The LSU Tigers just finished a week in which they not only won two games, but won them without drama. The Tigers are picking up steam rather than regressing.
By Matt Zemek
They are building better habits rather than allowing their string of close games to lead them into the misguided belief that they could always pull games out of the fire at the very end. LSU is going in the right direction. The Tigers are no longer drifting through the first 35 minutes of games, trusting that they can rescue themselves in the final five minutes of regulation. The fundamental quest to continue to build toward the NCAA Tournament – and the SEC regular-season championship – continues for LSU on Wednesday against the Vanderbilt Commodores.
1 – Handle Saben Lee
Aaron Nesmith is Vanderbilt’s best player, but he is out for this game and the rest of the season with an injury. This leaves Saben Lee as the primary scorer for Vanderbilt, the player LSU must be most concerned about. This doesn’t necessarily mean that LSU must double-team him, but it does mean that Lee can’t be allowed to walk up into 3-pointers or get the sense that he can do whatever he wants on offense. Making life hard for him at the offensive end of the floor – ensuring that he has to work hard for whatever points he gets – is LSU’s main defensive priority in this game. LSU allowed Ole Miss’s Devontae Shuler to go off for 28 points this past weekend, but Shuler scored his points on 8-of-17 shooting (5 of 9 on 3-pointers) this past weekend. He had to work for his points, and all the other Ole Miss players didn’t manage to provide any help. That is a defensive performance LSU can live with.
What wouldn’t be okay is if Lee scored 28 points on 60-percent shooting and got other teammates involved. LSU has to be able to make Lee work for his points; it’s okay if Lee scores, but he has to struggle to get his points.
2 – Skylar Mays
Skylar Mays scored just four points against Ole Miss, and LSU was still able to win relatively comfortably. Imagine what can happen if Mays scores just 15 points against Vanderbilt. LSU should be fine. The broader point for LSU is that it needs Mays and Javonte Smart playing well in the same game at the same time. If LSU can make sure to have them both on top of their games, the Tigers are going to be a very, very tough out in March.
3 – Remain disciplined
LSU knows its strengths and it plays to them. LSU is 297th out of 353 Division I basketball teams in 3-point shooting percentage. It is 10th in the nation in 2-point shooting percentage. The Tigers attempted only 10 3-pointers against Ole Miss this past Saturday. They won. Teams which know what they do well, and know that certain approaches work better within the flow of a game compared to others, are successful teams. LSU needs to stay on this path.