Short-handed Tigers notch big win vs. Broncos

Without Stringer and Isaac, LSU clamps down on high-scoring Boise State and heats up offensively on the way to a 64-45 victory.

Another big step forward came for the LSU men Saturday night.

And as impressive as the Tigers' 64-45 triumph against Boise State was, the subplot of who wasn't on the floor made the outcome a little more special.

LSU (6-3) cranked up its defensive intensity start to finish and shot at a balmy 59.3% clip in the second half to create a comfortable cushion down the stretch and hand the Broncos only their second loss of the season.

The Tigers played without leading scorer Andre Stringer and backup guard John Isaac. Stringer sat after a fainting spell before a practice late last week and Isaac was out of action with a tender left knee.

Chris Bass

Despite taking the floor without two of its better defensive guards, LSU delivered another suffocating performance to claim a third consecutive victory.

Center Justin Hamilton paced the Tigers with 14 points, Anthony Hickey added 11 and 5 assists and forwards Storm Warren and Johnny O'Bryant chimed in 10 points apiece. LSU outrebounded the Broncos 40-35, paced by Eddie Ludwig – starting for the first time this season – with 9 boards.

Boise State (8-2) entered the game averaging 84.9 points a game, but got nowhere close to approaching that level Saturday. The Broncos shot only 29.8% overall from the floor (17-of-57) and missed 18 of 25 3-point field goals. Leading scorer Anthony Drmic (15.6 ppg) was held without a point, missing seven field goals, five from long range and even two free throws in the closing seconds.

As good as the Tigers' defense was, it only added up to a 25-22 lead at halftime because they still struggled to shoot well.

That changed in the second half when LSU started clicking and unloaded an 18-8 surge to turn a 28-27 nailbiter into a 46-35 lead.

"Considering who we played, how they have been playing and how much pressure they put on you on the perimeter and off the bounce – they're really talented – it was a solid performance," Tigers coach Trent Johnson said. "Coming into the game, they were averaging 80-plus points, but more importantly, considering how they shoot the 3 and from the field, I thought it was a very good win for us."

LSU turned the tide late in the first half when it erased a 22-17 deficit by scoring the final eight points of the period. Coming off the bench for the third straight game, Warren was the spark plug with a pair of free throws, two stickbacks, a pair of defensive rebounds and a charge taken.

In 18 minutes, Warren wound up with 4 rebounds, 2 steals and a blocked shot to go with his scoring.

Storm Warren

"I just accept my role and when I get on the court I contribute the best way I can for my team so we can produce and can get a win," Warren said.

"Just sitting over the on the sideline at the beginning of the game, you get a good observation of what players are doing what, and what execution they're trying to follow. So just staying engaged while I'm sitting over there, I'm coming in knowing what I need to do."

With the tone Warren set right before halftime, the Tigers took his cue when Boise State made a bid to climb back into the game.

Jeff Elorriaga scored a bucket in transition to pull the Broncos within 28-27 at the 16:39 juncture, but there wasn't a hint of panic for LSU.

O'Bryant posted up for an inside hoop on the ensuing possession and Ralston Turner cranked in a 3-pointer off a fast-break feed moments later. Elorriaga buried a 3 out of a timeout to close the gap to 33-30, but Hickey hit a baseline jumper and then fed Malcolm White for a fast-break alley-oop dunk right after Boise missed a similar shot.

Hamilton scored the next six points and Warren capped the blitz with the first of two pretty jumpers from the circle when the Broncos' defense adjusted and forced LSU away from the low post.

When the dust settled, six different Tigers had scored during the game-turning run.

Facing a double-digit deficit for the first time, Boise State never fully recovered. The Broncos whittled the lead to 48-40 on Kenny Buckner's three-point play with 6:10 left, but White hit a tip-in moments later and the Tigers stretched the lead back out and it stayed above 10 for the final 3:48 after O'Bryant's reverse layup.

"We knew coming in these guys were really good shooters, 3-point shooters," Hamilton said. "We knew that no lead was safe. Coach was always emphasizing if we were up by 10, we needed to keep defending and make sure if they didn't get off their 3s."

It wasn't just inaccuracy from outside the 3-point line that troubled Boise State, though. The Broncos never figured a good way to combat LSU's size advantage and missed one layup after another, with the Tigers blocking six shots – several early in the game.

"LSU is long, athletic and a good defensive team," Boise State coach Leon Rice said. "We tried to create one-on-one, and that's not why we have been doing a good job.

"We missed a lot of layups because of the first couple of blocked shots. We credit LSU but at the same time we were not tough enough. They picked up the intensity and we didn't run our offense."

Eddie Ludwig

The Tigers got a surprising jolt of their toughness from Ludwig, whom Johnson singled out after the game.

All nine of Ludwig's rebounds came on the defensive end and he drew the early assignment of checking Drmic, who got frustrated early and stopped actively seeking shots until late in the game.

"I just tried to stay as close as possible," Ludwig said. "He's a great shooter so you don't want to give him any space. When he did get his shots off, I just tried to have a hand up.

"You get pushed around against these big guys in practice, you've got to get tough eventually."

Johnson didn't seem surprised at all by Ludwig's performance.

"We thought he could do a good job of guarding," he said. "When they're quick and they shoot it from 3, and we had a size advantage, one of the things we wanted to do was put as much pressure on them to wear them down and use our size and strength. We didn't want to get caught up on running up and down."

The Tigers avoided that and didn't allow a single fast-break point. Coupled with an inability to get to the foul stripe – Boise State didn't take a free throw in the first half and was just 4-for-10 after the break – created a bundle of problems for the Broncos.

That more than offset the absence of Stringer and Isaac and an off night by Turner, who was limited to 5 points and 22 minutes, in part because of foul problems.

"Going into the game we knew we would have to establish a post presence and I thought we were very efficient," Johnson said. "When you can win a game like this, considering the fact you don't have one of your best perimeter shooters, one of your best scorers and have a guy like Ralston in foul trouble, it's a good win. It was a very good win for us right now."

The concern between now and Thursday, when the Tigers are back in action against UC-Irvine (2-6), is the status of Stringer and Isaac.

Johnson was hesitant to talk specifics about the two, particularly Stringer.

"Andre is going to get another series of tests, and John we're going to take a look at his knee," Johnson said. "I am worried. I am concerned about both guys.

Stringer "got dizzy and fainted" before a practice, Johnson said.

"To me the bottom line is, until we get another opinion and our medical people do what they do well, I reserve my comments," he said.


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