LSU brought in three of the top 100 high school basketball seniors for the current season.
Jarell Martin, Jordan Mickey and Tim Quarterman were the three players who were expected to make major contributions as freshmen on the Tigers team.
LSU will reach the halfway point of its regular-season schedule after the game at Ole Miss on Wednesday. Only Mickey has been a consistent performer of the three, averaging 14 points, seven rebounds and 3½ blocks per game - numbers equal to those of junior Johnny O'Bryant.
The Tigers snapped a two-game losing streak at South Carolina last Saturday. Mickey was his usual steady self with 13 points and four rebounds. But, the other two LSU first-year players provided a much-needed and much-desired spark off the bench.
Martin was replaced in the starting lineup by Shavon Coleman. Playing just 21 minutes, Martin accounted for season-highs in points with 18 and steals with five. He grabbed six rebounds. Quarterman, who was on the floor for 11 minutes, had three points, two rebounds and two assists.
"I just came out and got myself going," Martin said. "I was able to see the intensity level of the defense from the bench. I feel like I need to be in the starting lineup, but I'll do what's best for the team. It felt great playing a big role as we got our first conference victory."
It has been a rough first half of the season for Martin, who suffered a sprained ankle on LSU's first possession in the first game at Massachusetts. Tigers coach Johnny Jones is hoping that Martin, the crown jewel of the recruiting class, is ready to be a big producer like Mickey.
"I gave Jarell the opportunity to look from the bench and see what the defense was doing," Jones said. "Jarell was able to see how to get in the gaps and how to play defense. He scored on a variety of plays. He made some jump shots against their zone and he drove against their man-to-man.
"Jarell shots eight free throws and knocked down seven. That would be a great night for any of our players. That showed how aggressive he was."
Quarterman has experienced an up-and-down freshman campaign as Anthony Hickey's backup at point guard. He actually started the first three games before Hickey moved into the starting lineup. Quarterman's numbers Saturday weren't outstanding, but he gave the team some solid minutes.
"I had a good performance," Quarterman said. "I have to be ready when coach (Jones) calls my number. I was taking charges and diving on the floor for loose balls. I am just making the best of it. I am paying attention to what the coaches are saying."
The adjustment to college basketball has not been as smooth for Martin and Quarterman as it has been for Mickey. Jones emphasized that not all players are the same when it comes to their preparation for basketball at this level.
"At this level, it's about their maturity," Jones said. "Guys get to college and they have to raise their level of intensity. They have to play night-in and night-out. They have to play better than what they did in high school."
Both Martin and Quarterman acknowledged that the opposition now is far different than what they faced in high school.
"It has been tough for me competition-wise," Martin said. "In Division I, everybody has talent. It wasn't like that in high school. You have to be more focused and more intense. I just have to come out and be prepared both physically and mentally."
Quarterman agreed that there is more involved in pre-game preparation at this level.
"I have to be more focused now," Quarterman said. "I have to be more prepared. In high school I just played. I never watched film. In college, I have to watch film and know the other person's tendencies. I have to have more attention to detail. I am trying to take in all the knowledge I can."
LSU will attempt to win a second straight road game at Oxford. Ole Miss has split its first two league games - beating Auburn at home and losing to Mississippi State on the road. Marshall Henderson, the Rebels' top scorer, will be back after a two-game suspension for the LSU game.
Ole Miss is more of a perimeter-oriented team this season with the departure of post players Murphy Holloway and Reginald Buckner. The three double-figure scorers are all perimeter players - Henderson (18.8), Jarvis Summers (17.9) and Derrick Millinghaus (11.2).
"Due to Ole Miss' guard play, our perimeter guys will have to turn up the defensive intensity," Jones said. "Playing against Henderson will be a great test for us. He is a great catch-and-shoot guy. Teams have to show him different (defensive) looks so he has to score in different ways."
Jones was non-committal about the starting lineup. Andre Stringer was also benched in favor of Malik Morgan against the Gamecocks. Stringer scored nine points, while Morgan had eight points, six rebounds and four assists.
"We got off to a great start with the new lineup," Jones said. "I think South Carolina went three minutes without scoring. We have a few guys who are capable of playing certain roles.
"Winning is the most important thing. But, preparation and being ready when your number is called is also important. Everybody can get their minutes. Getting into the rotation is more important than being in the starting lineup."