The Next Step

Still winless in Southeastern Conference play, the LSU men's basketball team returns from their road trip in hopes of putting together a full 40 minutes of consistent play.

For a team that hasn’t won a road game yet this season (0-6), the chance to play in front of the hometown crowd is something that LSU senior forward Tasmin Mitchell – or any Tiger for that matter - relishes.

“There is nothing like home,” Mitchell said. “We have our fans, and hopefully they come out and support us. Even though we are losing, we are working hard.

“I don’t want anyone to give up on us.”

In their last game out, LSU dropped a 72-58 decision to Florida, giving the Gators their first conference victory and dropping the Tigers to 9-8 overall and 0-3 in SEC play.

Another Groundhog Day for LSU, the Tigers saw a second-half scoring run by their opponent put a halt to any shot at getting the win.

“We just have to continue to grind and grind and only worry about the next possession,” Johnson said. “We are trying to compete at a high level versus, at times, superior talent or skill.”

On Wednesday, the Tigers welcome Auburn (9-9, 0-3 SEC) to the PMAC – another SEC Western Division team that has struggled to find consistency through the first half of the season.

While LSU managed only one win during their last seven outings, Johnson said that improvement - at least mentally – is evident.

“I can’t fault our mental preparation,” he said. “I thought mentally, we are as good as we have been all year – in terms of getting that edge. These guys really care.

“It’s hard overachieving and maximizing what you have.”

While the late-game losses keep coming, understanding that 30 minutes of solid basketball and 10 minutes of uninspired play won’t get you into the win column is a reality that the Tigers grasp, even if the team doesn’t turn each night out into a victory.

“It’s hard to do, but without question, they understand why,” Johnson said. “With Florida, we forced them to come out of the press. In the second half, their length and skill put us on our heels. The kids are frustrated and down a little bit, but they understand why. That is the process, and they have to fight through it.”

Where are we and why?

That is the main message that Johnson wants his team to contemplate – a mind frame that will hopefully lead them down the right path during their final 13 games.

“[A win] is big from the standpoint of the kids, but it is the process they have to understand,” Johnson said. “The where and why we are in certain situations, and to be mature enough to understand that if we win but don’t continue to do the things that led to good play, you will be right back there.

“Winning is the next step, but it’s hard to do,” he added. “If it was easy we wouldn’t be 9-8 or 0-3. As long as we do the things we are capable of mentally and physically, and we walk away and the other team beat us, then they are better than we are. The question is always whether you can maximize and play for 40 minutes.”

The Tigers will practice again on Tuesday before welcoming Auburn to the PMAC on Wednesday for a 7 p.m. tip.

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