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Late Reading: In a blip, the Tigers’ season ends

SMU guards Keith Frazier, left, Nick Russell, center, and guard Nic Moore, right, celebrate after winning giving LSU the boot in the second round of the NIT on Monday.

Associated Press photo — SMU guards Keith Frazier, left, Nick Russell, center, and guard Nic Moore, right, celebrate after  giving LSU the boot in the second round of the NIT on Monday.

DALLAS – Wow, that got out of hand quickly.

Or so says a certain fictional news anchor. Or anyone on press row. Or any of the pack of purple-and-gold fans sitting in the upper sections of Moody Coliseum.

Or maybe they were muttering other things that can’t be typed in this space.

Closing the book on his second season, Johnny Jones’ squad put together a 40-minute Petri dish that is a sample of the good, bad and ugly LSU put on at points this season.

A first half where the Tigers dazzled in the open floor, found Johnny O’Bryant III consistently in the paint and showed tenacity in competing on the backboards and showing defensive focus that’s proven elusive. The second half? Well, the wheels went sailing off the car. JOBIII got just three shots. LSU lofted up 13 shots from behind the arc. Meanwhile SMU started strafing the Tigers to shoot 64.3 percent.

So, there you go. The Tigers go into the offseason with plenty of questions, and perhaps frustration — at least from fans — about a season that ran hot and cold.

The Rundown

The Standouts

  • Andre Stringer: The senior went down swinging. He went 5 of 10 behind the 3-point for 15 points. Until SMU swung the focus of its defense to force the ball out of his hands, the veteran did everything he could to prolong his career another two days. He leaves second all-time in made 3-pointers with 242, and Stringer wrapped up his time in Baton Rouge as a 34.9-percent shooter from long range.
  • Shavon Coleman: In the first half, he was his usual self as the X-Factor for the Tigers. He scored eight points and yanked down seven rebounds. After halftime, he put up zeroes in both those columns. Say this much: SMU coach Larry Brown took a way the Tigers’ glue guy. On the defensive end, he only had a lone steal in the final 20 minutes, emblematic of a LSU press that was picked apart at certain junctures. Still, the Tigers’ other senior helped put the Tigers in position to steal an upset.

The Critiques

  • Shot selection: LSU has shown a tendency to fall in love with quick jumpers this season. I’ve written that, well, a lot. Tonight was different. The Tigers went away from their strengths in the paint. In the first half, many of the 3-pointers they put up in going 5 of 10 were within the rhythm of the offense, or in transition. Part of that had to do with SMU choking off the paint, but none of the Tigers’ guards were able to drive, create and force the defense to collapse for kick outs. Often, they were the byproduct of an offense bogged down.
  • Johnny O’Bryant III in the second half: The big bloke put up just three shots. Yes, three. Again, he was facing a slew of pressure, but the junior didn’t sound all that happy with how the offense was unfolding over the final 20 minutes. “It was just an up-tempo game,” O’Bryant said. “We didn’t really have half-court sets ran, and that was the issue and we turned the ball over.” Yes, he finished with 16 points and seven rebounds, but he was silenced in a half where the Tigers could have used a dominant effort.
  • 3-point defense:  After a great job limiting San Francisco behind the arc in their NIT opener, the Tigers reverted back to form. SMU shot 64.3 percent from long-range tonight, including 5 of 7 in the second half. The Mustangs entered averaging around 12 attempts per game, so they’re not exactly prone to launching them in bulk. But the looks they got against LSU were largely unobstructed. Again, LSU looked slow rotating defensively or late on close outs.

The Quote

 ”I would have to think the program is in tremendous shape. We’re excited about the guys that have been a part of the program. They’ve really set the tone and allowed these young guys to really come in and want to be a part of something special.”

– LSU coach Johnny Jones.

