Hoops hopes to get off to faster starts, starting with Texas Southern

By CODY WORSHAM | Tiger Rag Editor

It’s been a first half of second halves for LSU basketball.

Through their first eight games, the Tigers (6-2) have developed a habit of digging themselves out of holes they’ve dug for themselves. LSU has trailed after 20 minutes in five games this season, losing in its first halves by a combined scored of 293-260. Their three halftime leads, meanwhile, have been by an average of just 4.7 points per game.

Second halves, however, are a different story. LSU is leading 328-265 collectively after the break, an average second half score of 41-33. They’ve come back to win three of the fives games they trailed at the break, while winning every game they’ve led entering the locker room.

It’s a trend that’s both troubling — their slow starts are nothing to write home about — and promising — their resilience and adjustments during the break are shining through late in games. Johnny Jones says it’s less about LSU’s play and more about opponents coming out hot.

“I’d hate to get off to a great start and not finish well,” Jones said. “But I’m glad we’ve had the ability to finish strong in games. Teams sometimes come out of the gate and play extremely well, not that we’re playing bad, but we certainly have to give credit to our opponent and their ability to come out and execute and make plays at a high level.”

The players, meanwhile, are putting the blame at their own feet.

“We most definitely want to start getting better starts,” said Brandon Sampson, who is shooting 10 percent better (57%) in second halves than in firsts (47%). “Coming out of halftime our energy level seems to go to another level.”

That shows up on both ends of the floor, but mostly when the Tigers have the ball. Offensively, LSU — like Sampson — is shooting 10 percent better after the break (51%) than before (41%). Defensively, the Tigers are four percent better defending field goals in the second half (40%) than the first (44%).

Antonio Blakeney, LSU’s leading scorer on the season at 17 points per game, has been particularly slow out of the gates and hot down the stretch. His first half numbers aren’t great: 6.5 points per game on 39.6% shooting. But he’s been money down the stretch for the Tigers, scoring 10.6 points per second half on 50.8% shooting.

“He has an uncanny ability to really score and make plays,” says Jones.  “Sometimes guys can get in a rhythm and you can say some guys have a look and he possesses that.”

Blakeney says it’s on him and his teammates to get off to better starts. For the high-scoring sophomore, it’s about beginning the game with the right mindset.

“This is how we start better: now that we know that we have been starting slow – no matter why, whether it’s energy, not being focused, taking a team lightly, whatever the case may be – we just have to put more focus on starting better,” Blakeney said.

That approach starts Saturday against Texas Southern, a 5 p.m. tipoff from the PMAC televised on the SEC Network. Fans get in free with an unwrapped toy, and the first 2,500 fans will receive a free Citrus Bowl poster.

Texas Southern, coached by ex-Indiana Final Four coach Mike Davis, have played the nation’s seventh-toughest schedule so far, with losses to Arizona, Louisville and Cincinnati. The Tigers (4-6) have lost five straight but can score the ball, with an emphasis on crashing the offensive glass. They rank 21st nationally, grabbing 37.5% of their own misses, led by 6-foot-7 sophomore Derrick Griffin, who ranks 18th nationally in offensive rebounding percentage (16.8).

LSU hopes to send a statement in the matchup, which is the third of six straight games against top 100 RPI opponents.

“This game our focus is, we are going to come out and have a great start,” Blakeney said. “Let’s put a full game together.”

NUMBER TO KNOW

74: Texas Southern is No. 74 in the RPI. LSU has played two straight foes in the top 85 RPI (VCU, 47; Houston, 39; North Carolina Central, 84) and will follow this game up with two more against Charleston (52) and Wake Forest (13).

TEXAS SOUTHERN STATS (scroll to see all)

[table]

