It's all about being named "Mitchell"

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While basking in the glow of his team's 88-74 thorough beating of Tennessee January 14, LSU Basketball Coach John Brady liberally praised Glen Davis and Tyrus Thomas, the front court duo that has grabbed most of the attention over the last few weeks and consistently scored the bulk of LSU's points.

 

Brady went so far as to compare Davis and Thomas to Jabari Smith and Stromile Swift, front-court, one-two combo that led the Tigers to a Southeastern Conference Championship and the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament during the 1999-2000 season.

But, in Saturday's 68-57 win over Alabama at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, Davis and Thomas missed their first nine shots combined and didn't contribute a single point until a Davis jump hook found the net with 7:14 to play in the first half.

 

Alabama limited LSU's access to the basket during the first 13:00 of the contest with a stifling 2-3 zone defense that collapsed around Davis and Thomas each time the ball was passed into the lane. LSU was limited to just six points in the first 8:00 of the contest and Alabama was able to build an 11-point lead by the 8:36 mark of the first half. The defense forced LSU to make adjustments and find other ways to score.

 

"Offensively, the zone early bothered us a little bit," Brady said. "Then as the game moved on we had some more ball movement. I thought Tasmin Mitchell played well throughout the game. Darrell Mitchell was outstanding."

 

The back court combination of Darrell and Tasmin Mitchell was able to keep LSU in the contest until Davis, in the first half, and Thomas, in the second half, could find holes in the Alabama defense and score in the paint.

 

Darrell Mitchell, the spry senior sometimes point, sometimes shooting guard led all scorers with 19 points, including a 4-of-8 performance from three-point range. Tasmin Mitchell, the freshman small forward who's been steadily contributing 11 points per game while starting every game this season, added 14 points against Alabama, hitting 3-of-5 shots from outside the three-point arch.

 

The Mitchells combined on arguable the six biggest points of the game for the Tigers in what was a turning back of the Tide at the end of the first half. Tasmin gave LSU its first lead since the 16:12 mark of the first half when he drilled a long-range jumper with 1:57 remaining before the halftime buzzer to give the Tigers a 28-27 lead. Darrell followed that shot with a long three of his own with 15 seconds remaining in the half to stake the Tigers to a four-point, 33-29 advantage at halftime.

 

"We could feel the zone pull away and start cheating more to the outside when we started making jumpers from the outside towards the end of the first half," Darrell Mitchell said. "After that, it became easier for us to get the ball to the inside."

 

Once the Tigers were able to get the ball inside, they were able to essentially dominate the rest of the contest. Davis' first basket of the game started a 12-2 Tiger run that was capped by the two three pointers by the Mitchells at the end of the first half.

 

LSU opened up an eight-point lead within the first 4:00 of the second half, but suddenly lost its offensive rhythm and gave up that lead with 13:03 to play in the game. Tasmin Mitchell brought the Tigers out of their small slump when he sliced into the lane and hit a hanging jumper as Tide guard Alonzo Gee slapped Mitchell on the right arm. Tasmin converted the three point play and Alabama crumbled.

 

LSU finished the contest with a 21-4 run and was finally able to consistently pass the ball through the Bama zone to Thomas and Davis while Mitchell and Mitchell continued throwing in long-range jumpers from the outside.

 

Brady has said all season he believes Tasmin Mitchell is the most physically and mentally developed true freshman he's ever coached, but that Mitchell's accomplishments have been overshadowed this season by the other outstanding players on the roster, especially Thomas, whose long and strong athleticism, rebounding and shot-blocking ability earned him back-to-back SEC Freshman of the Week honors.

 

"People have even walked up to me and asked me what's wrong with Tasmin or if I'm a little disappointed in the way Tasmin has played this year," Brady said. "Tasmin Mitchell is just a gamer. He's been overshadowed because Tyrus Thomas has been playing so well. People don't recognize that Tasmin is playing so well. He's made some really big plays and he continues to make big plays."

 

Brady said he felt his team's ability to score from the outside was limited earlier in the season because Darrell Mitchell was being forced to play point guard, taking way from  his chances to get open shots from outside. The coach and team waited for the return of junior point guard Tack Minor from academic suspension to hopefully let Darrell Mitchell look for three-point shots. Minor was lost for the year with knee injury in just his second game.

 

But, with Tasmin Mitchell's budding ability to make outside shots, the Tigers may not need Minor to succeed after all.

 

"I felt really good out there," Tasmin Mitchell said. "Darrell kept getting the ball to me and I just kept making the shots. If we can keep hitting the three-point shots, it should really loosen things up for us."


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