assists with six, missing just two shots and turning the ball over only twice in 33 minutes. He's not only skilled but calm and cerebral in the post, all great attributes as the offense transitions to run through him as the focal point.

Surprisingly, Martin's 11 rebounds marked only the second double-double of his young career. He seemed to grab the reigns of the perimeter offense, putting up shots at a high volume and getting to the rim as he pleased. It is concerning that he played 38 minutes in Game 1, but LSU's depth is not developed at the wing forward just yet.

Offensively, 93 points against a low-major team doesn't say much, but a 51-point second half is never a bad sign. The shooting efficiency was impeccable at 51 percent. More impressive was the 13-for-14 performance at the free-throw stripe, which has been a bugaboo for recent LSU squads. With the athletes and size LSU has, free throws will be abundant and it is key the Tigers capitalize on those free points.

The negatives were fairly obvious. 18 is way too many turnovers, with half of that total coming from Gray and Martin, potentially the two players who will have the ball the most this season. 3-point shooting was solid, with the exception of Martin, whose awful 1-for-7 mark significantly dragged the team's percentage down. He needs to take advantage of his size and not settle for 3-pointers unless teams are doubling the post.

Elbert Robinson III got the start in his first career game and was exactly as timid as most college freshmen are. His mere 14 minutes of action isn't a good sign considering the talk of his conditioning improvements, but it's possible Johnny Jones is easing the 7-footer into the college game. Robinson's fellow freshman, Aaron Epps, was uncorralled raw energy for the most part, and the opener showed his offensive game still needs some polish. Jalyn Patterson was active on defense and even hit the glass, but his passing could use some work and the shot appears a bit flat. However, there's no reason for concern from the newcomers just yet.

Overall, LSU looked about as good as you might expect for a first run, against a fired-up underdog in front of a sleepy Saturday crowd. At the very least, LSU avoided #SECBasketballFever, which already struck the league in force - Ole Miss fell to Charleston Southern, Missouri lost to Missouri-Kansas City, and league sleeper Georgia couldn't handle in-state rival and thoroughly average ACC non-contender Georgia Tech.

So let's have some perspective here, because it could have been worse.

The next game should tell us a bit more. Texas Tech and Tubby Smith come to the PMAC Tuesday night for LSU's first legit test this season. No, the Red Raiders aren't a tournament contender but they gave the Tigers a scare in Lubbock last season and should be minimally improved this season. It's too early to say with certainty, but a team that would be NCAA bound come March should comfortably beat Texas Tech at home.

We'll see if the defensive blips and clustered scoring continues or if Gardner Webb was a hiccup. Either way, this team should score points in droves. Tiger fans could use that right now.

You can watch a full replay of the game (called by YA BOY LYN ROLLINS) on SEC Network+