LSU showing its depth this year
Any more questions about LSU's improved depth from last season to this were washed away Saturday.
In fact, LSU might've turned in its best performance of the season in an 81-55 romp past the Rebels.
O'Bryant is out 4-6 weeks with a broken left hand that required surgery. White missed the game to attend his grandmother's funeral.
Without two of their four primary post players, LSU (11-4, 1-0 SEC) leaned more on the two who were there as center Justin Hamilton notched career-highs with 23 points and 16 rebounds and Storm Warren also recorded a double-double with 15 and 11.
"I thought Storm and Justin were really good when they needed to be in terms of going into this game we had two of our bullets down," Tigers coach Trent Johnson said.
Playing short-handed is nothing new to the Tigers this season or the last three for that matter. Sophomore guard Andre Stringer missed a month and five December games after a fainting spell and LSU won all of them.
Those results – plus Saturday's rout – were a far cry from last season when the Tigers got blown away by 20 points or more in four consecutive games when Warren and Ralston Turner were out with injuries.
"I thought going into this year ... that we were going to be in a situation that if we played well, defended well and did all the little things correctly, we would be able to withstand an injury or two," Johnson said.
Against Ole Miss, the Tigers' big men took turns dominating. Warren was busy early, scoring 11 points in the first half and most importantly avoiding foul trouble. Hamilton did most of his damage after halftime with 17 of his points and 10 boards coming in the second period.
"Being short-handed, we knew we had to play smart, especially me," said Warren, who was back in the starting lineup in place of O'Bryant. "I had to make sure I didn't get in any foul trouble. We knew we had to play smart, help each other out and stay under control because we had to play a lot of minutes." <br><br>
Hickey stars in SEC debut
Freshman G Anthony Hickey shined in his first SEC game, registering seven assists and 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting from 3-point range. He also went 25 minutes without a turnover.
"We're trying to limit our turnovers and keep them low," said Hickey, who leads the Tigers with 62 assists and 38 steals. "As long as (the LSU big men) are scoring, we're going to keep running up the score. They were doing a good job on offense and getting offensive rebounds, and we had our opponents on the defensive end again. They have good offense and execution."
LSU's 26-point victory in the SEC opener was its biggest since rolling past Georgia 97-62 on Jan. 8, 1953. The Tigers also logged a 26-point romp (92-66) against Florida in 1981.
With the lopsided win Saturday, LSU climbed to 11-4 to match its victory total from each of the last two seasons. Storm Warren shrugged off that fact initially, but moments later noted the significance.
"This is a much, much different team," Warren said. "We have depth and a lot of talent. Our confidence level is up."
BY THE NUMBERS: 11, 16, 1 – On the way to a 44-24 halftime lead against Ole Miss Saturday, the Tigers recorded 11 assists on 16 made field goals and had one turnover. The Rebels coughed the ball up 10 times and had only two assists.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We knew that we had to come out in the second half with the same intensity we had in the first half. We needed to put two halves together and make sure they didn't come back at all." Justin Hamilton on LSU's win over Ole Miss.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAMES:
At Alabama, Jan. 11
KEY MATCHUPS: Without Johnny O'Bryant and potentially Malcolm White, the Tigers will have their hands full inside against the Crimson Tide's duo of Tony Mitchell and JaMychal Green, who were scoring 15.2 and 14.7 points, respectively, and each grabbing just over 7 rebounds each. If White is still out of action, swingmen Eddie Ludwig and Jalen Courtney will have to eat up some front-court minutes to keep Warren and Hamilton fresh.
At Arkansas, Jan. 14
KEY MATCHUPS: The Razorbacks will try to force LSU into a faster tempo than it wants to play, which puts Anthony Hickey, Andre Stringer and Ralston Turner in the spotlight. The Tigers' guard trio has to play under control and make sure the offense is in rhythm, limit turnovers and make the Hogs play half-court defense. Those three also have to be cognizant about defending the 3-point line as Arkansas was shooting 34.1 percent from outside the arc through Sunday.
FUTURES MARKET: Johnny O'Bryant's injury could have a long-term ripple effect for the Tigers. When the Cleveland, Miss., native got to campus, he reiterated that he had designs on a one-and-done college stopover.
Now, with O'Bryant likely to miss at least half the SEC season, his potential draft stock will take a major hit. Does that mean the 6-foot-8, 240-pounder is likely to be back as a sophomore for more seasoning? Maybe so and that could wind up being like an extra recruit for Johnson and his staff, which will fill at least three and perhaps four scholarship spots this offseason.
Ralston Turner struggled again from the perimeter, missing his final seven floor shots after a promising start when he scored six of the Tigers' first 12 points against Ole Miss. The 6-6 sophomore launched only two shots in a 57-52 loss to Virginia and his shooting percentage from the field dwindled to 35 percent (48-of-137) through Sunday.
Andre Stringer scored 18 points in 52 minutes in his first two games since returning from his down time. He didn't shoot well against Ole Miss (3-for-11), but did notch a season-best five assists.
Anthony Hickey's four threes in five attempts marked his best shooting day from deep this season. He was 4-of-6 against Georgia Tech. The four made 3-pointers also equaled what he had done in the eight previous games when he struggled, missing 29 of 33 from 3-point territory.