“I wish I could say I was surprised,” Johnson said following the scrimmage. “We shot the ball pretty well. I said this about a week or two back that I had no concerns about the offensive side just because of the system. They’re going to get good shots. I thought for the most part they shared the ball pretty well and made each other better.
“Now the other three facets of the game, we got a ways to go,” he added. “Defensively, for a veteran group to give up 30 points to freshmen who haven’t played a lot, that’s a concern. And then from a rebounding standpoint we have a ways to go there. I thought we did a decent job taking care of the ball early on.”
Johnson put his squad through one 20-minute half followed by another 10-minute session that he called at the 5:11 mark with the Purple on top 46-34.
Johnson said that he still hasn’t decided on his starting lineup but if the season started tomorrow he would go with the five that started for the Purple.
Quintin Thornton was the only player from the Gold squad that saw some extensive action with the Purple team as he and Mitchell traded places for about eight minutes.
Johnson didn’t want to single anyone out until he reviewed the film, but it is apparent that Thornton has made a strong impression thus far.
“Right now the one guy who has been very, very good in terms of understanding what we’re doing and understanding his role has been Quintin Thornton,” said Johnson. “He had more plays tonight where the untrained eye probably wouldn’t see it but he’s setting back screens off the early offense and going baseline screens. He’s telling Chris Johnson, ‘hey we don’t switch’. See that stuff is important.”
The fans in attendance got to see Mitchell on the court for the first time since he went down with an injury last season after playing in only three games. He led all scorers with 21 points on 8-of-17 shooting combining his stats from both teams.
“It was just a scrimmage against your own teammates but I think I played fairly well,” said Mitchell, who scored 11 of his points and grabbed a team-high five rebounds with the Gold team. “I think I can improve on a lot of stuff and our whole team can improve on a lot of stuff.”
Mitchell is trying to get used to playing with his back to the goal more, but he feels good about his new role.
“I had a lot of confidence in playing the four,” he said. “I played with my back to the basket my whole life. I played the three since I’ve been here so that just shows my versatility a little bit. I like it.”
At media days, Johnson said that Spencer and Bass were locked in a battle for the point position and Spencer appears to be ahead of the game at this point. He had six assists and three turnovers, while Bass turned it over five times and dished out only one assist.
Bass, did however, knock down two shots from the field for four points while Spencer went 0-for-4 with his three points coming from the charity stripe.
As a team, LSU hit only 1-of-13 from behind the arc with Marcus Thornton knocking down the only 3-pointer of the game. He finished with 13 points and Chris Johnson added 14 points and five boards.
A couple of areas of emphasis during the scrimmage was working on getting back faster on defense since LSU was one of the worst in the SEC in that department last season, along with playing some zone defense which the team has been working on for only a couple of days.
“That’s something the new coaching staff has harped on,” said Garrett Temple. “We have set people to go the rim for offensive rebounding; the four, five and three-man go to the rim while the one and two get back.”
Temple has to adjust to a new position and new responsibilities after playing the point the majority of his career. He is playing more on the wing and will be counted on for more scoring this season.
“I’m pretty comfortable at the three-spot with the plays we have running, just working on shooting the ball coming off screens,” said Temple, who was 1-for-6 from the field including 0-for-3 on 3-balls.
“Coach is going to have me guarding the one, two and three, so defensively that’s going to be a little change,” added the senior.
Some of Johnson’s top priorities for his players are protecting and defending the ball, along with crashing the boards on both ends. He feels that there is work to do in all three departments for this team to be able to compete at a high level.
“We have a ways to go,” he said. “This whole thing is predicated to me off of defending with a sense of urgency, rebounding with a sense of urgency, and playing with a sense of urgency…The good things is it’s early.”
And anyone who thinks that these players are not going to play with that sense of urgency, well, they better think again.
“What happened today didn’t surprise me,” said Johnson. “But we have to work through it and they know this. They hear it everyday. We have to compete at a high level. We’re not talented enough and we’re not good enough just to show up. It’s not going to happen. And even if this team was it’s not going to be tolerated.”
By the Numbers
The Purple team hit 41 percent from the field (17-of-41) while the Gold knocked down 43 percent (12-of-28). The two teams combined for 22 turnovers and dished out 16 assists.
Thirteen of the Purple’s 25 rebounds were on the offensive end, and the Gold grabbed 21 total boards.
Both teams shot the ball well from the free throw line with the Purple going 11-for-15, and the Gold hitting 10-of-14.
Johnson said that the team will take Wednesday off and then they will be back at it on Thursday with a 2 p.m. film session followed by a 3 p.m. practice. The Tigers will travel to New Orleans on Sunday for a scrimmage with Tulane.
Two players were held out of the scrimmage as Alex Farrer and Garrett Green sat out.
Johnson said that Farrer has a bruised knee and has been out for 7-10 days.
“Hopefully he’ll be able to go on Thursday but I’d like to be able to get him out there on Sunday,” Johnson said.
Green continues to battle problems with his lower back and Johnson doesn’t know what his status will be for the season. He didn’t even want to think about the possibility of not having him available.
“I’ve had bad luck with kids and backs and I will not play him through pain,” said Johnson. “He’s going to have a productive life down the line.”