The Look-Ahead

 The waiting game begins. It’s expected O’Bryant will depart for the NBA draft in the next couple of weeks. Freshman Jordan Mickey is going to consult with his parents and potentially solicit an evaluation from the NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee. Fellow freshman Jarell Martin already said he’s inclined to come back to Baton Rouge for a sophomore season. If Mickey and Martin stick around, the Tigers’ front court should be in good shape. Elbert Robinson, a Dallas native and top-50 recruit, was on hand to watch the Tigers, too. At 7-foot and trimmed down to 290 pounds, Robinson seems a natural replacement for O’Bryant in the paint. Guard Anthony Hickey will be a senior, and bolstered by UNC-Asheville transfer Keith Hornsby and JUCO scorer Josh Gray. The pieces should be in place for the Tigers to clearly set their sights on a NCAA tournament bid.

LSU’s Raigyne Moncrief being evaluated for Tuesday; Youngblood suspended indefinitely

LSU guard Raigyne Moncrief will undergo a medical evaluation Monday afternoon to determine whether she will be available to play for the Lady Tigers in Tuesday’s second-round NCAA Tournament game against West Virginia.

Moncrief injured her left knee Sunday with 15:45 left in LSU’s 98-78 first-round win over Georgia Tech as she attempted to drive to the basket. She had to be helped to the locker room.

Moncrief injured her right knee in February and was making her first start since Feb. 20.

Junior Danielle Harden, who started five straight games in Moncrief’s absence, will likely start against West Virginia (8:30 p.m., ESPN2). The winner advances to the regional semifinals Sunday in Louisville, Ky.

Harden scored 17 points off the bench and made all three of her 3-point attempts.

LSU coach Nikki Caldwell expressed optimism that Moncrief will be cleared to play. The freshman from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is averaging 10.1 points per game, third on the team.

Meanwhile, Caldwell announced sophomore center Derreyal Youngblood is suspended for the NCAA Tournament. Caldwell said the suspension was for a violation of team rules but did not elaborate.

Youngblood did not play against Georgia Tech and wasn’t seen on the team bench.

The Harvey native has been suspended previously this season and hasn’t played since LSU’s regular-season finale March 2 at Alabama. She is averaging 1.2 points and 1.4 rebounds in 21 games.

Late Reading: Tigers timely in moves to advance

The Rundown

The Takeaway 

Well, we know LSU cares. Perhaps the execution after taking a 16-point lead with eight minutes left was lacking. Sure, the Tigers were beaten 40-34 on the backboards and outscored 40-30 in the paint. Oh, and there were the 17 points they handed over on 10 turnovers. No one will leave Wednesday saying the Tigers looked convincing in coach Johnny Jones NIT debut. The simple rebuttal: LSU 71, San Francisco 63.

The Tigers managed to set aside their nature and defend the 3-point line, limiting a Dons team shooting 37.1 percent on the season to just 3 of 23 on the night. Really, that’s your difference. The Tigers went 8 of 22 from long range, and they knocked down seven more free throws. In short, they did enough to win. They got a timely 9-0 run over two minutes, capped by back-to-back 3-pointers from Anthony Hickey and Tim Quarterman to get the lead stretched.

Then the Tigers let the Dons whittle it down to six before salting it away in the final minute at the line.

That’ll have to do. Remember, just Hickey, Andre Stringer and Johnny O’Bryant have any postseason experience, and that was a 20-point first-round rout in this same tournament two years ago. So, LSU will simply smile, shove their belongings in backpacks, walk to the bus and escape to a charter flight.

The Tigers weren’t perfect, but they were timely enough and sturdy enough in their execution to advance. For a team that at point lost seven in a row from Baton Rouge, it’s another step forward. A shaky one, though.

The Standouts

  • Jarell Martin: Johnny Jones summed up Martin’s first half succinctly: “Unbelievable.” From the opening tip, and through two ill-advised jumpers, the former McDonald’s All-American was in attack mode. He scored 14 points in the first half, and keyed two LSU spurts to help the Tigers in front for over 38 minutes. But it was also efficient. The Baton Rouge native finished with a plus-10 rating, grabbed six rebounds and did a nice job not forcing the action in the second half, where he was quiet with a lone bucket. For an offense that too often settled for jumpers instead of forcing it into the paint, Martin was a vital bridge.
  • The Seniors: Shavon Coleman and Andre Stringer were thrilled to get one more game together. On Wednesday, they added another to the docket. The duo scored 19 points in the second half, knocking down 5 of 7 shots and hitting 5 of 6 free throws. For Coleman, he simply heated up after a 1 of 6 start, while Stringer came off the bench to provide scoring punch. Hickey and Quarterman may have landed the knockout blows, but it was the veteran duo that helped LSU keep its lead toggling between five points and nine points. Steady. That’s what you need from your elders when the calendar rolls over to March. The Tigers’ fit the bill.

