Team chemistry

The LSU Tigers will have one more chance to hone their skills on the hardwood before they take a huge step up in competition when Nicholls State rolls into town on Wednesday for a 7 p.m. matchup in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

The Tigers will take on a Nicholls State (6-3) squad that is disciplined on both ends of the floor and will give them a good test heading into Saturday’s big showdown with Texas A&M.


The Colonels run a version of the Princeton offense where they spread the floor and run a lot of backdoor cuts.


If the Tigers are looking ahead and not focused on the task at hand then the Colonels are capable of pulling off the upset according to LSU head coach Trent Johnson.


“For me, I liken this game similarly to a Centenary (team),” Johnson said. “I think this is a basketball team that if we don’t play well, they’re very capable. I know to some people that might seem like, ‘Well, how can that happen?’ This is a basketball team that is not going to beat themselves.”


Centenary played LSU closer than any other team this season as the Gents fell 64-58 on Nov. 28.


The Colonels do not have a lot of size down on the low blocks, but they have a pair of forwards that can step out and knock down the outside shot in 6-6, 210-pound Ryan Bathie (14.2 ppg, 3.8 rpg) and 6-6, 200-pound Anatoly Bose (12.1 ppg, 6.4 rpg).


Another threat for the Colonels that LSU must be aware of is their leading scorer Fred Hunter.


The 6-5, 240-pound freshman guard leads J.P. Piper’s squad with 14.7 points a game and he will try and use his size to create some matchup problems for the Tigers.


Garrett Temple could be called upon to defend Hunter and the Tigers’ senior swingman knows that Hunter and the Colonels can’t be taken lightly.


“They are a very polished team,” said Temple. “They’re very well coached. They run what they run very well, and they use your aggressiveness and athleticism on defense to their advantage. They have a lot of counters if guys help a little too much or if they overplay. It’ll have to be a straight-up game defensively, and it’s going to be a team defensive game.”


LSU has defeated all seven of its opponents this season and the Tigers have done so in dominating fashion. Granted the schedule, which is ranked No. 342 out of 342 teams on one strength of schedule power rankings, has to be taken into account, but the numbers are still impressive in their own right.


Johnson has made rebounding and defense a top priority since he stepped foot on campus back in April and the Tigers have answered the call.


Opponents have been manhandled on the glass as LSU leads the nation in rebound margin at 15.4 a contest in games through Dec. 14 according to the NCAA.


Defending the basketball has also improved dramatically and the Tigers lead the country in that area as well by holding opponents to only 32.5 percent shooting from the field.


LSU is also No. 2 in the country in scoring margin, defeating opponents by an average of 26.4 points a game, and they are ranked in the top three in the Southeastern Conference in most of the major statistical categories.


As good as those numbers sound, though, Johnson said that he doesn’t worry about stats and is only concerned with being 7-0 heading into Wednesday’s tilt.


When asked if the players worry about the stats and what it says about the team, senior guard Marcus Thornton had the kind of answer that Johnson would expect to hear.


“Mostly its team chemistry,” said Thornton, who is sixth in the SEC in scoring at 17.3 points a game. “I think everybody on the team is unselfish and everybody is trying to achieve one goal.”


And that goal that Thornton alluded to is much loftier than being ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in any particular statistical category.


“For the seniors, I know the goal is to win a championship before we go out,” said Thornton. “All of the freshmen, sophomores and juniors are buying into it and that’s what’s helping us win games.”

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