Jordan McRae scored 19 points and Jarnell Stokes registered a double-double as Tennessee held LSU to season lows in points and field goal shooting in a convincing 68-50 victory Tuesday night at the PMAC in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams.
With slightly more than seven minutes remaining in the first half, Jarell Martin's first basket of the game put LSU behind 20-18. However, Tennessee outscored the Tigers 18-6 over the remainder of the first half. Antonio Barton made three of his four 3-pointers during that stretch. McRae sank two baskets, including a 3-pointer and Josh Richardson made two field goals. All of those points came from the Vols' three perimeter starters. LSU's only points came on baskets by Johnny O'Bryant and Jordan Mickey. The Tigers were 3-of-11 from the field during that span.
KEY PERIOD IN FIRST HALF
Although not shooting well, LSU was able to move out to a 10-7 lead in the game's first five minutes. A free throw by Anthony Hickey and a basket by Mickey enabled the Tigers to take the three-point advantage. However, in a 30-second span, McRae made two baskets - one a 3-pointer - to put Tennessee back in front. Mickey tied the score at 12-12 with a field goal with 13:10 remaining. A little more than a minute later, D'Montre Edwards made a 3-pointer to give the Volunteers the lead for good.
KEY PERIOD IN SECOND HALF
LSU had just one little flurry of points in the second half. A three-point play by O'Bryant and a field goal by Mickey reduced the Tigers' 17-point deficit to 12 at 48-36 with 13:05 to play. But, Tennessee weathered that little rally and outscored LSU 10-6 over the next five minutes. Stokes and Jeronne Maymon, the Vols' two post players, scored all but two of those ten points. The Tigers were 3-of-9 from the field during this stretch.
LSU'S TOP STARTER
In what is developing into a constant theme, Mickey was the Tigers' top starter. Mickey made seven of his ten field goal attempts and scored a team-high 14 points in the first SEC game of his career. Mickey had five blocked shots, one short of his season-high, and equaled his season-high with three assists. Mickey also accounted for four rebounds and one steal.
LSU'S TOP RESERVE
For the second consecutive game, the Tigers' bench made little contribution. The best production came from Malik Morgan, who had five points and four rebounds in 21 minutes. However, Morgan missed five of his seven field goal attempts.
LSU'S UNSUNG HERO
The only player other than Mickey to have a positive influence on the game for the Tigers was O'Bryant. Battling against Stokes and Maymon inside, O'Bryant had 11 points and seven rebounds. He was 5-of-11 from the field. O'Bryant also blocked three shots to tie his career-high and handed out two assists.
LSU was significantly outshot by Tennessee. The Tigers made a season-low 37 percent on field goals (22-of-60), In addition, LSU missed 12 of its 14 shots from behind the 3-point line. The Vols shot 46 percent from the field (24-of-52), including 53 percent on 3-pointers (8-of-15). Tennessee was 7-of-11 on treys while building its 38-24 first-half advantage. Showing its lack of aggressiveness, the Tigers got to the foul line just seven times. They made four free throws. Tennessee's starting perimeter players - McRae, Barton and Richardson - combined for 26 first-half points. LSU's starting perimeter players - Hickey, Andre Stringer and Martin - combined for eight first-half points.
The Tigers started their usual five of O'Bryant, Mickey, Martin, Stringer and Hickey. Both Shavon Coleman and Morgan played more minutes (21) than Stringer (19). . .For the first time in his four-year career, Stringer failed to score. He missed five field goal attempts, including his one from behind the 3-point line. Stringer did have four of LSU's 11 assists. He now has 269 assists - good for 13th place on the school rankings. Coach Johnny Jones is at No. 12 with 271 assists. . .Hickey endured an unproductive night with only one assist and one steal to go with two turnovers. Hickey, who was 2-of-7 from the field, scored seven points. . .Martin was a small factor in his first SEC game. In 27 minutes, Martin had five points and three rebounds. He missed six of his eight field goal attempts. . .Coleman had his second poor outing with just four points and two rebounds. Coleman, who was 2-of-5 from the field, did make three steals. . .Tim Quarterman received 12 minutes and accounted for four points, one assist and two steals. . .LSU was outrebounded 40-28. . . The Tigers did commit just nine turnovers and forced Tennessee into 16 floor errors. . .Stokes had the 25th double-double of his career with 15 points and 15 rebounds. Barton matched his season-high with 14 points. He made four 3-pointers. In previous 13 games, Barton had connected on just 18 treys. . .McRae has made nine straight 3-pointers against LSU in the last two seasons. He was 6-of-6 last year and was 3-of-3 on Tuesday from behind the arc. . .LSU has now lost six straight games to the Volunteers. The Tigers' last victory against Tennessee came in 2009 - 79-73 in Knoxville. . .LSU has lost its SEC opener for the second consecutive season. The Tigers dropped a 68-63 decision at Auburn in last season's league opener. . .The 50 points were the fewest for LSU since it lost 72-48 at Ole Miss two seasons ago. . .The 18-point margin of defeat was the largest for the Tigers in a conference opener in six seasons. LSU lost to Mississippi State 61-39 in the 2008 SEC opener. . .LSU has lost two straight games for the first time this season. The Tigers only had one losing streak last year - a four-game slide at the start of league play. . .LSU is 9-4, while Tennessee is 10-4. . .The paid attendance was 7,918. The actual crowd was around 4,700.
FROM THE LOCKERROOM
Coach Johnny Jones
"Tennessee did a great job of taking over the game. We didn't compete at the level we needed to have an opportunity to beat a team the caliber of Tennessee. We were out-toughed early on. In the second half, we did not play with the passion we needed to battle with these guys."
"Tennessee's guards were able to step out and knock down shots. They hit seven 3s in the first half and some of those were unguarded. We had blown assignments or those guys did a great job of getting themselves open. In the second half, we were able to speed them up. With that, we got beat on some hustle plays. They shoot 30-something percent in the second half and we turned them over 16 times. We didn't take advantage because we failed to score on the other end of the floor."
"Our effort is something we're going to have to correct. We've allowed guys to get minutes. We've got to make sure that all of that is earned. That's going to have to start in practice. This may not be the best starting lineup for us. If you want to play and get some of those minutes, you'll have to have a little different effort."
"Everybody on our whole basketball team will certainly have to get out there and compete. We don't have anybody standing out right now, outside of Jordan Mickey. Day-in and day-out, he's competing in every game regardless of what his numbers are. I'd say Shavon Coleman is doing that as well. Outside of those two guys, we have to make sure that guys are competing at a different level."
"Tennessee did a great job of controlling the tempo. They spread the floor and made sure you have to run extremely far to get traps on them. They knocked down 3s in the first half. Their post guys didn't really get going, but their perimeter guys did. In the second half, we felt like we had traps or had beaten them. But, they got the balls out of the traps and were dunking on the other end of the floor because we failed to challenge them at the rim."
"Tennessee guarded well and did not allow easy post catches. We just need to get better from here. We are a good team with a lot of potential. We have to come ready to work every day. We just cannot take any days off or any games off. We put ourselves in a deep hole at the beginning of the game and could not come out of it. Tennessee was packing the lane. They made it hard for us to score on the inside."
"We need to come ready to play all the way through the lineup. One through 15, all of us didn't come ready. We need to come focused and today we were not. We got the shots we wanted, but we were struggling to make them."
LSU will play South Carolina at Colonial Life Arena in Columbia on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. The Gamecocks (7-6) will open SEC play Wednesday night at Florida. The LSU-South Carolina game will be broadcast on SECTV.