The Critiques

  • Shot selection: LSU has shown a tendency to fall in love with quick jumpers this season. Against USF, the Tigers were bigger across the front line and should have had a decided advantage on the glass. Neither transpired. It’s hard to win the rebound war, though, when your big men have to chase long misses outside their area. Or when your guards are small and can be muscled out if they win the race to a 50-50 ball. Plus, Johnny O’Bryant III can get you better looks by reading and reacting once the ball goes into the block. When you have a weapon the likes of JOBIII, and he has advantage, keep it simple.
  • Rebounding: LSU is fortunate it didn’t play Kentucky again. The Tigers were pummeled 15-8 on the offensive backboards, and they were fortunate the Dons only turned those second chances into nine points. A lot of those came in the first half to keep the Dons in contention and only down three points at half time.
  • Poor offensive execution late: The final five minutes for LSU will not be remembered fondly. Leading 66-55, the Tigers essentially wasted their next possessions to let the Dons trim to lead down to 68-62 on backdoor alley-oop to Mark Tollefsen with 2:18 to play. Jarell Martin turned the ball over. Jordan Mickey was called for a charge. Hickey committed a turnover. Mickey short-armed a jumper, and then came back on the next trip to clank a pair of free throws with 1:12 to play. Mercifully, Coleman and Stringer went 3 of 4 down the stretch to eliminate the drama, but the Tigers certainly should feel fortunate they weren’t facing an opponent more willing to cash in on the chances handed to them.

The Look-Ahead

Next up is SMU, which overcame its doldrums after missing the NCAA tournament to down UC-Irvine on Wednesday. Make no mistake, the Mustangs would be in the field of 68 if not for the nation’s No. 303 nonconference schedule and stumbling down the stretch against Memphis, Louisville and a first-round loss to Houston in the American Athletic Conference tournament. Coaching legend Larry Brown’s turnaround job has been swift at Moody Coliseum, and if the Tigers truly think they’re the caliber of team that  – under different circumstances — is a NCAA tournament team, they’ll get a good measuring stick on Monday night.

Jarell Martin says he’ll be back for sophomore season

AP FILE PHOTO -- LSU forward Jarell Martin tussles Kentucky forward Julius Randle during the SEC tournament. The Tigers freshman says he's coming back for a sophomore season.

AP FILE PHOTO — LSU forward Jarell Martin tussles Kentucky forward Julius Randle during the SEC tournament. The Tigers freshman says he’s coming back for a sophomore season.

Freshman forward Jarell Martin said Monday he will be return to LSU for his sophomore season.

“I have been thinking about it,” Martin said. “I decided I will comeback next year.”

The Baton Rouge native and former McDonald’s All-American said he reached the decision with relative ease after a debut campaign where he averaged 10.8 points and 4.4 rebounds per game, landing on the SEC’s All-Freshman team last week. And he bounced back from a slow nonconference season, where a high-ankle sprain suffered 33 seconds into the season-opener hampered him.

He averaged just 8.0 points ahead of SEC play, a number he raised 11.5 points, which included two games where he scored a career-high 20 points.

“It wasn’t that tough for me,” Martin said. “Sitting out at the beginning of the season, I had a lot of pressure and expectations on me. I wasn’t really focused, wasn’t really mentally prepared going into some games.”

Martin is the first of a trio of Tigers to declare his intentions as it pertains to the NBA. Forward Johnny O’Bryant III said he will again weigh his options after his junior season ends.  On Friday night, freshman forward Jordan Mickey said he, too, will wait until the season concludes before exploring his options or seeking an evaluation from the NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee.

