Before I get rolling, it should be said that yes, this was an exhibition against a (PREVIOUSLY UNDEFEATED) NAIA team, and it doesn’t really tell us that much about how good or how not so good this LSU team will be. However, there are several positives that can be taken away from this, as well as some negatives. It was our first public look at the 2016-17 squad, let’s not ignore it.
Antonio Blakeney, Brandon Sampson, and Freshman Skylar Mays started the game as the LSU backcourt, with Aaron Epps and JUCO transfer Duop Reath rounding out the Starting 5 as the forwards. Coming into the game, Antonio Blakeney was the most anticipated player to watch, with the Baton Rouge native and newcomer Skylar Mays not far behind. However, it was Duop Reath who stole the show in the first half, scoring 20 points and snagging 8 rebounds. Again, it’s just an exhibition game, but he looked very smooth and comfortable, albeit against smaller competition. Reath played limited minutes in the second half, but would finish the game leading the Tigers in points and rebounds, with 26 and 13 respectively.
Skylar Mays looked very quick and impressive on defense, while posting 13 points, 8 assists, and 8 rebounds. Kieran Hayward, another addition to LSU’s Australian pipeline, really impressed behind the arc, going 3-of-4 in long range and 3-3 at the free-throw line. He would finish with 14 total points.
Brandon Sampson was a breath of fresh air offensively, despite his 4 turnovers. He shot an amazing 8-of-9 from the field (3-3 from 3-point) totaling 19 points. Antonio Blakeney, the presumed star of the 2016-17 Tigers, did not disappoint the listed crowd of 1,224, putting up 17 points and barely missed a double-double with 9 assists. He would jokingly blame falling short on assists on Duop Reath.
Breaking down some team stats, LSU out-rebounded the undersized Reinhardt 59-30, which is great, but expected from an exhibition. What isn’t great and wasn’t expected were the 21 turnovers the Tigers offense committed. A Johnny Jones team thrives on a quick tempo and capitalizing on transition offense, but man oh man when it’s bad it’s sloppy, and that won’t fly against good teams. Another stat that isn’t great but is just an accepted normalcy at this point was LSU shooting 13/20 from the free throw line. Missing the and-1 isn’t the worst thing in the world, but if you’ve watched LSU Basketball the last few years, you know how devastating not taking advantage of free throws can be. They have got to get that FT% up to at least 75 percent.
All in all, it’s just a fun look at our team, nothing more. Duop Reath quickly won the crowd over with his 20-point first half. Hopefully we’ll continue to see him thrive with Blakeney and Mays feeding him, especially when Craig Victor returns from suspension. On that note: in addition to Victor, Jalyn Patterson and Elbert Robinson III did not dress. Brian Bridgewater only played a late five minutes as well. Maybe healing or not wanting to aggravate small injuries, who knows.
The season officially starts for real this time on Saturday, November 12th at 1 p.m. in the PMAC. Go see your Tigers!