Despite the poor shooting percentages and low score, I thought our effort and strategy on offense was better than it has been. We set a lot of off ball screens against the man to man and were making much better cuts and moving without the ball. This opened up some lanes for the dribble drive and some perimeter shots. Unfortunately, none of those perimeter shots were falling. We had several turnovers by making one too many passes in the lane, or trying to make bounce passes to our bigs after driving in. It's hard to expect 6'8 and 7 foot guys to be able to catch passes at their knees in traffic. At least we didn't run the shot clock down to 5 seconds every possession.
As usual, we played great defense and took a 6 point lead into the half. Our inability to put a team away is maddening. Our lack of a killer instinct has costs us a few games already, and I suspect it will cost us more if we do not get it addressed. We had a 10 point lead with 8 minutes left, but had to hold on for dear life in the final minutes to get the win.
The only time the offense really looked stagnant was when LSU switched to a zone early in the 2nd half. Given our 2 for 18 shooting from 3 point range, it was good decision by the Tigers. I can't believe I'm saying this after the Gottfried years, but I would like to see us run the high post with Cooper at the elbow more against the 2-3 zone. We ran that set a few times and it seemed to open a few options. Coop has the skill set to make that 16 foot jumper, put it on the floor and drive to the middle to collapse the defense, or pass back to the wing or to a cutter on the baseline.
This is the version of Nick Jacobs we need to show up on a consistent basis. He had a couple of offensive rebounds, actually blocked out from time to time and even blocked a few shots on defense. He was our leading scorer with 15 points and shockingly enough was the only one who seemed to be able to make a free throw. Neither he nor Moose was able to do much to slow down LSU's Johnny O'Bryant III in the post, but I really didn't feel like we lost a lot defensively with Jacobs in the game instead of Gueye. Our guards did not have a great game, and we do not win this game if not for Nick Jacobs' play.
Retin Obasohan played 12 minutes, and did a nice job defensively. He showed his quickness in getting to he basket but couldn't finish. It's hard to figure out the rhyme or reason for when he gets playing time. At one point in the first half we had a lineup of Lacey, Retin, Steele, Pollard, and Jacobs.
Pollard hit the floor hard when he got called for a blocking foul and appeared to be a little shaken up on the bench. He did not return to the game, so hopefully he is okay.
Trevor Lacey appears to be in a slump right now. His shots just aren't falling. The only way to get out of it is to keep shooting. The same could be said for Levi to a point, and even though they aren't making shots right now, I have no problem with them continuing to shoot.
I would consider taking Rodney Cooper out of the game in late situations when we need our free throw shooters on the floor. While he may be one of our best 5 free throw shooters by percentage, it's obvious he's not good from the line under pressure. He missed 2 that allowed LSU to stay in the game, and that is the 2nd or 3rd time he's choked at the line late in the game. Even Releford missed 2 after getting a steal that should have made the lead more comfortable with under a minute to go.
We tried to do everything we could to give LSU a chance. I wish we played smarter in these late game situations. With a 3 point and the ball in open space with less than 4 seconds to play, we could have thrown the ball up to the rafters and by the time it came down the clock would have expired, instead we make an ill advised pass and give LSU one last shot at the buzzer. Either hold the ball and get fouled and make a free throw, or chuck it in the air and kill time, there is no excuse for a turnover in that situation.
At the end of the day, the team did what they had to do to get out with a win and stay in the top 4 of the SEC race.
The crowd was much larger than I expected; I would estimate over 9,000, close to 10,000 were actually in the house. It was not a very loud or energetic crowd for the most part. I think most of us were just watching nervously as LSU kept getting closer and closer and we were more relieved when it was over than anything else.
Up next, we go to Athens, GA to take on the red hot Georgia Bulldogs. They've won 5 in a row, so we will need a great effort to put an end to their streak. Tipoff is at 8pm CST on ESPNU.