I thought Billy Kennedy and the staff coached a much better game strategically than LSU's Johnny Jones. A&M had a body on all-SEC post Johnny O'Bryant at all times, and anytime he received an entry pass into the post, the Aggies double-teamed him. For having such an advantage in he paint both skill-wise and length-wise, holding the best center in the league to 15 points and 6 rebounds was a pretty good effort. Overall, A&M's strategy to keep LSU out of the paint and forcing perimeter 3-point shots was a great call. LSU made its first two 3-pointers of the game and then hit just 4-of-22 the rest of the game. So Kennedy was able to take away LSU's advantage in the paint with the veteran O'Bryant and two high school all-American forwards Jordan Mickey and Jerrell Martin.
On the other hand, I thought Jones made a strategic error by trying to press and trap A&M throughout the game. For all of the blemishes and warts on this team, they've been taught how to break a press. In fact, not many teams do it better. When A&M broke the press, they took advantage of some makeable scoring opportunities. In addition, LSU played very aggressive defense in the half-court, and that overplaying allowed A&M to hit some cutters and opened up some driving lanes for guys like Shawn Smith and Caruso. On the night, A&M committed 11 turnovers, which is pretty good considering the aggressive, athletic LSU defense. LSU's defense also created some open 3-point looks on ball reversals, and if guys like Devante Fitzgerald, Jamal Jones, and Jordan Green to some extent can shoot the ball in rhythm and not out of desperation from a dwindling shot clock, they are decent. A&M finished the night hitting 10-23 from beyond the arc, and A&M will win 85% of games doing that.
The other HUGE stat was points off the bench where A&M scored 33 points to just 4 for the Tigers. Leading the way were a pair of freshmen. DEvante Fitzgerald was on fire hitting three 3-pointers and taking a steal coast-to-coast for 11 points in just nine minutes of action before he left with a knee injury (suspected ACL, but will have an MRI this morning). But we know Devante is capable of that type of performance. What we didn;t know was that undesized Tavario Miller could go toe-to-toe with LSU's big men 2-3 inches taller and come away with 9 points and 7 rebounds (4 off. boards) in 20 minutes spelling Roberson.
Anyway, that was a big win and keeps A&M on pace to finish SEC play at .500. It is also the first men's team in the big three sports to beat LSU in SEC play. Obviously, the good news is tempered by the potential loss of Fitzgerald which will put even more pressure on Jamal Jones to carry the scoring load. He finished with a game high 19 points after missing his first three 3-point attempts in the first half.
The Aggies travel to Vanderbilt on SAturday and this is a big game. This is A&M's best chance to go steal a road game the rest of the season with road games at LSU and Missouri still on the docket. The good news is that A&M still has four homes games (UT, Bama, Auburn, Ole Miss). Hold home court and the Ags finish .500. Beat Vandy and the Ags will likely hit the 20-win mark. It's still unlikely they will get an NIT berth given the weak RPI, but you never know.
Hop's LSU Game Analysis
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