Back on the road

LSU (13-3, 1-1) will once again try to conquer its road game demons this weekend when the Tigers travel to Oxford on Saturday afternoon to take on Ole Miss (10-6, 1-1).

The Tigers are winless in the three games they’ve played on the road or on a neutral court, and going to Ole Miss will not be easy in any way, shape or form.


"When you go to Ole Miss it's very hard to win. The only way to win on the road in this league is to play great defense and to knock down open shots," said senior guard Garrett Temple.


The Tigers struggled hitting from the outside in their first SEC road game as their three guards, Temple, Marcus Thornton and Bo Spencer, hit only 15-of-38 from the floor and 3-of-13 from three-point range.


They’ll need to shoot better this time around and also play better defense according to Temple.


"Against Alabama, we had a couple we didn't knock down and we didn't guard in the second half like we should have,” said Temple. “We're going to have to guard their perimeter players who like to drive a lot and just knock down some shots that their defense gives us. It's going to be a tough game, but we just have to stick together and play hard."


The Tigers overcame a two-game losing streak Wednesday night, streaking past South Carolina in an 85-68 beating. Junior forward Tasmin Mitchell notched a career high 30 points and grabbed 14 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the season.


"I've heard a lot going into this year about how passionate [Mitchell] was and what kind of kid he was and he's every bit of that," said LSU head coach Trent Johnson. "It's painful for me to see him not play well sometimes and not play up to his standards sometimes. I think he's a guy who has a knack and understands how to score. There's a reason he is the caliber of player he is."


Mitchell knocked down 10 of LSU's 27 free throws on the night. Just three days before against Alabama, the Tigers reached the line just 10 times and converted only six.


The Gamecocks entered the game as the SEC's No. 3 scoring offense, but it was LSU that jumped out to a fast start. Behind the efforts of Mitchell and eight combined steals by Temple and Spencer, LSU jumped to a commanding 40-22 lead uncustomary of its No. 7 scoring offense.


"I don't use words like pressure, but you have to relax on offense because you don't play defense and offense at the same speed," Johnson said. "For whatever it's worth, we had more guys flying towards the ball here on the floor and in the stands [Wednesday] than we did in the last two games at Utah and Alabama and I can't put a finger on that."


The Tigers have been able to stay away from injuries, while the Rebels, on the other hand, are coping the best they can with an injury-plagued season.


2008 SEC All-Freshman guard Trevor Gaskins was knocked out of commission in the preseason with an ACL injury. Since the season started the Rebels have also lost junior guard Eniel Polynice and sophomore point guard Chris Warren to season-ending injuries. The injuries eliminate three players who averaged 5.9, 10.7 and 15.8 points per game last season, respectively.


The loss to Warren, who underwent surgery on Tuesday for an ACL injury, was especially tough for the Rebels as the 5-foot-10, 165-pound guard was second on the team in scoring at 19.6 points a game.


"Ole Miss is very impressive; I'd hate to see them when they have the three players that are injured," Johnson said. "I think [Ole Miss coach] Andy [Kennedy] has done not a good job, a great job. What I'm impressed with more than anything is that they're very tough and they exemplify their head coach's personality."


Now the pressure falls on David Huertas to pick up the slack for the Rebels.


The six-foot-five, 200-pound guard is more than capable as he is second in the league in scoring at 19.6 points a contest. He’s also one of the top three-point shooters in the SEC checking in at No. 2 behind Jody Meeks of Kentucky at 40.9 percent from behind the arc and averaging 2.81 treys a game.


The Rebels opened conference play in similar fashion to the Tigers, dropping their SEC opener to Florida, 78-68. But just like LSU the Rebels responded with an impressive home opener, soundly defeating Arkansas by a score of 74-65.


"That's a good, hard team," Spencer said. "Even though they lost two or three players, they're not going to give up. We watched film on them and got a feel for what kind of team they are. We're just going to prepare hard for them."


LSU and Ole Miss will tip it off at 3 p.m. on Saturday.

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