Tigers Open Johnny Jones Era with 77-63 win over UC Santa Barbara
LSU defense forces 23 turnovers in 2012-13 home opener
It was a good thing Johnny O’Bryant exploded out of the gate in LSU’s 77-63 season-opening win over UC Santa Barbara on Friday night.
Because after 11 minutes, 13 points, and 8 rebounds, the 6′9 sophomore suffered a game-ending leg injury, leaving LSU without its best player and just a 31-24 lead with about 23 minutes left in the contest.
But in the first game of the Johnny Jones era at LSU, the Tigers turned a negative into a positive, stepping up their defensive efforts and getting balanced contributions from nine other players en route to the first win of the season.
“You just gotta step up as a team,” said point guard Anthony Hickey, who came off the bench to fill the box score with 6 points, 6 assists, and 7 steals. “If one player goes down, the whole team has to step up. We came together as a team and played as a whole.”
Three other Tigers joined O’Bryant in double figures, with Charles Carmouche’s 16 points of 6-of-10 shooting leading the way. Freshmen Malik Morgan and Shane Hammink added 10 each, with Morgan grabbing six rebounds.
Before it was balanced, though, the LSU offense was all about O’Bryant. After UCSB jumped out to a 14-9 lead on four threes, O’Bryant took over, helping LSU to an 18-7 run, including a transition 3-pointer, in helping LSU turn a seven point deficit to a seven point lead. And on the other end, he snagged every rebound, helping the Tigers get out in transition, where Hammink, Carmouche and Andre Stringer all found open threes.
“Johnny set the tone early,” Carmouche said. “He was getting buckets and rebounding the ball, and we fed off his energy.”
“He was on a tear,” Jones added, saying he’d never seen O’Bryant so dominant from the perimeter since taking the job in the spring. “He’s very cap of knocking down shots, but through our practices and scrimmages, we’ve used him mostly around the basket. I thought he knocked own shots early, was feel extremely confident, and was playing great basketball. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see him finish it out.”
Unsurprisingly, it took a while for LSU to recover when O’Bryant went down. UCSB cut the LSU lead to 33-31 late in the first half, as Gaucho big man Alan Williams found space inside against an undersized Ludwig, Jalen Courtney, and Shavon Coleman.
But LSU’s size disadvantage on defense turned into an advantage on offense, and Ludwig cleverly drew Williams into foul trouble.
“It stymied them a little bit,” Jones said of LSU’s smaller lineup, “because it gave us an opportunity to take their post guy away from the basket. It created some problems for him.”
With Williams out, the Tigers guards turned up the perimeter pressure, forcing several consecutive turnovers to end the half on an 8-1 run, capped off by an excellent long-range tip from Morgan as the clock expired.
LSU would build on that lead quickly in the second half, picking up the tempo on offense and stepping up the pressure on defense. Led by Hickey, the Tigers forced 14 second-half turnovers, opening the final 20 minutes with a 14-5 run capped off by a Stringer three and stretching the lead to 55-37 with 13:06 left in the game.
Santa Barbara finished with just 31 points in the second half on 1-of-6 shooting from three. For the night, UCSB turned the ball over 23 times and shot just 37.3% from the field. It was a vast improvement from a Tiger defense that surrendered 39 points and 53.6% shooting in the second half of an 82-66 exhibition win over Arkansas-Monticello on Monday.
“It all starts with defense,” said Ludwig, who grabbed 7 rebounds on the night.
While his teammates did most of the scoring, it was Hickey who controlled the game. The sophomore point guard came off the bench after missing Monday’s exhibition on a suspension, and in a strange moment, had to return to the locker room before checking in early in the first half for starter Corban Collins after forgetting to put his uniform on following warm ups.
“This ain’t an exhibition game,” he joked. “I’m glad that it was just a timeout. We won, and that’s the best thing that happened.”
Jones, calm as ever, just laughed off the incident.
“I could see it hurt him,” Jones said. “I didn’t have to say anything to him. That was enough damage for him, and his teammates will take care of that. They’ll stay on him pretty good about that.”
They won’t have too much to joke about, however, because Hickey’s vision and distribution on offense was the reason so many of his teammates got good looks, while his defense and seven steals initiated those transition opportunities.
“I felt like I owe my team something, doing whatever I had to do to be a leader,” Hickey said.
Jones said he expected a great game from his sophomore point guard, who was hungry to make up for lost time after missing the exhibition game.
“Every day during practice, knowing he wasn’t going to have an opportunity to play, he brought it,” Jones said. “When he got in the game, he was ready mentally, and that’s a growth pattern for him. He made lot of strides over these last few days.”
“He was tuned in to this basketball game,” Jones added. “He didn’t press. He kept his teammates involved. He turned down shots to get other guys the ball.”
The only downside for the Tigers was an off night at the charity stripe, as LSU shot a lower percentage from the free throw line (7-of-20 for 35%) than the three-point line (10-of-26 for 38.5%).
Jones said he will correct that in practice but was pleased with his team’s overall effort.
“They got after it and gave a tremendous effort,” he said. “And yeah, we will work on free throws.”
