In a now familiar tradition, LSU came out of the gate not just slow, but tripping over their own shoelaces. At their worst, the Tigers trailed tonight’s competition 27-14, justifying the pitiful crowd of 6,415. “We knew coming off a 14 day layoff we wouldn’t be quite as sharp and hitting on all cylinders,” Coach Jones said. Maybe it was rust, maybe it was the fact that NC Central was shooting well over 70% from the field at one time, it was a bad start.
“You just gotta have some energy on a consistent basis to play defense well,” Brandon Sampson noted. After the third timeout, LSU did start locking down better on defense, as the Eagles went on a four minute scoring drought. The thing is, it never really felt like it got much better. All stats are pretty evenly matched. Equal assists, one less turnover, shooting percentages almost completely identical. One team’s bad half was matched by the other’s, and by the last eight minutes we had a tie game.
A big factor in the game for NC Central in both a good and bad way was senior guard Patrick Cole. He scored 19, brought in 10 rebounds, and finished an assist short of a triple double. He was detrimental to the Eagles at the same time, though, turning the ball over 10 times and committing a technical foul. He and Antonio Blakeney were jawing almost the entire game. “I think he called me trash,” Blakeney guessed about Cole’s technical. “He was talking at me in warm ups. That turned me up, and we saw what happened to him.”
On that note, Antonio Blakeney was yet again the shining star of the Tigers, scoring 27 points and snagging 6 rebounds of his own. He served as a huge spark multiple times for the Tigers offense, shooting 4-6 from 3. “Just trying to be aggressive, teammates kicking it to me and trying not to shy down.” Point guards Skylar Mays and Jalyn Patterson combined for 9 assists tonight. Side note, apparently Patterson “was ill” in the first half, and Coach didn’t know if he’d be back for the second half. A +13 performance from a sick Jalyn Patterson, very impressive.
Duop Reath finished the first half with 12 points, scoring a perfect 6-6. “The gameplan was to get points in the paint, and get the guards open for later,” he said. He only went 1-3 in the second half, while the guards shot 5-9 from 3. Call it a gameplan, call it dumb luck, call it a winning combination. NC Central shooting equally poorly from 3 in the second half as LSU did in the first half (2-12) probably helped a good bit, but I’m not going to question it.
The end result: another victory over a higher RPI team. The Tigers improve to a 6-2 record, and look forward to their game against the Texas Southern Tigers (4-6) this Saturday at 5pm in the PMAC. As of now Texas Southern is 74th in RPI.