Three Points: Mississippi State Loss

TSD's Ben Love reacts to LSU's 73-67 loss at Mississippi State Saturday with his three brass tacks, including discouraging performances by two of the Tigers' big four and increased production from Darcy Malone.

1. Martin, Quarterman posted crippling no-shows in same game.

- By now the formula for LSU is largely the same on a night-to-night basis. Johnny Jones has a core of four players that are really his best four – Tim Quarterman and Keith Hornsby on the outside and Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey on the inside. In any given ballgame Josh Gray (who had 13 Saturday) or, more likely so far in SEC play, Jalyn Patterson can step into that top four, but for the most part that’s the nucleus the Tigers rely on to win games and, more specifically, to outscore teams.

When two of those four are off, especially to the level Martin and Quarterman were misfiring in Starkville, the team’s chances of winning at home or on the road plummet. The most impressive thing about Quarterman’s turnaround this season has been his improved, efficient shooting. On Saturday here were his slashes: 1-of-10 from the field, 0-of-6 from three, 2-of-4 from the charity stripe. He finished with four points, three rebounds and one assists in 29 minutes before fouling out. Martin, who came in averaging a team-best 16.7 points, attempted just four shots. Four. He too battled foul trouble and posted four points, four rebounds and four fouls.

It’s rare these two are simultaneously off so badly, but it cut LSU down at the knees at Mississippi State.

2. Mickey emphatically showed he’s LSU’s best player.

- It’s been established for some time this season that Jordan Mickey is the most productive player in purple and gold. But I believe he put a stamp today on the fact that he’s the go-to-guy for Johnny Jones’ club. His offensive game is becoming that developed, particularly in the mid-range, where he feasted versus the Bulldogs en route to 25 points on 11-of-18 shooting. Mickey also had his way inside, where the Tigers leaned on him heavily seemingly every time they needed a bucket late.

Then, of course, there’s the glasswork. Mickey set a career high with 20 rebounds, also the most for any SEC player this season. Just about the only thing he’ll rue: the 3-of-10 mark from the free-throw line. His ankle was undoubtedly hurting him, but that shouldn’t affect free throws. LSU more or less took his cue from the stripe, going 11-of-21 (52.4%), which is one way to find a loss on the road in the SEC. A final thought that ties in points one and two: I’m beginning to wonder if Martin’s potential will ever catch up to Mickey’s production. The tools are there for Jarell, but Jordan is flat-out getting it done and nearly saved LSU today in a poor all-around effort.

3. It’s at once scary and impressive how much LSU misses Patterson.

- The scary part is LSU’s depth and the rotation’s struggles trying to backfill for a freshman who, for the most part, was an afterthought in the first couple of weeks of the season (although he was dealing with slight injuries then). The impressive part is how much Jalyn Patterson has already come to mean to the 2014-15 LSU Tigers. He missed his second straight game Saturday with a nick he picked up in last weekend’s overtime win at Vanderbilt, and for the second straight time the rotation expanded – but the quality of play in the backcourt waned.

Freshman Aaron Epps logged seven minutes, scoring four points and grabbing three rebounds, while sophomore Brian Bridgewater played four minutes. But those two primarily helped fill in at the three and four. Without Patterson, Keith Hornsby played 37 minutes, Gray 33 minutes and Quarterman only 29 minutes due to foul trouble. That’s the full list of who played at the one and two for LSU on Saturday. The Tigers also turned it over 15 times, an area where he can lend a hand with poised play and sure ball-handling. Every person that’s watched the last two games can now appreciate just how polished Patterson is and the role he plays as an important cog and emerging playmaker on both ends.

On a related note, one member of LSU’s expanded rotation did show glimpses that he’s continuing to progress. Starting big man Darcy Malone was out there for 26 minutes, only scoring two points but grabbing four rebounds (two offensive), three assists (including a sweet drive-and-dish to Mickey) and three blocks. This is what Johnny Jones was looking for when he inserted him into the starting lineup two weeks ago.

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