Tigers decommission Colonels, 68-24

After splitting a pair of exhibition games in the previous weeks, the LSU basketball team celebrated its tip-off of the 2002-03 season by blasting Nicholls State, 68-24, in the nightcap of the 2002 Hispanic College Fund Classic at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center Friday night.<br><br>The question is, has LSU improved that much, or are the Colonels that bad?<br><br>The answer: probably a mixture of both.

While the Tigers improved much defensively, the offense still failed to run with precision and had a few untimely turnovers. On the other hand, Nicholls State could probably be beat by a couple of the better in-state high school teams.

 

Nicholls scored the fewest points by an LSU opponent in 56 years, ruining Colonels head coach and former Tiger standout Ricky Blanton's coaching debut. The last time an LSU opponent was held to less than 24 points was in 1946, when the Tigers beat Ole Miss, 53-23.

 

LSU junior Shawnson Johnson continued to shine for the Tigers, turning in a double-double with 13 rebounds and 10 points. He was the only scorer to post double-digit points, though nine Tigers scored and every dressed player participated in the game.

 

"Shawnson Johnson had four blocks and seven rebounds in the first half," LSU head coach John Brady said. "That's like scoring points. Those are positive plays. Some of those shot blocks … well, he look pretty long out there to me. …There were a couple of follow-up dunks that he ran from one end of the floor to the other and outran the other team. The shot was missed and he was there to catch it and dunk it back in the goal. For a big guy like that to run the floor like that, is quite positive. He keeps doing that, he'll get better."

 

Senior Brad Bridgewater and freshman guard Tony Gipson each put up nine points for LSU, and Darrel Mitchell, Torris Bright and Collis Temple III scored eight. Johnson also accounted for six of the Tigers' nine blocked shots. Anthony Wilcher led Nicholls seven points and four rebounds.

 

Both teams started slowly, and the point differential was never more than three for the first five minutes of play. A free-throw by NSU's Anthony Wilcher cut an LSU lead to one, 7-6, at the 15:40 mark in the first half before a 15-0 LSU scoring streak that included a trio of treys by Torris Bright (two) and Darrell Mitchell (one) put the Tigers ahead, 22-6, with 11:05 to play in the half.

 

The Tigers continually utilized a full-court press that kept Nicholls off-balance and kept the Colonels from scoring in the final 5:10 of the half.

 

"(Nicholls is) a team you can press," Brady said. "That team doesn't handle the ball really well. We were quicker, bigger and stronger. I think one of their goals was to hold the ball and not shoot it much, but we wanted to speed them up. We were able to do that better than they were able to hold the ball."

 

"We played defense the way we were supposed to play," Temple said. "Of course, (Nicholls) isn't a real strong team with a lot of offensive firepower, but we did what we were supposed to do against them."

 

LSU's Tony Gipson scored three baskets and Bright added another Tiger three-pointer to give LSU a halftime lead of 40-12.

 

The second half featured poor play by both squads, with the Tiger offense once again not seeming to fire on all cylinders and NSU scoring only 12 more points.

 

"(We scored) only 24 points in the second half," Brady said. "We should have had 50 or 52 the first half and should have followed that with a 40-point second half to score 90. But we're not quite there offensively. And it bothers me a little bit. We have some guys that aren't shooting the ball very well that need to shoot it or have shot it in the past. We just have to get better at that."

 

After four unanswered Colonel points, Johnson jammed home a fast-break pass from Mitchell and Bridgewater was fouled during a monster dunk of his own. He drained the free throw for the three-point play and a 62-20 LSU lead with 9:34 left on the clock.

 

The shooting of both teams was extremely poor during the final nine and a half minutes of play, scoring a combined nine points down the stretch.

 

"We have to develop a better chemistry within our team from an offensive standpoint," Brady said. "What you can do is defend and try to rebound every night, regardless of a shot going in or not going in and regardless of the level of talent or quickness that you have. You can always try to defend and rebound and that's what our team really established tonight. I hope that we can continue it."


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