And the news was, well, news to LSU coach Johnny Jones.

“That would be exciting news,” Jones said. “That’s not something I really want him thinking about. But I can’t really come in and hold you guys up from asking about it.”

Yet, Martin seemed somewhat certain of his choice.

“Now I have my confidence back,” Martin said. “I know there are things I need to go out and work on with my game, from ball handling to my shooting ability.”

Needing to shore up NIT status, LSU tangles with the Tide

Johnny O'Bryant III and LSU will try to extend their season in a rematch against Alabama on Thursday at the Georgia Dome during the SEC tournament.

Johnny O’Bryant III and LSU will try to extend their season in a rematch against Alabama on Thursday at the Georgia Dome during the SEC tournament.

ATLANTA – Six weeks ago, LSU trudged off the floor at Coleman Coliseum after a loss that encapsulates the Tigers approach of taking a large leap forward and then tumbling back this season.

In an 82-80 loss on Jan. 25, the Tigers did the following during a 40-minute span:

  • Gave up a 22-0 run to trail by 13 points midway through the first half.
  • Shot 32.1 percent in the first half.
  • Trailed by 19 points with 17 minutes left to play.
  • Rallied back with an 11-2 run over two minutes to pull within four points with less than nine minutes left.
  • Forced 11 turnovers they turned into 14 second-half points.
  • Led twice within the final two minutes, including 77-76 with 1:10 to play.
  • Lost forward Shannon Hale on a switch, giving up a go-ahead 3-pointer with 46 seconds remaining.
  • Fought back despite allowing 60.6 percent shooting in the second half.

The above bullet points illustrate LSU’s clear case of split-personality disorder. Within the span of a lone game, they can at once appear doomed, a team clearly part of the SEC’s lesser lights. Yet they also possess enough grit — and raw talent — to overcome their flaws: a defensive intensity that comes-and-goes, smaller guards that can settle for jump shots, and a stagnant offense when Johnny O’Bryant III heads to the bench with foul trouble.

No matter your feelings on LSU’s season, there’s evidence to support both sides in a debate. So, the question ahead of their second-round tilt against the Crimson Tide in the SEC tournament is which persona wins the tug of war.

“You focus on what’s ahead,” guard Andre Stringer said Wednesday. “You can’t think about the past. We understand things happened, but this is a challenge that’s been placed in front of us, and it’s time for us to go out and execute and go on to win.”

Clearly, LSU coach Johnny Jones wants to accentuate “the positive things that really happened to us to this” and “how close we were on some other situations.”

Will today’s display mimic their dominant displays in Baton Rouge against KentuckyArkansas and Texas A&M? Or evoke irksome memories of road flops in Tuscaloosa, Oxford and College Station? What about playing in the largely sterile environment inside the Georgia Dome when the Tigers clearly thrive on a crowd’s energy?

“It starts inside our locker room,” O’Bryant said Wednesday. “You got to get your team pumped up. We are ready to play. We are really ready to come out and play. And that’s where it starts: Inside our locker room.”

Can LSU, a team allowing a dismal 78.3 points and worrisome 45.6 percent shooting in road games, find a way to clamp down Thursday?

“It’s refocusing, watching more film on your free time, knowing the player that you are going up against better,” Stringer said. “We played (Alabama) a couple times before, so it’s all about just executing and doing it.”

The ramifications are dicey if the Tigers’, who might be a dark horse behind top-seed Florida and No. 4 seed Tennessee, season ends today. The past week has made it clear LSU, a program that started the year with buzz of ending a NCAA tournament drought stretching back four years, could very well miss the NIT.

Yet the inverse is also possible: A string of victories that propels LSU into extending its stay over the weekend. The matchups against Alabama, Kentucky and, potentially, No. 6 seed Ole Miss or third-seeded Georgia are ones the Tigers could exit on top.

On Monday, Jones was tossed the usual question this time of the Gregorian calendar about whether his team needs to play as if its sturdy backs are pressed against a wall.

His reply: A little bit of both.

“We need to be playing at a certain level,” Jones told reporters. “When you have your back against the wall there is a certain sense of urgency that you have. That looseness is that you’re not putting too much pressure on yourself in terms of being able to perform that you’re playing too tight.”

