The LSU Tigers briefly returned to playing defense against the Texas A&M Aggies this past Saturday, but could not play much of any defense in their next game against the Arkansas Razorbacks. Any durable sense of progress the team might have made was wiped out in Fayetteville. The Tigers host an improving Georgia squad next.
By Matt Zemek
Now, in its last game before the SEC Tournament, LSU needs to find a way to reassert itself and more precisely establish the idea that good defense can become a habit, not an occasional reality, for this team. LSU has to develop defensive consistency once again – the consistency it found in the earlier part of the SEC season, when it bolted to an 8-0 record and had the inside track to defending its 2019 SEC championship. If LSU wants to make a run either in the SEC Tournament or the NCAA Tournament, if not both, it has to regain a reliable way of communicating and working together at the defensive end of the floor. This isn’t a specific game key for Georgia, but it certainly applies to Saturday’s game. The bigger realization is that defensive consistency – while being meaningful for Saturday against Georgia – is supremely meaningful in a context of having any chance of doing something significant in the month of March.
1 – Rayshaun Hammonds
Everyone knows Anthony Edwards is the leader of the Dawgs, the elite scorer who will be a lottery pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. Yet, if you look at many of Georgia’s more productive offensive games this season, Hammonds being a good second scorer is what makes the Dawgs’ offense more complete. Take Georgia’s 99-89 win over Arkansas a week ago. Edwards scored 26 points, but Hammonds was right there with 22 to give Georgia’s offense more firepower yet also more balance. Don’t give Edwards easy baskets or send him to the foul line, but if Edwards wants to score 25 hard-earned points on contested jump shots, fine. Don’t let Hammonds bust out all over. He needs to be contained.
2 – Defend without fouling
It is hard to imagine this happening to any team in any game at any point in time, but it happened to LSU at Arkansas: The Tigers could not avoid sending the Razorbacks to the free throw line. LSU allowed 54 free throw attempts. Even though Arkansas missed 18 of those attempts, that still meant 36 made free throws in a game decided by nine points. Very obviously, LSU will need to severely cut down on that number against Georgia.
3 – Contest shots
Arkansas made 21 of its 35 2-point field goal attempts against LSU. That shows Arkansas created a lot of easy shots without a lot of defensive resistance. The notion of making an opposing offense work hard for its points is easy to say, but it hasn’t been easy for LSU to achieve of late. The Tigers need to force Georgia to put forth a mighty effort for every basket. It starts with simplicity… and toughness… for any team struggling on defense.