Road swing: LSU launches busy stretch

Tigers face Coastal Carolina Tuesday night to start a run of four games in six days

It was meant as an innocuous question, but LSU sophomore Ralston Turner seemed a little surprised when it was posed to him.

 

Is Turner poised to the Tigers’ next big star?

 

Ralston Turner: Poised to be the next LSU star?

“It doesn’t bother me if people talk about me that way, but it doesn’t change who I am or how hard I’m going to work,” said Turner, the lone LSU player to get any postseason recognition after last season when he landed on the SEC Coaches’ All-Freshmen team. “I know there’s a lot of things I need to get better at before I can be called elite and that pushes me more than anything anybody else thinks about me.”

 

Still, on a much more balanced team than he played on as a freshman – especially with an influx of three talented freshmen – Turner certainly seems to have a chance to carve a spot as a top-shelf player in the SEC.

 

He gets his next chance to do so at 6 p.m. Tuesday when the Tigers (1-0) take on Coastal Carolina (2-0) in a tuneup for the three-day Charleston Classic.

 

Turner produced 12 points in LSU’s season opener, a 96-74 rout of Nicholls State. He was one of seven Tigers in double digits, but didn’t have a great day, missing 7-of-9 floor shots.

 

But there was no doubting that Turner has emerged as a leader on the floor and perhaps the one player fourth-year coach Trent Johnson is willing to run the offense through.

 

“He has a great understanding of what he needs to work on and what he needs to do,” Johnson said during the pre-season. “He’s going to have a great opportunity for us to go to him often offensively.

 

“We know what we’re going to get from him offensively and once in a while, we’ll ask him to be the guy willing to take the biggest shots when we need them.”

 

At 6-foot-6 and 205 pounds, Turner has the right frame to fit whatever Johnson needs him to do. Last season he played the off guard and small forward spots and that’s likely what he’ll do this season even with a more versatile crew around him.

 

For Turner to climb into the elite group of former LSU players before him who have shined in the SEC and beyond – Brandon Bass, Glen Davis, Tyrus Thomas, Marcus Thornton, Tasmin Mitchell – there needs to be more team success.

 

That’s not a secret to him and is also high on his priority list.

 

“I came here to help get LSU headed back in the right direction,” the Muscle Shoals, Ala., native said. “I want to win games and compete in the SEC and go to the NCAA Tournament and see what we can do there.”

 

There’s some chicken-or-egg thinking involved with Turner and LSU’s success.

 

Yes, the Tigers are deeper than they’ve been since Johnson’s first season, with three players in each of the four classes and two complete sets of five the coach would feel comfortable sending out as a starting unit.

 

And, yes, there are other players capable of carrying LSU from time to time, including any of the three freshmen who are poised to fill the similar star-power shoes Turner is standing in.

 

But Turner is the one who has to step up and set the tone. Whether with a silky –  albeit streak – jump shot, his explosive potential to get to the rim on a drive or as a defender and rebounder.

 

“I like being somebody my teammates feel like they count on,” Turner said. “But I have to be humble and keep working hard to get better every day. I want to be the best teammate I can be, and if that means passing the ball to somebody else or focusing on what I need to do on defense, I’m fine with that.”

 

Especially if it leads to a win.

 

“That’s the big reason I’m here,” Turner said. “I like what we have a chance to do this season.”

 

The Tigers got things started on the right foot with the romp past Nicholls, and now they have a second straight chance for redemption.

 

Last season Coastal Carolina came to Baton Rouge and stunned LSU 78-69 in overtime. The Tigers played well in the first half but shot just 30.9% after the break (12-of-39) and faded down the stretch in regulation – a trend that continued most of last season.

 

Although the win against Nicholls was just one game, it was important the Tigers finished strong. When the Colonels closed the gap to 77-67 with just under 6 minutes left, LSU rattled off 16 unanswered points.

 

The Tigers hit 11 of 24 3-pointers – a number they reached only twice all last seaso – and were 25-of-31 from the free-throw line, paced by Turner’s 6-of-7.


CHALK TALK

LSU

Starters

G Anthony Hickey (5-11, 182, Fr.)

G Andrew Stringer (5-9, 178, So.)

G Ralston Turner (6-6, 205, So.)

F Storm Warren (6-7, 230, Sr.)

C Justin Hamilton (7-0, 260, Jr.)

Key reserves

F Malcolm White (6-9, 220, Sr.)

G Chris Bass (6-1, 190, Sr.)

F Eddie Ludwig (6-9, 210, Jr.)

F Jalen Courtney (6-8, 228, So.)

F Johnny O’Bryant (6-9, 262, Fr.)

Coach: Trent Johnson (50-49, fourth season at LSU; 208-170, 13thseason)

 

Coastal Carolina

Starters

G Anthony Raffa (6-1, 170, Jr.)

G Kierre Greenwood (6-2, 165, Sr.)

C Jon Pack (6-11, 250, Sr.)

F Sam McLaurin (6-8, 215, Jr.)

F Chris Gradnigo (6-7, 223, Sr.)

Key reserves

G Warren Gillis (6-3, 200, Fr.)

G-F Brandon Crawford (6-5, 210, Sr.)

G Dexter Moore (6-1, 173, Sr.)

Coach: Cliff Ellis (82-49, fifth season at CCU; 694-398, 36th season)

 

Up next: LSU travels to Charleston, S.C., for the Charleston Classic starting Thursday. The Tigers will face Northwestern from the Big Ten Conference at 2 p.m. Other possible opponents include Tulsa or Western Kentucky, followed by Georgia Tech or Seton Hall.

 

Of note

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  • Coastal Carolina’s win last season came in the first meeting between the two. It wasn’t the Tigers’ first loss to Chanticleers’ coach Cliff Ellis, the former Clemson and Auburn coach. He is 11-10 all-time against LSU.

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  • CCU forward Chris Gradnigo is a Lake Charles native who was once recruited by the Tigers. He was a three-year starter at ULL, leading the Cajuns in scoring as a freshman and sophomore and ranking second with 14 points a game in 2009-10. He has recorded 33 points, 15 rebounds and 5 blocks in his first two games for the Chants.

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  • Prior to the opener, the last time the Tigers had seven players in double figures was the 1997-98 season opener – a 99-51 romp past Southern-New Orleans in the first game of John Brady’s tenure.

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  • The four new Tigers – Hickey, Isaac, Hamilton and O’Bryant – combined to account for 50 points, 18 rebounds, 13 assists and 4 steals vs. Nicholls.

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  • Tuesday’s game is the 100th of Johnson’s LSU career.

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  • LSU won only three of 11 road games last season: At South Alabama, Auburn and Mississippi State. The Tigers have also lost 10 of their last 12 neutral-site games.  


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