 

The Info

  • When: 6 p.m. today.
  • Where: Georgia Dome, Atlanta.
  • Records: No. 7 LSU 18-12; No. 10 Alabama (13-18)
  • TV: WBXH (Dave Neal, Jon Sunvold).
  • Series: Alabama leads 103-68.
  • Last Meeting: Alabama won 82-80 on Jan. 25, 2014, in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

The Stats

NOTE: The NCAA updates its statistical page only once a week, so I’ve decided to forgo using the rankings given that it doesn’t provide a real-time idea of where LSU stands. KenPom.com has player breakdowns and usage stats, so I’ll utilize those metrics in the Players to Watch section. If you have questions about the statistical categories, head here

LSU

Offense:

  • Points Per Game: 75.6
  • FG %: 44.3
  • 3FG%: 33.4
  • FT%: 68.0
  • Rebounds Per Game: 40.0
  • Assists Per Game: 14.1
  • Turnovers Per Game: 13.9
  • Adjusted Efficiency: 108.8 (No. 94)
  • Adjusted Tempo: 70.6 (No. 24)
  • Avg. Poss. Length: 16.9 (No. 63)
  • Effective FG%: 49.7 (No. 160)
  • Turnover %: 19.4 (No. 254)
  • Off. Reb %: 36.0 (No. 35)
  • FTA/FGA: 34.8 (No. 305)

Defense:

  • Points Allowed Per Game: 71.3
  • FG% D: 40.9
  • 3FG% D: 36.1
  • FT%: 71.7
  • Rebounds Allowed Per Game: 36.3
  • Rebound Margin: +3.7
  • Assists Allowed Per Game: 11.0
  • Turnovers Forced Per Game: 13.2
  • Adjusted Efficiency: 99.3 (No. 86)
  • Avg. Poss. Length: 17.1 (No. 35)
  • Effective FG% D: 46.1 (No. 52)
  • Turnover %: 18.5 (No. 166)
  • Off. Reb. %: 31.5 (No. 176)
  • FTA/FGA: 38.6 (No. 135)

Alabama

Offense:

  • Points Per Game: 68.2
  • FG %: 44.7
  • 3FG%: 33.6
  • FT%: 69.1
  • Rebounds Per Game: 32.9
  • Assists Per Game: 11.1
  • Turnovers Per Game: 12.0
  • Adjusted Efficiency: 103.9 (No. 192)
  • Adjusted Tempo: 63.3 (No. No. 317)
  • Avg. Poss. Length: 19.2 (No. 298)
  • Effective FG%: 49.5 (No. 176)
  • Turnover %: 20.5 (No. 301)
  • Off. Reb %: 30.3 (No. 214)
  • FTA/FGA: 42.8 (No. 107)

Defense:

  • Points Allowed Per Game: 67.2
  • FG% D: 41.6
  • 3FG% D: 30.0
  • FT%: 74.9
  • Rebounds Allowed Per Game: 34.8
  • Rebound Margin: -1.9
  • Assists Allowed Per Game: 11.7
  • Turnovers Forced Per Game: 12.9
  • Adjusted Efficiency: 99.5 (No. 73)
  • Avg. Poss. Length:  18.1 (No. 215)
  • Effective FG% D: 46.6 (No. 61)
  • Turnover %: 19.3 (No. 110)
  • Off. Reb. %: 34.5 (No. 304)
  • FTA/FGA: 42.1 (No. 213)

 The Breakdown

Here, we look at three areas that may determine the game’s outcome. Stats are pulled from the most recent game notes, while advanced metrics are taken from kenpom.com or hoop-math.com.