Rk,Player,G,MP,FG,FGA,FG%,2P,2PA,2P%,3P,3PA,3P%,FT,FTA,FT%,TRB,AST,STL,BLK,TOV,PF,PTS
1,Zach Lofton,10,32.3,6.0,15.1,.397,4.2,9.1,.462,1.8,6.0,.300,3.6,5.3,.679,2.9,1.3,1.7,0.4,2.5,3.0,17.4
2,Demontrae Jefferson,3,26.7,4.7,16.7,.280,3.3,11.0,.303,1.3,5.7,.235,2.7,4.0,.667,1.0,3.0,0.0,0.0,4.7,1.0,13.3
3,Dulani Robinson,9,32.8,4.1,10.2,.402,1.7,4.2,.395,2.4,6.0,.407,1.8,1.9,.941,3.7,5.0,0.7,0.0,2.3,2.2,12.4
4,Derrick Griffin,10,35.6,4.8,6.4,.750,4.7,6.1,.770,0.1,0.3,.333,2.3,4.6,.500,10.9,0.4,0.7,0.9,0.8,3.4,12.0
5,Brian Carey,1,34.0,3.0,10.0,.300,1.0,3.0,.333,2.0,7.0,.286,2.0,2.0,1.000,2.0,4.0,2.0,0.0,4.0,1.0,10.0
6,Kevin Scott,10,20.1,2.2,7.1,.310,1.6,4.4,.364,0.6,2.7,.222,1.3,1.9,.684,3.1,1.1,0.8,0.0,1.7,1.6,6.3
7,Stephan Bennett,1,18.0,3.0,6.0,.500,3.0,6.0,.500,0.0,0.0,,0.0,0.0,,6.0,2.0,0.0,0.0,1.0,0.0,6.0
8,Jalan McCloud,10,16.0,1.9,5.9,.322,1.2,3.3,.364,0.7,2.6,.269,1.1,1.6,.688,2.2,1.4,0.4,0.2,0.7,1.2,5.6
9,Marvin Jones,10,22.3,1.8,4.2,.429,1.5,2.9,.517,0.3,1.3,.231,1.3,1.9,.684,5.7,0.3,0.2,0.8,1.2,3.6,5.2
10,Lamont Walker,7,22.0,1.6,3.6,.440,1.4,2.6,.556,0.1,1.0,.143,1.3,1.7,.750,4.6,0.6,0.4,0.0,1.1,3.1,4.6
11,Tyree Bynum,8,9.8,1.0,2.5,.400,0.4,1.0,.375,0.6,1.5,.417,0.1,0.1,1.000,0.4,0.0,0.1,0.0,0.3,0.3,2.8
12,Jamie Rutherford,9,7.9,0.7,3.0,.222,0.0,0.2,.000,0.7,2.8,.240,0.1,0.2,.500,0.8,0.2,0.0,0.0,0.0,0.6,2.1
13,Jerron Martin,2,3.5,0.0,0.5,.000,0.0,0.5,.000,0.0,0.0,,0.0,0.0,,0.5,0.0,0.0,0.0,0.0,0.0,0.0
[/table]

LSU STATS (scroll to see all)

[table]

Rk,Player,G,MP,FG,FGA,FG%,2P,2PA,2P%,3P,3PA,3P%,FT,FTA,FT%,TRB,AST,STL,BLK,TOV,PF,PTS
1,Antonio Blakeney,8,33.1,6.6,14.6,.453,5.0,9.8,.513,1.6,4.9,.333,2.1,3.4,.630,4.5,1.9,0.5,0.1,2.6,1.4,17.0
2,Duop Reath,8,26.9,5.8,10.0,.575,5.3,8.9,.592,0.5,1.1,.444,1.6,2.5,.650,6.0,1.0,1.0,2.0,2.8,2.9,13.6
3,Brandon Sampson,8,29.8,4.3,8.3,.515,2.8,4.0,.688,1.5,4.3,.353,1.9,3.0,.625,3.1,0.8,1.1,1.0,1.1,2.0,11.9
4,Aaron Epps,8,18.1,3.1,5.3,.595,2.3,3.8,.600,0.9,1.5,.583,0.8,0.9,.857,5.1,0.5,0.1,0.4,1.6,2.5,7.9
5,Craig Victor,5,21.2,3.2,9.4,.340,3.2,9.0,.356,0.0,0.4,.000,1.2,2.0,.600,6.4,1.0,1.6,0.4,1.4,2.8,7.6
6,Wayde Sims,8,16.4,1.9,3.8,.500,1.4,2.4,.579,0.5,1.4,.364,1.3,1.9,.667,3.3,0.3,0.5,0.6,0.3,1.8,5.5
7,Skylar Mays,8,20.8,2.1,5.6,.378,1.8,4.1,.424,0.4,1.5,.250,0.8,1.3,.600,2.4,4.4,0.6,0.1,2.1,1.5,5.4
8,Jalyn Patterson,8,23.4,1.4,4.9,.282,1.0,2.1,.471,0.4,2.8,.136,0.8,1.4,.545,4.3,3.3,1.4,0.1,1.9,0.9,3.9
9,Elbert Robinson,7,8.7,1.1,1.6,.727,1.1,1.6,.727,0.0,0.0,,0.6,1.6,.364,2.0,0.6,0.1,0.6,1.3,2.0,2.9
10,Kieran Hayward,7,9.4,0.3,1.6,.182,0.0,0.6,.000,0.3,1.0,.286,0.0,0.0,,1.3,0.3,0.1,0.0,0.4,1.6,0.9
11,Reed Vial,2,1.0,0.0,0.0,,0.0,0.0,,0.0,0.0,,0.5,1.0,.500,0.5,0.0,0.0,0.0,0.0,0.0,0.5
12,Marshall Graves,5,1.8,0.2,0.6,.333,0.2,0.2,1.000,0.0,0.4,.000,0.0,0.2,.000,0.2,0.0,0.2,0.0,0.0,0.4,0.4
13,Brian Bridgewater,4,1.8,0.0,0.3,.000,0.0,0.3,.000,0.0,0.0,,0.0,0.0,,0.3,0.0,0.3,0.0,0.0,0.3,0.0
14,Brandon Eddlestone,2,1.0,0.0,0.0,,0.0,0.0,,0.0,0.0,,0.0,0.0,,0.0,0.0,0.0,0.0,0.0,0.0,0.0

[/table]

 

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Cody Worsham

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