When LSU used a dominant second half to get an 83-60 win over McNeese State and put a halt to their three-game losing streak, Tiger fans breathed a sigh of relief.
Perhaps the reigning Southeastern Conference champions, despite the loss of a slew of veteran talent, could stay afloat through the thick of January and February.
After Monday’s 66-49 loss to Alabama, the first time the Tigers were defeated at home this season, the team was clearly headed back to the drawing board.
“I want us to put something together consistently and keep grinding,” Johnson said. “It’s a lot of the same stuff; transition, taking care of the ball, passing and catching with two hands.
“If things don’t go well, don’t chirp at this guy or that guy,” he added. “Don’t say the right things, do the right things.”
Johnson pointed to Monday’s performance against Alabama as a prime example of what the 2009-2010 Tiger team lacks.
“Dennis Harris hits a three when the game’s over and we were getting beat by 19, and he is running back and pounding his chest,” Johnson said. “Those kinds of things have been addressed. Yet, it shouldn’t have been addressed by me, but by his teammates.
“That is where we are at.”
Finding their “edge,” Johnson stressed, would be the only way for the Tigers to move in a positive direction through their final 15 games.
“If you don’t come out and have an edge every possession, I don’t care who you are, you aren’t going to have success,” he said. “When I talk about edge, it has nothing to do with winning or losing. It is a mental and physical toughness. They talk about it, but you know what you see and when it is there.
“How can you play college basketball and not have energy every game out?” he continued. “Lets not say the right things, let’s do the right things. Whether it’s Alabama or Joe Blow University, it’s about competing on every possession. We have good kids, but that is not there. That’s the bottom line.”
If LSU hopes to right the ship, a performance like Monday night’s against the Tide needs to be a thing of the past. On a evening where Alabama once held a 26-point lead, the Tigers shot only 37 percent from the field and turned the ball over 15 times.
“It wasn’t a big ole knockout,” Johnson said. “They have a good basketball team, but we had guys falling down trying to catch the basketball against the press. We had 15 turnovers, and six were on us. You look at the paint and what we did on the glass, and that is what I am worried about.
“Are you going to bounce back up and physically get after it? There is a difference between winning and losing when you talk about being aggressive. As much as coaches worry about scoring the ball, our deficiencies are mental and physical.”
While a competitive edge is a trait that most teams either have or don’t, Johnson noted that putting his team through tight game situations helps bring the group closer to the ultimate goal.
“Kids can be put in competitive situations where there are challenges, and with young teams it takes a while because everything is new to them,” he said. “The more they are put in situations, the ones who want it will be okay.”