Week three in the SEC was a productive one for the Tigers as LSU lassoed its first conference win before performing well in a measuring stick game on the road.
Johnny Jones' Bayou Bengals used full-court pressure to erase a double-digit first-half deficit and beat Texas A&M 58-54 on Wednesday. The Tigers then took to the road, playing an extremely competitive game down the stretch at Kentucky before bowing out 75-70.
LSU now stands at 10-7 overall, 1-5 in the conference.
Below I provide three quick hitters on the Tigers, highlighting the latest and most important team news and trends on the court.
Keep an eye out for this weekly feature on Sunday nights through the end of the 2012-13 season.
1. Falling behind early has become the calling card for these Tigers.
What began as a semi-regular occurrence in the non-conference schedule, with LSU spotting quick leads to teams like Boise State, Marquette and Seton Hall, has become downright routine for the Tigers in SEC play.
LSU went to the well twice more this week, digging a 14-point hole in the opening 15 minutes at home versus A&M before going behind double digits at Kentucky on Saturday. The purple and gold were able to climb out of the first early crumble, but not the second.
Going forward the Tigers, now down to a tight seven-man rotation, will have to find ways to maintain in the first half, leaving a relatively short-handed group in striking distance - but now always scrambling - to close at the end.
2. Maybe the press can lead the way for LSU after all.
This time a week ago the consensus was that the Tigers were better off in the press as often as they could handle it, but that they didn't have the bodies to pull it off with regularity.
Well, not much has changed with the overall principle, but two more urgent situations forced LSU into extended full-court press action this week. And both times it was again a galvanizing force that helped change the pace in the Tigers' favor and convert defense into easy offense.
Against Texas A&M, LSU had an amazing 19 steals, including eight from Anthony Hickey. The Tigers had only seven swipes at Kentucky but did cause 16 UK turnovers. It may not add up from a depth point of view, but the proof is in the pudding - guard-oriented LSU has to press. It might just be the one individual thing this Tiger team does best.
3. Johnny O'Bryant is back from injury, but his shot selection must improve.
JOB first started to look his old self two Wednesdays ago at home versus South Carolina. This past week LSU's starting power forward showed he's even farther removed from his high ankle sprain injury and about as close as he's going to get to all-the-way back.
O'Bryant posted two double-doubles this week - scoring 14 points and grabbing 10 rebounds (five offensive) against A&M before putting up 21 and 12 at Kentucky. The problem with JOB's 21 points, which tied a career high, is it took 9-of-22 shooting to get there.
There's no doubt O'Bryant returning to form is a great thing for LSU, but the big man will have to continue battling foul-trouble and shot-selection demons. The latter have been noticeably worse since the Tigers entered conference play. Only more patient play on the offensive end, where O'Bryant is often double-teamed, will help the issue.
Four-point play: After senior center Andrew Del Piero played an average of 25.7 minutes the three games leading up to this week, he played a combined nine against the Aggies and Wildcats. It's obvious the Tuba Player won't be as good a matchup in certain SEC square-offs ... Anthony Hickey is still the nation's leader in steals. His eight on Wednesday have now lifted his lofty average to 3.8 per game. VCU's Briante Weber and Oakland's Duke Mondy are tied for second with 3.1 steals per game ... The free-throw problem may slowly buy surely be improving for LSU. After falling to the bottom 10 teams in America, the Tigers made 12-of-15 (80.0%) at Kentucky to keep in the game as the Wildcats struggled down the stretch from the stripe ...The only two Tigers with injury situations worth monitoring into this coming week are Corban Collins and Eddie Ludwig, both of whom have sat multiple games in a row at this point.
LSU welcomes in Missouri (15-4, 4-2) on Wednesday night in the PMAC at 7 p.m. before heading to Starkville for a date with Mississippi State (7-11, 2-4) Saturday afternoon at 4:30 p.m.
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