After an ugly performance Wednesday night against the East Tennessee State Buccaneers, the LSU men’s basketball team heads west to take on the USC Trojans and partake in the Air Force Reserve Basketball Hall of Fame Classic.
LSU (7-3) suffered its first double digit home loss in the Will Wade era and it’s largely owed to being the less physical team. East Tennessee out-rebounded LSU 40-29 and doubled up the Tigers 19-7 on the offensive end. Turnovers also continued to plague LSU as the Tigers had more assists than turnovers. This was the sixth instance this year where LSU gave the ball away more than they had assisted baskets.
Last season LSU nearly always had the best point guard on the floor and two seven-foot tall monsters on the front court to grab any missed shot. This LSU team doesn’t have either luxury and will need to figure out how to compensate with conference play looming.
LSU gets its first chance to move on from Wednesday’s loss tonight in Los Angeles. The Tigers are competing in the Air Force Reserve Basketball Hall of Fame Classic in the Staples Center. LSU will be playing the hometown USC Trojans (9-2). USC has won three in a row and, like LSU, is playing its second to last game before PAC 12 play starts.
Everything starts up front for USC. True freshman Onyeka Okongwu is USC’s leading scorer with 18 points a game and is the only Trojan to have started all 11 games. Okongwu is also USC’s best rebounder, grabbing about nine a contest. A true back to the basket type of big, Okongwu lives around the rim and is shooting 62 percent from the floor and 72 percent at the free throw line. He’s scored 20 points or more five times and is coming off a 28 point and 12 rebound effort against Long Beach State. With James Wiseman leaving Memphis, Okongwu is arguably the best freshman center in America.
USC has another highly touted freshman in Isaiah Mobley. Mobley was a McDonald’s All American in high school and gives USC guards a second long, athletic big to dump the ball off to on drives.
Saturday’s an important game for LSU. Wednesday’s loss to ETSU isn’t a bad loss. Yet. But the Southern Conference is more than likely a one-bid league come tournament time and if ETSU doesn’t win the league, Wednesday’s loss could be damning. LSU needs a win over a major non-conference opponent. But more importantly, LSU needs a win to get back on track before SEC play starts.