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February 15, 2013

Dominant performance from O'Bryant

On the day a LSU basketball signee was named to the McDonald's All-America game, its most recent participant in that contest delivered the best performance of his college career.

Thursday afternoon, Baton Rouge Madison Prep's Jarell Martin was selected to play in this year's McDonald's all-star game. Thursday night, 2011 McDonald's All America Johnny O'Bryant scored a career-high 30 points as the Tigers cruised to a 64-46 victory at South Carolina.

O'Bryant had set a career high in the previous game when he scored 22 points in a loss at Alabama. O'Bryant, who was 13-of-19 from the field and grabbed ten rebounds, was dominant Thursday at Colonial Life Arena.

It must be pointed out that O'Bryant is significantly taller and heavier than most of the Gamecocks post players. It must also be pointed out that O'Bryant didn't hit double figures in the first meeting of the season between these two teams last month. LSU lost that game to South Carolina in overtime.

O'Bryant had his seventh double-double in the past eight Southeastern Conference games. Maybe O'Bryant is starting to live up to his huge potential. If the Tigers are going to make a push up the SEC standings in the next three weeks, O'Bryant needs to be consistently good.

Now, LSU beat a Gamecocks team which is not very good. The only team in the SEC worse than South Carolina is Mississippi State, the Tigers' opponent Saturday afternoon at the PMAC. At least, for the first time in the conference schedule, LSU registered a comfortable victory.

The 18-point margin of victory was the greatest for the Tigers in a road SEC game in three years. LSU won at Georgia 80-62 in 2009. The 46 points scored by the Gamecocks were the fewest allowed by the Tigers in a league road game in 25 years when they beat Vanderbilt in Nashville 51-39.

Even though O'Bryant scored nearly half of LSU's points, he was not a major factor in the two second-half stretches when the Tigers took control of the game. The first half was another ugly one with LSU holding a 26-24 advantage.

Early in the second half, the Tigers went on a 9-2 run to take a double-digit lead. Andrew Del Piero, O'Bryant and Jalen Courtney - three post players - combined for four field goals. The key performer was Anthony Hickey, who handed out three assists and made a free throw as LSU went ahead 39-29.

Nearly midway through the second half, the Tigers were maintaining an 11-point lead at 44-33. Then, in a 2-minute stretch, LSU put the game way on an 8-2 run. Del Piero made a basket before Andre Stringer knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers. The Tigers had a 52-35 lead and the game was over.

For the second time in eight days, LSU will have an opportunity to reach the .500 mark in conference play Saturday. A week ago, the Tigers dropped a three-point decision at Alabama. LSU's opponent this Saturday is a big drop-off from the Crimson Tide. Mississippi State has lost nine games in a row.

There would be no excuse for the Tigers not to even its SEC record at 6-6 on Saturday. It would be nice to see LSU be in control of a conference opponent from start to finish. That situation has not yet occurred this season.



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