Had I told you preseason LSU basketball would start 6-2 going into exam week, you’d have probably assumed the Tigers lost at powerful Big 12 foe West Virginia and then likely dropped a game somewhere in the three-game Paradise Jam tournament.
Johnny Jones’ crew lost two in the Virgin Islands, falling to Old Dominion and Clemson, but rebounded in a major way last week to defeat Massachusetts at home (by 22 points) and then steal a landmark road victory at No. 16 West Virginia, 74-73.
With the Tigers on a bit of a hiatus – LSU will have been off nine days by the time it tips Saturday at home versus Sam Houston State – TSD is taking a closer look at the state of the Bayou Bengals.
First up today: an examination of LSU’s perimeter players.
An unbelievably pleasant surprise, Quarterman is to the basketball team what Jalen Collins proved to be on the football side this fall – a returning player some had written off that quite simply improved in the offseason and is now making good on his freakish height/length. Quarterman, playing 30.9 minutes a game off the bench, has definitely been LSU’s most well-rounded guard and you could make a case he’s been their best overall guard. Through eight games he’s averaging 11.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists while upping all three of his shooting percentages (FG, 3-PT and FT) from his freshman season a year ago. He’s also routinely locking down the best opposing wing, playing serviceably from the one through the three, providing a much-needed source of energy and is a more confident/competent player on the offensive end – evidenced by him taking over the WVU game when LSU needed him to and the fact he’s second on the team (to this next guy) in threes made.
It’s probably fair to say we haven’t seen the best from Hornsby yet. A starter at the two-guard in every game, the junior transfer has been dependable in the sense he’s playing the most minutes on the team (34.9 mpg) of any non-forward. But the consistency is still lacking from the former UNC-Asheville player. Hornby is shooting just 39.6% from the field and is more often than not settling for threes as 37 of his 91 shot attempts have come from downtown. He’s a good enough athlete and strong enough to drive more than he has to date. Hornsby is scoring 12.3 points per game and averaging 5.3 rebounds, giving LSU a nice presence on the glass from the two spot. Perhaps the huge three he hit late in Morgantown will ignite Hornsby’s shooting percentages coming down the home stretch of non-conference play.
LSU’s starting point guard has had an interesting beginning to his junior campaign. The JuCo scoring machine from a season ago is taking only 9.8 shots per game on average, more often than not through the first six games settling for a distributing role and not playing terribly aggressive ball on offense. That trend started to reverse itself in the UMass game (when he scored a game-high 25) and Gray seems to be in more of an attacking mindset, something the Tigers need. The downside, though, has been the turnovers. Gray, along with averages of 12.0 points, 3.4 rebounds and a healthy 4.9 assists, is giving it away 4.0 times a game. Like the two guys above, Gray is playing a lot of minutes (33.5 mpg). If he can continue to incorporate that recent edge offensively, up his shot attempts number slightly and shave off a few of the turnovers, Gray – and LSU, by proxy – will be in a lot better shape.
A developing player who can slot in at the one and two, Patterson is definitely not afraid of the moment. The two-time national champion at Montverde Academy (Fla.) has filled in fairly well when needed in the early going, none more so than Thursday night at West Virginia when foul trouble to others forced Patterson to play 18 minutes. The freshman responded with five points, three rebounds and three assists to no turnovers. His shot selection could stand to improve a bit – Patterson will let fly on a three early in the shot clock – but so far he’s been the second guard in off the bench after Quarterman, averaging 12.3 minutes. Look for Patterson to see at least a little action in every game going forward and for him to go into double-digit minutes on nights where injury or foul trouble is an issue.
The book on Epps at LSU is yet to be written, and thus far the first chapter doesn’t even contain much information. Injuries have limited Epps, being cast into the role of a three even at 6-foot-9, to only three games played. The ongoing injury is being listed as a “hip” problem, but there is speculation that Epps isn’t completely back from an offseason knee procedure. Head coach Johnny Jones continues to say Epps will return shortly, but time will soon tell if it’s in the player’s best long-term interest to rest or play.
In-Season Observations: Perimeter Players
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