The Tigers came out with good energy, played some good defense, and moved the ball well in an solid, 100-77 win against Oral Roberts in the PMAC. They took control of the game early, and never truly allowed the Golden Eagles to come back into range to make this one a true contest. Active hands around the ball and in the passing lane led to turnovers, which led to easy LSU baskets. Simmons started to exert his dominance early in the second half and helped put the game out of reach for Oral Roberts. In general, the team rotated better on the back end, boxed out more consistently, and continued to do the little things on defense and on the boards from the last game that allowed the talent to manifest itself.
There's no question that this is a different team with Victor and Hornsby in the line-up. The team got out and ran more, the offense was less stagnant, and the overall hustle was certainly improved. The Tigers did a good job of keeping the lead at between 14-20 points pretty much the entirety of the game, though it wasn't always pretty. The scoring was balanced, on the floor and amongst the players (five players in double figures), and the team finally went back to allowing Simmons to pass out of the low-post more often. They scored 100 points for the second time this season, as the defense caused turnovers and easy buckets off poor shot attempts from the Golden Eagles. Even the half-court is starting to look more fluid and less forced (though the ball still sticks a second too long in each players hands.)
Simmons finished with 24 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 assists (on 10/14 from the field) and was terrific in the second half after starting to get it going early. Anyone doubting his greatness is either kidding themselves, or doesn't know much about basketball. He's going to be the top pick in the draft, and depending on how this team gels down the stretch, could still play his way into being a legitimate candidate for player of the year. Blakeney seems like he's starting to get it going finally (finished with 13 and his shot is looking much better), though I'd like to see him attack the tin more often, especially early in games. But it's coming together. As Big Baby Glenn Davis noted at half-time, the biggest thing for this Tiger team right now is to continue to build chemistry now that all their guys are back in the mix.
One more tune up against American, and then with the new year comes the beginning of SEC play. LSU needs to continue to build off the progress they've made these past two games. Jones has even shown off some decent out-of-time-outs looks, and there's no question the the level of effort and exertion on the floor has been boosted. The defense has operated much better as a unit. These are all encouraging things. We're not out of the woods yet, but there's certainly signs of life. It's going to be an interesting season, one way or another.