As the LSU men closed the chapter on a disappointing 2-6 month in January with a 71-65 win over Arkansas Saturday, one player did the same by kicking off February on the right foot.
Eddie Ludwig played in seven games last month. In those games, he saw the floor for a total of 59 minutes. In those 59 minutes, the 6-foot-9 210-pound junior from Metairie scored just 8 points with 11 rebounds.
It took Ludwig just 11 minutes Saturday afternoon to surpass his January scoring.
With the Tigers trailing 11-8 early in the first half, Ludwig connected a three-point play after being fouled on a successful layup. On the ensuing possession, it was Ludwig who stood in and took an offensive charge that led to a step-back 3-pointer from Ralston Turner that put LSU up 14-11, a lead they saw stay for the duration of the contest.
“I knew I needed to come in and make some solid passes and kind of run the offense through me,” Ludwig said. “This whole week of preparation we’ve been working with the four man going up and either swinging the ball or throwing it down to Ralston on a shuffle cut or Justin on the duck.”
Minutes later, Ludwig was at it again.
First a block, followed by a steal. Then, without hesitation, he connected on a 3-pointer as the Pete Maravich Assembly Center erupted, advancing the Tigers’ lead to 31-20.
A shot that pleased LSU coach Trent Johnson.
|Eddie Ludwig: "Coming off the bench you've got to understand your role."|
“He knew if he didn’t shoot that, make or miss, he would have come out,” Johnson said. “Eddie cares too much sometimes. He’s one of those kids who just cares. I say ‘Just shoot the ball, who cares if you make it or if you miss it. Who cares, just shoot it.’”
The Tigers went into the half with 35-31 lead and with Ludwig as their leading scorer with 8 points.
It wasn’t just the offensive spark of Ludwig that was imperative. Instead, his defense and energy helped LSU jump in front of Arkansas.
Whether it is his curly red hair or some other factor, Tiger fans have gravitated toward Ludwig. In fact, it is very rare to go through the course of a game where fans don’t cheer, “Eddie, Eddie, Eddie” when No. 13 enters the game.
In the second half, Ludwig wasn’t nearly as efficient offensively as guards Anthony Hickey and Turner carried the way for the Tigers, but like in any good story, it was Ludwig who capped off the impressive win.
After Arkansas’ Rashad Madden converted on an easy layup to cut LSU’s lead to 67-63 with 28 seconds remaining, the Hogs immediately went to a full-court press. For the most part, the pressure by Arkansas gave LSU fits, but for one of the few times on the afternoon, the Tigers broke the press.
Hickey passed the ball down the court to a wide-open Ludwig, who capitalized on the layup, giving LSU a commanding 69-63 point lead with 18 seconds remaining.
Ludwig finished the night with a solid stat line: 12 points (ties his career high), 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block and 1 steal in 17 minutes.
“Coming off the bench you've got to understand your role,” Ludwig said. “I was fortunate enough to have a teammate like Hickey to penetrate and dish to me and give me some pretty easy looks.”
|Trent Johnson: On Eddie Ludwig -- "...he just continues to grind and continues to work."|
A 3-star high school recruit by Scout and the all-time leading scorer at Metairie Park Country Day with 2,530 points, Ludwig was a part of Johnson’s first recruiting class in Baton Rouge. But in his two plus seasons as a Tiger, Ludwig has been marred with inconsistency.
After freshman and sophomore campaigns when Ludwig averaged 2.3 and 3.8 points per game respectively, he looked to have an increased role this season. When Andre Stringer missed fives games in December, Ludwig shuffled from the power forward position to the three.
In his first start of the season, Ludwig had a career high in rebounds (9) and minutes (33), as the Tigers beat Boise State 64-45. For Ludwig’s follow up act, he didn’t disappoint – scoring 12 points on 4-for-7 shooting in a win against UC-Irvine.
Since that win on Dec. 15, Ludwig managed just 15 points in 11 games – not including Saturday’s performance. Ludwig has been held without a point in 10 games.
“I don’t think I’ve done a very good job of finding the ways to keep him on the floor and keep him in rhythm,” Johnson said. “But one thing about him, he just continues to grind and continues to work.”
It was Ludwig – even if it’s just for a brief period of time – who played up to his capabilities and provided a much needed spark for the Tigers, a spark that carried LSU to its third SEC win of the season.
Matt Marcantonio is a senior print journalism major at LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication. Prior to his internship with Tiger Sports Digest, he contributed to The Advocate and interned with Sports Illustrated in the summer of 2011. Our resident Yankee, Marcantonio was born and raised in Leominster, Mass.