A quiet week was the theme for the LSU men heading into a huge month, but the silence will be shattered Saturday when Arkansas visits the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
The Tigers (12-9, 2-5) and Razorbacks (16-6, 4-3) collide at 12:45 p.m. Saturday.
One piece of news that became official Friday was the status of LSU senior Malcolm White.
As expected, White drew an in-house suspension from Tigers coach Trent Johnson for his nasty flagrant foul on Kentucky’s Anthony Davis last week. White was assessed a flagrant-two foul and ejected.
The fifth-year senior sent both Davis and Wildcats coach John Calipari a letter of apology on Monday after the uncharacteristic play.
White’s foul aside, Johnson was troubled by how the Tigers played in the second half of a 74-50 loss to the No. 1-ranked Wildcats.
An improved talent level has shown up big for LSU this season, and combined with a grittiness and toughness, has made the Tigers much more competitive than the last two seasons when they were 5-27 in SEC play.
For a half, Saturday that remained true against No. 1 Kentucky as LSU stared at the Wildcats and didn't blink.
After trailing by 12 in the first half, the Tigers surged back within a point and brought a large PMAC crowd of 10,060 to a roar.
But the second half was a different story as UK ran away with the lopsided win and LSU crumbled.
Worse to Johnson was his assessment that his team didn't play as hard as it could have.
Most loose balls went to the Cats. Second and third chances were the norm as Kentucky dominated the backboards. The Tigers weren't aggressive going to the rim, apparently intimidated by the UK shot-blockers.
“The only thing that's disturbing to me is, forget the score, during the course of the second half, we just stopped fighting and stopped competing and that's the first time I've seen that from this group,” Johnson said. “It really bothers me.
“You can say that this was a bad day at the office, but obviously I was disturbed that we stopped competing for whatever reason. I don't know if that would have changed the score, but I would have had a better feeling in my mouth from a standpoint of my taste.”
The loss was LSU's worst this season and conjured up memories of a stretch last season when the Tigers lost four games by 20 points or more for the first time in program history.
It was also the Tigers' fifth loss in six games in a rugged January stretch that included four SEC road games in five and a run of three contests in a row vs. ranked foes.
Now LSU gets back to work in February with what appears to be a much more manageable schedule.
Notes & quotes
Anthony HickeyLSU's shooting touch from 3-point range was nowhere to be found Saturday. Anthony Hickey's second-half trey was LSU's only make outside the arc Saturday in nine attempts, which matched a season low. Four days earlier, the Tigers equaled a season best with 11 3s – including four in the final 1:08 – in a 76-71 loss at Mississippi State.
After going four games without attempting a free throw, Andre Stringer has connected on 9-of-9 in the last two games. Stringer is LSU's top foul shooter this season at 87.2% (34 of 39).
By the numbers: >30
For much of the season, rebounding has been a strength for LSU, but the Tigers have faltered on the glass of late, with three straight games with 29 rebounds or fewer. That's also led to the two worst rebounding deficits of the season: 46-26 against Mississippi State and 39-29 vs. Kentucky.
Quote of note: “Everybody hates to lose, and this was a game that we knew would be a battle. We were looking forward to it and were hoping it would be a lot closer game. For it to turn out this way, it is pretty devastating for us. We are going to have to get in the film room, break everything down and see what all happened.”
-- LSU's Storm Warren, on LSU's 74-50 loss to No. 1 Kentucky.
This week's game
vs. Arkansas, 12:45 p.m. Saturday
Key matchups: The Tigers and Razorbacks meet for the second time, and LSU’s primary goal is simple: Establish the tempo it wants at home and take better care of the ball. Arkansas won the first meeting in Fayetteville, 69-60, largely because the Hogs flustered the Tigers into 16 turnovers, 12 of which were steals with their full-court pressure.
If LSU can attack the press instead and generate easy scoring chances, that could also translate into better shooting. The Tigers connected on only 34.8% (24 of 69) in the first meeting and missed 15 of 18 from 3-point range. Getting center Justin Hamilton and forward Johnny O'Bryant involved against the press could be a key.
