It doesn’t quite carry the same meaning, but LSU will get an immediate chance for redemption against Alabama Wednesday on a different playing field.
The Tigers basketball team hits the road for the first time in SEC play to tangle with the Crimson Tide at 8 p.m. at Coleman Coliseum, two nights after a tough night on the football field in the BCS National Championship Game.
One common theme between the two games figures to be stingy defense.
LSU (11-4, 1-0 SEC) and Alabama (12-3, 1-0) both rank in the top three in the SEC in scoring defense, field-goal defense and 3-point field-goal defense. Each has held 11 opponents to under 60 points this season, including in the league opener on Saturday.
The Tigers started by pummeling Ole Miss 81-55 at home, while the Tide went on the road and dismantled Georgia 74-59.
LSU pounded the Rebels without starting forward Johnny O’Bryant and frontcourt reserve Malcolm White. O’Bryant is out 4-6 weeks with a broken hand, while White missed the game to attend his grandmother’s funeral. White was back at practice Monday and could play against Bama.
|White could be back on the court against Alabama.|
“Overall I thought our offensive execution was probably as good as it has been all years in terms of the assist-to-turnover ratio (16-9) and our ability to throw the ball in to the post and try to play inside-out,” fourth-year LSU coach Trent Johnson said of the Ole Miss victory. “We needed that. This is league play so we need to start making shots and we need to start playing better at the other end of the floor.”
It was especially important for the Tigers because of how the early league schedule sets up. Wednesday’s game is the first of four road contests in the next five games for LSU and that stretch includes battles with four teams who are ranked or have been, starting with the Tide, which spent the first seven weeks in the polls and climbed as high as No. 12.
And playing at Coleman is a rugged way to start. Not only is the Tide an NCAA Tournament contender, they have won the last seven games vs. the Tigers on The Capstone.
All that aside, Johnson said his team has to be prepared for a tough, physical battle against a team with similar talent that plays a similar style.
“They are a very tough-minded team,” Johnson said. “If you do not keep your poise and handle their pressure, you have no chance.
“It’s a very tough-minded, very good team defensively and if you don’t keep your poise and handle their pressure you can have a long night.”
The Tide has a familiar look, with sophomore guard Trevor Releford leading the way and forward JaMychael Green back for his senior season. Releford has averaged 16.5 points the last four games and has gotten plenty of help from a cast of new faces.
Freshman guard Trevor Lacey is coming off a 19-point outburst at Georgia, his season-high. Forward Tony Mitchell leads Alabama with 15.2 points and 7.2 rebounds a game, followed closely by Green’s 14.7 points and 7.1 boards a contest.
Alabama has won four games in a row since a 71-58 loss at Kansas State on Dec. 17. Like LSU, the Tide has tackled an aggressive schedule with power-conference teams up and down the slate, including Maryland, Purdue, Georgetown and Georgia Tech, along with perennial mid-major powers Wichita State and VCU.
That has the Tide well-tested for SEC play, but third-year coach Anthony Grant expects the Tigers to give his team all it can handle.
“I've been impressed watching them on film and they’re off to a great start,” said Grant, who was considered a top candidate for the LSU job in 2008 when Johnson was hired. “I'm really impressed with the new additions Trent has added to his team along with the veterans. They're a very impressive group.”
A group that gets a shot at least easing some pain from Monday night’s loss on the football field.