DEVILLE:Come early, be loud, stay late

I heard LSU played pretty crummy in the first 13 or so minutes of Saturday's win versus Alabama.

I wouldn't know. I was with my fiancée, Beth, attending a six-hour, pre-marital seminar at our church in downtown Baton Rouge. I learned all about how to handle finances, the in-laws and how to resolve our conflicts peacefully.


(I can't think of a better way to spend a Saturday. Just kidding Beth.)


At any rate, when the seminar ended shortly before 3 p.m., we rushed down to the Maravich Center, a five-minute drive, to catch the Tigers in action at home against the Tide.


It was a pivotal game for coach John Brady and the Tigers. Since losing to UConn two weeks earlier, LSU had rattled off three straight victories, including a pair of impressive road wins at always-tough-at-home teams Arkansas and Mississippi State. On the heels of a 3-0 start in SEC play, the Tigers were returning home to face the Tide, a team picked to win the SEC West, but a squad struggling after the loss of big man Chuck Davis for the season.


It was a defining game for Brady's young team. JP Sports color analyst and former South Carolina head coach Eddie Fogler called out LSU fans for filling only half the seats of the Maravich Center a week earlier when the Tigers knocked off Tennessee, the same Tennessee team that beat previously undefeated Florida on Saturday.


The LSU faithful must have heard Fogler loud and clear and turned out in droves, totaling more than 10,000 (10,231 to be exact, even though it looked like more). So Brady in the Tigers found themselves in a familiar spot. Coming home after a big win with momentum and lots of butts in the seats. LSU didn't take advantage of an earlier opportunity when they lost to Houston after defeating No. 13 West Virginia.


Seldom in life do you get a second chance to redeem yourself, but Brady's bunch did just that playing at home, playing well, a large crowd on hand and a television audience tuning in from around the SEC.


Like I said earlier though, things didn't start so well for the Bayou Bengals. LSU connected on just three of its first 19 shots from the field (a whopping 18-percent) and trailed the Tide 19-8 with just over eight minutes left to play in the first half.


Uh-oh, not again.


But things turned around as a hot-handed Darrel Mitchell found his stroke and the Tigers mounted a comeback and led 33-29 at the half.


Upon arriving at the Maravich Center (which coincided with the beginning of LSU's run), there was no room on press row for me to sit so Beth and I found two empty seats two rows directly behind the LSU bench. To whomever those seats belong, thanks they were great.


Getting a rare view from a different angle, Beth and I took in the game, my first from a fan perspective in quite some time. It was very interesting to be that close to the bench and see Brady and the players interact during timeouts. Talk about intense!


I wrote a column during football season after I watched my first game from the stands in Tiger Stadium in over seven years. This had a similar feeling. The game was enjoyable and it was fun to actually get to watch the players do their thing instead of staring at a computer screen or shifting through stat sheets.


I'm going to tell you what you might have already known. If you haven't noticed previously, this team is REALLY good. With arguably one of the nation's best frontcourts consisting of Glen Davis, Tyrus Thomas, Magnum Rolle and Darnell Lazare, the Tigers dominate the paint. Toss in oh so good Tasmin Mitchell, the cool as ice Darrel Mitchell and the ever-improving Garrett Temple; this is growing into one of college basketball's most complete teams.


The Tigers manhandled an ultra-talented Bama team bringing (as my colleague Lee Feinswog states in his column on page 12) heavy praise from Tide head coach Mark Gottfried.


While LSU did win by double digits, Alabama managed to keep the score close. A Richard Hendrix layup at the 7:15 mark closed the gap to 48-44 and the game really looked as if it could go either way. But a Darrel Mitchell three-pointer30 seconds later pushed the lead to 51-44 and the Tigers were on their way to a big victory.


In the midst of the beginning of a raucous celebration, I observed something troubling.


Thomas banged in a layup with 5:49 left to play raising the Tiger advantage to nine points, 53-44. Almost immediately, fans all around me began springing from their seats and, in almost full trot, began bolting to the doors.


This has become commonplace around LSU, especially when the Tigers are losing. But that wasn't the case on this day. LSU was up, almost by double figures, and on their way to the program's first 4-0 start in SEC play since the 1981 Tigers went 17-1 in the league and reached the Final Four.


Here's my question: WHERE ARE YOU GOING?!?!

What can be so important that you need to bolt for the door before the game is over. I mean, has Saturday afternoon traffic in Baton Rouge so bad that you feel the need to try and beat the rush. Trying to catch an early happy hour? Maybe you forgot to set the TiVo? I mean really!


It is such a popular topic among fans how disappointing Brady is as a coach and how his team is mediocre and such blight on the landscape of LSU athletics. Fans love to bash Brady any chance they get and almost look forward to home losses where they scamper for the exits at the first sign of adversity.


But this team is good, actually first place and undefeated in the SEC and is poised to make a run at the conference title. These Tigers deserve more from the fans than what they get. You boo and jeer when they lose and elect to walk away when times are tough, one would think when the tables are turned it might be different. But for some reason, it is not?


I know fans in Baton Rouge aren't fond of Texas football coach Mack Brown, but the coach of the 2005 national champions coined a phrase when he arrived in Austin challenging a once come late, leave early fan base:


"Come early, be loud and stay late."


Anyway, as I climb off the sop box I will say congratulations to this team for this victory, it was a win by a team truly LSU, truly Baton Rouge, truly Louisiana.


Folks talked about the Tiger football team being Louisiana's team after Hurricane Katrina. But if you want to hang your hat on something with this Tiger basketball team, take into consideration LSU's entire starting five (Mitchell, Mitchell, Thomas, Davis and Temple) all hail from Louisiana, four from the greater Baton Rouge area. Now that's some home cooking.




Matt Deville is the editor of Tiger Rag magazine. Reach him at

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