Futures market: After a five-game absence, O'Bryant has returned to re-establish himself as rising star in the paint for the Tigers. O'Bryant missed nearly three weeks after surgery to repair a broken hand and came back to play 20 minutes against Mississippi State in the mid-week game, scoring 6 points and grabbing 4 rebounds off the bench. Four days later he was back in the starting lineup for the first time since Jan. 2 and responded with 12 points and 9 boards in 28 minutes. He also gave the Tigers a jolt of energy in the first-half run when they rallied within a point.
Hamilton has struggled to get shots in the last two games and was just 8-for-15 from the field for 18 points and 8 rebounds, only three offensive, in the two losses.
Sophomore swingman Jalen Courtney battled strep throat last week and saw his playing time dwindle to 6 minutes over the last three games. He logged 55 minutes in the first four SEC games and seemed to be emerging until the illness.
Until going 1-of-3 from 3-point range vs. Kentucky, Hickey had connected on at least two treys in four straight games, hitting 10-of-22 from deep during that span. In SEC games, he is hitting at a 48.4% clip (15 of 31) from outside the arc. He also recorded 5 assists Saturday without a turnover to give him four games with 5 assists or more in SEC play and nine games this season with no or one turnover.
Summer camp info
The schedule and registration information for the 2012 LSU Tigers Boys Basketball Camps has been posted online at LSUsports.net/camps and is available through the LSU men’s basketball office.
The following dates and camps have been scheduled at this time: June 1-2 – Team Camp; June 11-14 – Day Camp I; June 15-16 – Father-Son Camp; and, June 25-28 – Day Camp II.
All camps will be held in the LSU Practice Facility and at the PMAC>
The team camp has a cost of $300 per team with a four-game guarantee. The day camps cost $250 per session and include lunch, a camp T-shirt, camp ball and photo. The day camp is for rising grades 3-8.
Campers will learn and improve fundamental basketball skills while learning to be a good team player.
Registration for the first day camp (June 11-14) closes May 21 and registration for the second day camp (June 25-28) closes June 4.
The Father-Son overnight camp costs $205 for a father-son and $75 for each additional son. The camp is for fathers of all ages and sons in rising grades 1-8. This camp provides an opportunity to learn the game and a chance to spend quality time together.
Information on the Elite High School Skills Camp will be announced at a later date.
For more information on the Tiger Basketball Camps go to LSUsports.net/camps or the LSU Basketball page to find the link for “Youth Camps.” Information can also be obtained by calling 225-578-8217 or by email at TigerBasketballCamps@yahoo.com.
Warren’s dunk in the running
LSU fans can help nominate senior Storm Warren’s dunk against Marquette as one of College Basketball’s Plays of the Year by voting now through 10:59 p.m. on Monday at www.facebook.com/BestofCollegeBasketball.
Warren’s emphatic one-handed follow-up slam vs. Marquette on Dec. 19 is nominated for the GEICO Play of the Year.
Each week for eight weeks, four incredible college basketball plays will be nominated as the Play of the Year. Each week’s winner will be determined by fan voting through the official Facebook page. The eight finalists will compete in a week-long competition to determine the GEICO Play of the Year with the winner announced on a special which airs March 25 on CBS.
Late in the first half of a matchup with then No. 10 Marquette, Warren missed a free-throw attempt, but the rebound was pulled down by teammate Justin Hamilton. When Hamilton went up for the putback, Warren leaped into the paint, skied over the defense and slammed the rebound home one-handed.
Warren’s high-flying jam is competing against three other plays, including an authoritative rejection by Ole Miss’ Reginald Buckner, a crossover and game-winning lay-up by Louisville’s Peyton Siva and a game-winning 3-pointer by Marquette’s Jae Crowder.
To watch or vote for Warren’s play, visit www.facebook.com/BestofCollegeBasketball.
Fans can share their vote with their Facebook friends. Warren’s dunk can be voted on by each person once per day through the end of the voting period.