On Wednesday (7:00 P.M., SEC Network), the #17/18 Missouri Tigers (15-4, 4-2) travel to Baton Rouge to take on the LSU Tigers (10-7, 1-5) in SEC action. Missouri is coming off of an 81-59 home win over Vanderbilt, while LSU is coming home off of a 70-75 loss at Kentucky.
“They’ve been in a lot of close games,” said Missouri Head Coach Frank Haith, talking about LSU. “Except for Florida, they’ve been in every game.”
LSU Head Coach Johnny Jones’s team features four players who are averaging in double figures in scoring, including 6’5” 195-pound junior forward Shavon Coleman, 5’11” 178-pound sophomore Anthony Hickey, 6’9” 256-pound sophomore forward Johnny O’Bryant III, and 5’10” 182-pound junior Andre Stringer.
Coleman, LSU’s leading scorer (12.1 points/game, 7.4 rebounds/game), has been coming off of the bench for Coach Jones for much of the season. Still, he averages almost 30 minutes/game. He’s emblematic of much of this LSU squad in that he’s athletic, and a good defender and rebounder. As an offensive player, he’s more of a small forward, or a power forward in a small forward’s body. He’s a quality inside player who can shoot the ball, but he is most effective, and it appears most comfortable, around the basket.
Hickey is probably LSU’s best all-around player. He’s averaging 11.9 points/game, 3.7 rebounds/game, and 3.5 assists/game. His 3.8 steals/game leads the nation! He has a 2.5 assist/turnover ratio, which is good for 4th in the conference. Hickey likes to shoot the three. On the season, he’s made 34% of his 3-PT attempts. He’s good at getting to the basket, but he’s shooting just 54% from the FT line.
Earlier this week, Coach Haith referred to O’Bryant as “one of the better low-post scorers in the league”. He’s good on both ends of the floor, but he’s probably better on the offensive end. He’s LSU’s inside player. Coach Jones starts 7’3” 254-pound senior center Andrew Del Piero, but the big shot-blocker averages less than 14 minutes/game. Coach Jones is pretty quick to go smaller with one or more of his many athletes. O’Bryant averages 11.7 points/game and 8.1 rebounds/game. He shoots 47% from the field, but just 55% from the FT line.
As a team, LSU shoots just 61% from the FT line. They rank 4th nationally, with 10.7 steals/game. They like to press on defense, sometimes full court, and they really push it up on the offensive end. They try to score in transition, and although they can be patient offensively in the half court, they sometimes have trouble making shots out of their half-court offense. If they can generate transition offense from their defense, look out!
On the season, LSU shoots 42% from the field, and 34% from behind the arc. Stringer is their best 3-PT shooter. Three-fifths of his field goal attempts come from behind the arc, where he’s hitting 40% from 3-PT range. He’s also LSU’s best FT shooter, at 74% from the FT line. He’s averaging 10.8 points/game, and 1.9 assists/game.
Coach Jones said that Hickey will draw the assignment of guarding Missouri’s Phil Pressey, but that Stricker would also help out with that assignment. Both Hickey and Stricker are quick, athletic players who can get after it on the defensive end.
“Hickey’s going to put pressure on Phil (Pressey),” said Coach Haith. “He’s going to get after him! He’s going to get underneath him. That’s his job! He’s got that football mentality. He’s a tough kid. He’s all over the place! He’s a high energy guy. He’s a strong competitor, and he has great anticipation. He leads the country in steals! It’s going to be a great challenge for Phil (Pressey) to go up against a guy who is going to be in to him all night long. It should be a fun match-up!”
Another athletic guard who either starts or comes off of the bench for Coach Jones is 6’4” 187-pound senior guard Charles Carmouche. He’s averaging 9.4 points/game, 3.4 rebounds/game, 4.1 assists/game, and 2.2 steals/game. He carries a 2.0 assist/turnover ratio into this contest. He probably shoots too many threes. He’s just a 30% shooter from beyond the arc. He’s much more effective closer to the basket, and he’s a 70% free thrower. He’s LSU’s best playmaker, as far as setting up other guys.
Because of injuries to a pair of veteran players, 6’4” 188-pound freshman guard Malik Morgan has seen an increasing amount of action for Coach Jones. He’s even had some starts. Like many of LSU’s players, Morgan is athletic and does a good job of defending on the ball. He’s one of LSU’s better ball-handlers, which along with his defensive abilities, probably accounts for his playing nearly 20 minutes/game.
Because of injuries, 6’8” 228-pound junior forward Jalen Courtney and 6’7” 208-pound freshman forward Shane Hammink have been seeing quite a bit of playing time. They will be called upon to provide some size up front, although Coach Jones tends to rely more on a smaller lineup that often features guards and small forwards.
In crunch time, Coach Jones will often surround O’Bryant with four of his most athletic players from among Hickey, Stringer, Carmouche, Coleman, and Morgan.
LSU is relatively well-balanced, although with the exception of O’Bryant, their best players lack size. But, they probably make up for it in athleticism. They are very athletic! And that probably accounts for the reason that they’re a little bit better on the defensive end than they are on the offensive end. To be more definitive, their perimeter defense is very good, but they’re a little more vulnerable inside. They like to push the pace, and their pressure defense is good enough to make that happen. Their greatest deficiency is simply shot-making, which along with their tremendous athleticism, explains why they’re more effective in transition.