New practice facility. New locker room. New Faces. New result.
LSU’s basketball squad got the 2010-2011 season off to a positive start Friday night by downing Northwestern State, 87-78, in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
Freshmen Andre Stringer and Ralston Turner led the way for the Tigers, scoring 21 points apiece. Stringer was 4-of-9 from downtown, and Turner made three of his six long range shots.
“(Coach Trent Johnson) knew in recruiting us that we like to score, and we‘re shooters,” Stringer said of he and Turner. “He just put us in great position to score, and when you put us in great position to score, it opens it up for our other teammates.”
One of those teammates is sophomore Aaron Dotson.
Dotson struggled through most of last season with an ailing left knee. The knee has since fully heeled, and the Seattle native showed of his new-found confidence by slashing through the lane time after time and drawing contact or scoring.
“I feel good. This whole year I’ve felt great, a lot different from last year,” Dotson said. “I feel I can move a lot better. When I went to the bench, I didn’t stiffen up. Last year I stiffened up when I went to the bench.”
Dotson made an impression on the entire building when he drove the baseline in the second half and slammed home and two-handed dunk, a play he did not have in his arsenal last year.
“(The dunk) felt good,” Dotson said. “I know now that I can get up high enough where the guy’s going to have to foul me, or I’m going to score the basket.”
Fouls were another storyline of the game.
In total, 62 fouls were whistled in the contest. LSU shot 46 free throws and connected on 32 (69-percent).
After the game, Johnson focused on the team’s missteps on the offensive end and Northwestern’s ability to outhustle the Tigers down low after missed shots.
“I like winning as much as anybody, but I like playing well,” Johnson said. “I fully didn’t expect to give up 24 offensive rebounds and have 25 turnovers. I’ve never been concerned about the offensive side of this thing.”
The offense looked impressive in the early going. LSU jumped out to an early 7-0 lead, and pushed the advantage to 25-9 with 10:18 to play in the first half.
The Demons caught fire and went on a 22-7 run to cut the deficit to one with 4:47 left in the game. Senior guard Will Pratt scored 18 first half points en route to a game high 29 points on 10 of 20 shooting.
The Demons held their biggest lead of the ballgame at the 3:00 mark in the first half after two free throws by Pratt put Northwestern in front 38-34. LSU took a 43-41 lead into the locker room after allowing an offensive rebound and quick bucket at the buzzer by Tyler Washington.
The Demons three-point shooting cooled to a 20-percent clip in the second half, while the Tigers continued to pour in the points. LSU’s 87 points were more than the Tigers scored in any game last season, a stretch that saw Johnson’s club average just 61.5 points per game.
Four players reached double-digits in the ballgame. Dotson scored 17, and Malcolm White added 11 in his first game action in two years.
After the game, White was asked if he had any trouble shaking the rust off.
“You could say that,” he said. “It’s just being able to get adjusted back to the game speed. I was out of position a couple of times, but, like I said, it’s something that will come back to me along the way as we play in these non-conference games. I’ll be back where I’m supposed to be.”
The Tigers have now won 82 games in a row against Louisiana schools on their home court, a streak that will be tested again on Tuesday as the Tigers face Nicholls State at 7:00.
“We got a very good Nicholls State coming in,” Johnson said. “They got a guy on their team that can go for 40 (points) at any time.”
LSU will be without 6-foot-11 forward Dennis Harris for the Nicholls State game. The sophomore suffered a high ankle sprain and was on crutches Friday night.