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January 17, 2013

Missing quality

Coach Johnny Jones certainly didn't hide his disappointment in the post-game press conference after LSU's game against South Carolina at the PMAC on Wednesday night.

The Tigers were a ten-point favorite in a clash between two teams who had lost their first two Southeastern Conference games. But, LSU didn't live up to its favorite role. South Carolina forced overtime and left Baton Rouge with an 82-73 victory.

College basketball observers know all about the coaching style of the Gamecocks' Frank Martin. Mildly put, Martin is a yeller and a screamer. No player escapes Martin's verbal wrath.

While at Kansas State, Martin had success on the court with players who were nothing if not hard-nosed and tough. Those characteristics were in full display at the PMAC on Wednesday.

Make no mistake. The team with the most toughness came away with the 'W.' Jones repeatedly used the word tough in describing what his team didn't do and South Carolina did do.

When Johnny O'Bryant scored after an offensive rebound with less than three minutes to play, the Tigers had a 69-65 lead. South Carolina proceeded to score the final four points in regulation and then outscored LSU 13-4 in overtime.

After O'Bryant's basket, the Tigers held a 36-23 rebounding advantage. There were 14 rebound opportunities the rest of the night. The Gamecocks claimed all but one. South Carolina, which is not a big team, simply outworked LSU.

Check out the South Carolina possession following O'Bryant's field goal. Michael Carrera missed a jumper with RJ Slawson grabbing the rebound for the Gamecocks. Slawson missed a put back, but the 6-foot-5 Carrera rebounded and scored.

Carrera, who is a freshman, was dominant in the paint in the second half and overtime. During that stretch, Carrera contributed 21 points and 10 rebounds. He put up those numbers in 18 minutes.

Now, let's look at what O'Bryant provided the Tigers. First, O'Bryant was once again in foul trouble. Playing only 23 minutes, O'Bryant totaled nine points and six rebounds. The 6-9 O'Bryant was also guilty of four turnovers.

For the second straight game, the most determined LSU post performer was Andrew Del Piero, the tuba player-turned basketball player. Del Piero had seven points and five rebounds in 29 minutes. He is giving more than O'Bryant, a McDonald's All-American.

There is no denying the fact that O'Bryant is being bothered by an ankle sprain. But, the coaching staff and training staff believe that O'Bryant is healthy enough to perform. It's up to O'Bryant to show more toughness on the court.

LSU played like a team that expected to win against the Gamecocks. Nothing is guaranteed in big-time college basketball. The Tigers showed a lack of mental alertness on both ends of the floor.

LSU committed 22 turnovers, including five by point guard Anthony Hickey - four in the first half. South Carolina was credited with just six steals. Therefore, most of the Tigers' miscues were unforced. That's a sign of lack of focus.

On the defensive end, LSU continually allowed Gamecocks players to get to the rim. South Carolina's perimeter players beat the Tigers off the dribble. The result, on many occasions, was a foul. The Gamecocks shot 37 free throws and made 28.

Jones acknowledged that his team did a poor job of defending the ball in the half-court. He added that LSU's better defensive players, Hickey and Charles Carmouche, were whipped off the dribble. Both Hickey and Carmouche had four fouls.

LSU shot a little better against South Carolina - 41 percent from the field. The Tigers were better than usual at the foul line - 13 -of-16 for 81 percent. But, the few free throw attempts showed LSU was not the more aggressive team.

There is no doubt that Jones doesn't have the amount of talent necessary to compete for a SEC title. However, Jones needs to start developing the proper culture surrounding the basketball program.

Nearly every championship team, regardless of the sport, exhibits toughness. That quality was nowhere to be found in most of the players in the home uniforms Wednesday. There is no excuse for getting outworked as the Tigers were by South Carolina.

LSU will take on a Georgia team, which has yet to win a league game, Saturday night in Athens. If the Tigers don't improve in the toughness area, they will let another team win its first conference game.



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