The LSU Tigers finally fell off the ledge. They had been rounding into form but abruptly regressed on Wednesday night against Vanderbilt.
By Matt Zemek
LSU gave up 99 points on 57-percent shooting. Will Wade’s team simply no-showed at the defensive end of the floor. Winning a game when scoring 90 points should be virtually automatic for LSU or any other NCAA Tournament team. Not only did LSU fail to win; it didn’t even come especially close. The Commodores nursed a lead into the final few minutes and extended their lead in the final 75 seconds.
Now LSU, with an SEC loss on the ledger sheet, has to immediately turn around and, on Saturday morning at 11 a.m. Central time, play the Auburn Tigers, who are picking up steam. Auburn is coming off two big wins, one over Kentucky this past Saturday and another this past Tuesday against the Arkansas Razorbacks.
Auburn was down 13 points with nearly seven minutes left against Arkansas but rallied late to win. The fearlessness we have seen in Auburn basketball over the past few years – embodied by the ballsy run to the Final Four last year – is very much in evidence. LSU has to stand up to that toughness in order to protect its (now) more fragile SEC lead.
1 – Rebounding
It is weird to focus on rebounding one game after LSU allowed Vanderbilt to shoot 57 percent from the floor. If the opponent is making nearly every shot, there aren’t many rebounds to get. Yet, one should expect LSU to play much better defense against Auburn. The Bayou Bengals should have no problem getting motivated for this game. They should be pissed off and ready to fight hard. This should be a cutthroat game in which neither side will get into a prolonged offensive groove – maybe for a short period of time, but not for the full 40 minutes. Given this line of analysis, there should be plenty of rebounds to get. LSU needs to grab most of them, or at least the most important boards late in a close game.
Auburn was just 8 of 31 on threes versus Arkansas. The Tigers should miss a lot of shots in this game. They have struggled to shoot well against better SEC teams. LSU needs to pound the glass and make sure Auburn doesn’t get second chances.
2 – Get in passing lanes
Vanderbilt not only shot well against LSU; it coughed up only eight turnovers. LSU has to bother Auburn and make sure that if AU does score 80 points or thereabouts, such a score comes at the expense of 20 turnovers LSU can turn into points and grab a 90-80 win. Auburn has skilled offensive players; LSU might not always prevent Auburn from scoring, but it definitely needs to make Auburn work for everything it gets.
3 – The long game
Auburn’s depth wears out opponents; it wore out Arkansas late on Tuesday night. LSU needs to play with consistent energy in this game but get enough from its bench, especially in the first half, to keep its starters fresh and have enough in the tank for the final several minutes of regulation, assuming this game is close.