POST GAME QUOTES
LSU HEAD COACH JOHNNY JONES
“Well first of all I want to say how excited we are, and I am, to have gotten this game behind us and under our belt. It’s been since April 13th, I’ve really been looking forward to this day for a lot of reasons, and having the opportunity to coach a live game out there. It’s from my drive in to work today, spending time with the guys in pre-practice prior to the game, and just sitting back there in the locker room after pre-practice, just really having the chance to take it all in, just really filled with emotions from playing days and just going full-circle to remember my mom and dad being at my games here as a freshman driving in from DeRidder and having the opportunity of seeing her sitting there in the stands tonight meant a whole lot to me. I’m so glad we were able to get it behind us. Great effort by our players tonight, the way that they played, got after it, gave a tremendous effort out there tonight. Before you guys ask, on Sunday when we get back to practice we will work on free throws, so I’ll get that knocked out for us.”
On status of Johnny O’Bryant III…
“He just said he felt a little strain there in his leg. I haven’t had an opportunity to visit with our trainer extensively yet to find out exactly what happened, but we’ll have an opportunity to rest him tomorrow, have him reevaluated, and just kind of see where we stand prior to us coming back to practice on Sunday.”
On the play of Johnny O’Bryant before being injured…
“Well it was nothing I saw in April when we worked out with him. I didn’t see it all summer and I haven’t seen it since October since we started practice to be honest with you. The way that he played away from the basket and as explosive he was, I thought he was on a tear. Jumped up making plays, and he’s very capable of knocking down shots. Through our practices and scrimmaging, we’ve utilized him mostly around the basket and made sure that he took advantage of those opportunities, but I thought he knocked down a couple of shots early, felt extremely confident, and was really playing a great basketball game. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see him finish it out because of that little setback there that he had. Johnny’s very capable. He’s worked extremely hard during the offseason, and its good to see him have a great first game like that, especially there in the first half like he was having.”
On facing adversity after O’Bryant’s injury…
“Generally, you have a great bench or a number of guys that are out there. We utilized Shavon Coleman a lot at the four and a few times he had to guard the five, their best post player inside. That was kind of a different matchup for Shavon because he usually doesn’t draw that type of assignment. I thought the guys did an excellent job of keeping them off balance. I thought our guards were really good in terms of putting a lot of pressure on the ball and not allowing easy passes and getting deflections. That’s what allowed us to get so many turnovers tonight. We never allowed them to get in their comfort zone, and they are a team that is very good in terms of running their offense and getting the shots that they want.”
FORWARD EDDIE LUDWIG
On tonight’s game…
“It felt great. You all saw us out there running up and down, knocking down shots and getting steals. That’s Coach Jones’ style of play. That’s how we practice. That’s what we’ve been doing since he’s got here. I think it just translated out onto the floor. I really think it all started with our defense, especially in the second half. Just like our preseason game, we really stepped it up defensively in the second half. We were able to make stops, and push the ball. We got some open layups, and open shots which really helped us out.”
GUARD ANTHONY HICKEY
On adjusting without Johnny O’Bryant III…
“We just have to step up as a team. If one person goes down everyone else has to step up. (Johnny O’Bryant III) is a big player that went down. He came in strong with 13 points. We struggled a little bit when he went down on the offensive and defensive rebounds. But we came together as a team, and just played as a whole.”
On coming in off the bench…
“They did great at the exhibition game. I was able to cheer them on. I felt like I had to whatever I needed to do to be their leader as a point guard.”
GUARD CHARLES CARMOUCHE
On tonight’s defensive success…
“I think we caught on to how (UC Santa Barbara) was running their offense. We started jumping the passing lanes, and running the break. As you could see, we are pretty good when we are running the break.”
On tonight’s missed free throws…
“I’ve been knowing Eddie (Ludwig) since I was a little boy. He never missed free throws. So that was weird. I’m pretty sure he’s definitely going to bounce back, and we’re going to bounce back as a team.
UC-SANTA BARBARA HEAD COACH BOB WILLIAMS QUOTES
On the loss tonight…
“The turnovers were the biggest thing. I thought they got more rebounds, they were more physical than us, and the turnovers led to transition points. I don’t know what the number is, but I would say they beat us three-to-one in transition, and you can’t have that. And there’s no stat bigger than that - 23 turnovers for us, 13 for them. And then their quickness when [Johnny O'Bryant III] went out and they went small, that really bothered us. We just got tentative on the perimeter and our young guys didn’t take care of the ball at all. That’s the nature of it.”
On the performance of LSU tonight…
“There’s no doubt they just decided to come out and get us. They were really aggressive. I thought in the first half when [Johnny O'Bryant III] went out that their mindset changed defensively and their quickness was a huge factor. They’re more athletic than we are and they’re quicker than we are. They’re small but they’re stocky and strong, and it didn’t hurt them in the rebounding aspect. We couldn’t take advantage of them inside because we couldn’t get the ball inside. I thought their quickness was definitely more than what we’ve seen so far. They’re quick Division I guys. They weren’t very big, but they’re jet-quick.”