Just how bad is Tennessee, huh?
Kidding. Leave it to the magic of Senior Night to finally break a skid LSU has been suffering since January 7th. “It was kinda crazy in the locker room, everybody was happy and smiling,” Patterson said. “The seniors were the most excited.” It was also pretty hard to ignore the jovial banter as the players left the postgame presser, having fun. It’s been a long, hard stretch, and they deserve some relief.
“I thought they came back and learned from what they did in Georgia, worked on it for two days in practice, and were able to use that experience to take on this very tough Tennessee team,” added Coach Jones after the game. LSU lost 82-80 to Georgia this past Saturday night in heartbreaking fashion. That game, however, showed something different than prior losses in that stretch: the team cared and kept on fighting when they had every reason to quit. I can completely agree with Coach Jones here in that they took that motivation of “we can do it, we had Georgia so close,” and turned it into the breath of fresh air we saw tonight.
This notable victory did not go without its heroes and career marks. Guard Jalyn Patterson served as a huge source of energy for the Tigers on both sides of the ball, scoring a career high 22 points and recording 4 steals. Brandon Sampson added to the electricity, putting up 24 points and shooting 11-12 from the stripe. Forwards Duop Reath and Aaron Epps also put up 10 points apiece, the former recording two nasty blocks. Oddly enough, usual offensive hero Antonio Blakeney went 2-12 from the field for only six points, so tonight’s victory was a true celebration of the team LSU’s best player has around him. On that team effort note, the Tigers outscored Tennessee in the paint 36-18, and tallied up 49 bench points.
There’s one specific statistic, however, that truly stands out as the difference maker tonight. All season long, the Tigers struggled to win the turnover battle, often giving the ball up well over a dozen times. Tonight’s turnover line saw LSU hold their mistakes to only 8 turnovers to the Volunteers’ 14, nine of them forced by steals. Besides Patterson’s four steals, the defensive playmaking was a true team effort, spreading out the remaining five over as many players.
A couple of other notable performances go to LSU’s seniors, Brian Bridgewater and walk-on-turned-scholarship-player Brandon Eddlestone. Bridgewater snagged three rebounds and dished an assist, while Eddlestone scored 4 points, grabbed 3 rebounds, recorded a block that brought the house down, and fouled out to a standing ovation. I’m personally really happy for the seniors to walk off the PMAC court with this kind of result compared to the awkwardly quiet pregame ceremony. Too often in his career Eddlestone lived in the shadow of fellow walk-on legend Henry Shortess, but tonight was his night, and the fans ate it up.
All in all, a really well-deserved win and fun night for the team. December 19th, 2016 was LSU’s last home victory, and that weight is finally off the team’s shoulders. However, 10-19 (2-15) isn’t the best record in the world, so the Tigers might come back down to Earth this Saturday against Mississippi State for the regular season finale. That game will tip off at 5pm on the SEC Network in the Humphrey Coliseum.
...but really, how bad is Tennessee?