LSU looks for “best of both worlds” vs. North Florida

By CODY WORSHAM | Tiger Rag Editor

By the numbers, LSU’s offense was just fine in Monday’s 78-61 win over Southern Mississippi. The Tigers shot 53 percent inside the arc, 56 percent beyond it, and had four players reach double figures — all impressive figures.

But something, players and coach alike agree, just wasn’t right.

“I didn’t think we had the flow that I would have liked to have in the first half on the offensive end,” LSU head coach Johnny Jones said after the game Monday. “It was more of the same in the second half. We scored 78 points, but I didn’t think we ever really got into the rhythm that we would have liked to on the offensive end of the floor.”

A deeper dive into the numbers reflects what Jones meant. LSU scored its 78 points on 73 possessions, good for 1.07 points per possession — well short of the 1.36 PPP from the 91-69 season-opening win over Wofford. The Tigers also turned the ball over 13 times, nearly twice the number (7) they conceded vs. Wofford. Starting point guard Skylar Mays said the problems stemmed from a lack of movement, of both ball and man.

“We weren’t too happy about the way we executed offensively,” he said. “From my perspective, it seemed kind of stagnant. We knew we could do a much better job. I think we just weren’t locked in totally. We were happy we won the game, but that’s not the way we want to win games.”

Mays, who leads the team with 6.0 assists per game, took accountability for that stagnation, pointing to his three turnovers as part of the problem.

“Turnovers are part of the game,” said Mays, who also went scoreless after debuting with 10 points. “I can’t get to down on myself about that. I didn’t shoot the ball too well last game, obviously, either. That stuff happens. The guys are helping me understand, you’re not going to have the best game every time you step on the court. Look forward to the next one, get ready for the future.”

With the team failing to click on all cylinders, Antonio Blakeney bore the burden of putting up points. He tossed in 26 on 9-of-14 shooting, hitting all three of his attempts from beyond the arc. After struggling to the tune of 2-of-11 shooting in game one, Blakeney made use of the pick and roll to pick apart Southern Miss.

More than half of his point (14) came in pick and roll plays, as did two of his six assists. With the Golden Eagle defense passive on the hedge, Blakeney was able to pull up more than once for open jumpers from 3.

When they took away the 3, Blakeney got to the foul line — either by drawing a foul or taking the pull-up jumper there against a retreating defender.

“Some of my shots that first game were short, shots that I could have made,” he said. “I watched the film, had seen that, and just tried to get it up and take some better shots.”

Still, Blakeney saw that LSU’s offense was a pass or two away on a lot of possessions from a better shot.

“We didn’t make a couple extra passes we needed to make,” he said, “not running plays all the way through to perfection.”

They’ll look to correct that Friday against North Florida, a team they had great offensive success against a year ago in a 119-108 shootout. Most of North Florida’s scorers from that game are gone, but the best one, point guard Dallas Moore, is back for his senior season. The reigning Atlantic Sun Player of the Year, Moore averaged 19.8 points and 6.3 assists per game last season, and dropped 31 and 5 against LSU.

“He’s getting a lot of looks from a lot of NBA scouts,” said Jones. “We know he’s a good and crafty point guard.”

Blakeney, a native of Sarasota, Fla., played against Moore, a St. Petersburg product, in high school and knows what he’s capable of.

“He’s a great scorer,” said Blakeney. “I actually played against him in high school. When I was a sophomore in high school, he was a senior. We guarded each other. I’m very familiar with his game. He likes the score of the ball. And get his teammates involved, but he’s a score-first guard.”

Mays could get matched up with him this go-around, and says he knows what he’s in for.

“I don’t want him to get 30 on me, obviously,” he laughed. “I know I’ll have to be more locked in defensively, especially more than I was last game. I wasn’t too proud of how I defended last game. I understand he’s going to make shots, but try to make him take tough shots and hope he doesn’t make too many.”

LSU will hope to fix its offensive issues while continuing its defensive progress. A year ago, the Tigers were undone by their defensive miscues, giving up 107.2 points per 100 possessions in conference — 11th in the SEC. This year, that number is a much improved 99.3, and excluding a poor first half against Wofford, it’s 79.8, an elite figure against albeit lightweight competition.

“Last year we knew were deficient on the defensive end of the floor,” said Jones. “That’s something we put more of an emphasis and concentration on.
Over the years offensively my teams have been high-scoring, uptempo type teams. I think this team has the make up to be a good defensive team as well. If we can have the best of both worlds…it would lend well to our team.”


  • Jones said Thursday he expects Craig Victor will be back “soon,” but probably not until next week’s trip to the Bahamas for the Battle4Atlantis tournament

LSU vs. North Florida

Time/Date/Location: 7 p.m., Friday, Nov. 18, Pete Maravich Assembly Center

Radio: LSU Sports Radio Network

Online: SECN+ (video), (audio)

Last Time Out

LSU: 78-61 win over Southern Miss

UNF: 94-56 loss to Miami

Last Meeting

LSU win, 119-108 (2015-16)

Probable Starters

LSU: Skylar Mays, Antonio Blakeney, Brandon Sampson, Aaron Epps, Duop Reath

North Florida: Dallas Moore, Nick Malonga, Aaron Bodager, Chris Davenport, Romelo Banks

Key Reserves

LSU: Wayde Sims, Jalyn Patterson, Kieran Hayward, Elbert Robinson

North Florida: Garrett Sams, Wijad Aminu, Aaron Horne

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