Notes & quotes
Johnny O'Bryant made his presence felt in several ways against Alabama with 17 points -- his most in an SEC game – which was anchored by a 7-for-9 effort from the free-throw line. He had attempted only eight foul shots in his four previous league games. The 6-foot-9, 262-pound freshman also contributed a season-best 3 assists, and seemed to be more active without the ball.
“Johnny is starting to understand the nuances of the game in terms of cutting hard and setting screens,” coach Trent Johnson said. “Hopefully that's something we can build off of.”
Tigers guard Andre Stringer showed signs of snapping out of a four-game funk with 15 points against Alabama, his most in a home game since he notched 20 against South Alabama on Nov. 23.
Stringer had missed 17 consecutive 3-pointers over four games until connecting on his second try vs. Alabama and he wound up hitting 5-of-11 floor shots.
“It was very big for me," Stringer said. “I got a chance to see some shots go in. I haven't seen that in the past couple of games, but I stayed aggressive and Coach has been telling me and to stay aggressive and keep shooting.”
Stringer's free-throw streak ended at 15 in a row on his first attempt Saturday, but he bounced back to swish his final four attempts and is 17-of-18 in the last five games at that point. For the season, Stringer is hitting at an 87.5% (38 for 48).
Anthony HickeyPoint guard Anthony Hickey went from a season-high 16 shot attempts against Vanderbilt last Wednesday to a season-low two vs. Alabama. The flip side was a return to playmaking as Hickey recorded 5 assists against the Crimson Tide, his fourth game in the last seven with at least that many. Hickey did not record an assist against Vanderbilt.
Justin Hamilton produced 21 points against Alabama, his fifth game with 20 points or more this season. All five have come since Jan. 2, four in SEC games where he was averaging 15.7 points a game. Like Stringer, Hamilton has also been a weapon at the foul stripe. He is 26-for-34 in league play (76.5%) and 70 for 92 overall (76.1%).
Since nailing 11 3-pointers against Mississippi State four games ago, the Tigers have hit a cold spell as a team from outside the arc. In four games, LSU has connected on only 8-of-54 from deep (14.8%) and have no more than three in any of those contests.
“At some point we have to start making more shots,” said Johnson, whose team has split the four games despite the shaky shooting.
THIS WEEK'S GAMES
vs. Mississippi State, 8 p.m. Tuesday
KEY MATCHUPS: The main focus for LSU has to be not allowing Arnett Moultrie as many clear looks as he got when the teams met before. He pestered the Tigers for 28 points and 12 rebounds in a 76-71 Bulldogs' victory. LSU went to a zone against Alabama and had success with it at times, and that could be the kind of wrinkle that proves effective vs. Moultrie. Should the Tigers match up, look for Johnson to rotate Justin Hamilton, O’Bryant and Storm Warren against Moultrie to wear him down as much as possible.
at South Carolina, 12:45 p.m. Saturday
KEY MATCHUPS: For one of the few times in SEC play, this sets up as a game when LSU has a decided talent edge at most positions. That said, the two places where the Tigers need to defend the best are against swingman Malik Cooke and guard Bruce Ellington. That puts the LSU guards on notice, with Ralston Turner likely to match up against Cooke and a combination of Stringer and Anthony Hickey focused on slowing down Ellington. If those three Tigers can effectively keep the Gamecocks' two main scoring threats from going off, this looms as a winnable SEC road game for LSU – and there haven’t been a lot of those this season.