  • Make Releford irrelevant: This point is obvious. The senior, who has averaged 18.8 points and shot 50.5 percent from the floor, drives the Crimson Tide. In the first meeting with LSU, he had a ho-hum 21 points, and 17 of those came in the first half as the Tide nearly ran the Tigers out of the gym. So, it would seem apparent to Jones and Co. to stop him. Releford, though, presents a conundrum: He can attack the rim, shooting 41.0 percent of his shots at the tin and making 65.3 percent of those attempts. But he can also stretch the Tigers’ zone, hitting 39.7 percent behind the 3-point line. LSU appears intent on making him beat them from distance, or so they say. “The biggest thing is to keep him out of the lane,” LSU guard Anthony Hickey said. “They set a lot of screens to get him inside, so we just need to find him on the floor.” Does that mean solo coverage? LSU doesn’t switch screens, but in typical fashion now the Tide set a lot screens directly behind a player to let a guard plow downhill. “I’m sure we’re to try and lock him in the middle, and make someone else make plays,” Hickey said. Or think of it this way, too: “Staying attached,” guard Andre Stringer said. “Realizing where he is on the floor and not giving him easy shot selections, not letting him get out on the break and do what he does in the fast break. It’s a number of things.”
  • Outrun the Tide: The Tigers slashed-and-burned the Tide’s sizable lead by rolling out the press in Tuscaloosa. Not only did it generate points, but it got the Tigers six more possessions — 39, to be exact — than they had in the first half. It also yielded 11 more shots the Tigers than the Tide. Bama doesn’t want to run. They want to turn the game into wood chipper that chews up and spits out opponents. On Wednesday, Tide coach Anthony Grant hinted transition defense will be an area of importance. “Our ability to take care of the basketball and try to limit them from getting in transition (is key),” Grant said. Now, there’s the small matter of the Tigers’ bench being shorter since guard Malik Morgan, a 6-3 sophomore guard, went down with a torn patellar tendon in his knee against Auburn last month. It stripped the Tigers of another body, and length vital on the front of the press. “We don’t have a whole lot of options unfortunately right now because we’re only playing about seven guys right now,” Jones said. “This time of year games are so close and minutes are so important that it comes down to seconds and making plays. It becomes extremely tough. You’d like to try to find some time to get a little bit deeper maybe in your rotation.”  Still, the Tigers have managed to press during segments of games between spans of five minutes to 10 minutes, often when Jones wants to get LSU’s offense spurred in the open floor — the Tigers get 24.3 percent of their shots in transition, per hoop-math.com — or take slow teams out of their normal rhythm. It may mimic Arkansas’ brand of full-bore pressure, but keep an eye on when the Tigers deploy their own form of badgering. ”I believe we can press the whole game, but it will be coach’s call,” Hickey said. “We’ve got enough depth that we can swap in and out the whole game.”
  • (Puts on broken record) Again, defend the 3-point arc. LSU may well have won in Tuscaloosa had it not been for the Tigers’ on-going struggle to rotate, close out and contest teams firing away from long-range. The Tigers were dead last in the SEC by giving up 39.6 percent shooting from behind the arc. In Tuscaloosa, the Tide canned 7 of 9 3-pointers in the second half, and it wasn’t Releford wreaking havoc. Rodney Cooper hit all four of the ones he hoisted up. Hale went 3 of 4, the last one putting Alabama up for good. I’ll put it this way, if LSU holds Bama to 45.0 percent shooting inside the arc (the Tigers’ average and fifth in the SEC), they will have a chance if the Tide hit under 35.0 percent of their attempts from deep. Now the question is whether the Tigers, a team that struggles mightily on the road, actually execute.

The Players

In this section, we pick out a player for each side that could be pivotal or interesting to watch. It’s not always a starter or a star, either. 

LSU

  • G Andre Stringer, Sr., 5-10, 190 pounds: The Tide’s zone gave LSU fits at points in the paint last time they met. I detailed this a little bit in Wednesday’s notebook, but Bama made Johnny O’Bryant III and Jordan Mickey play in a ton of traffic and clutter on the block. They went just 4 of 11 for a combined nine points. The solution is to stretch out Tide by punishing them from long distance. So, I’ll pick Stringer. He’s shooting 39.0 percent in road games this season from behind the arc. Hickey is at 37.5 percent, and it will be interesting to see which gets more open looks. Bama’s Retin Obasohan is a decent defender and may shadow Stringer, but he’s accustom to the attention. A big night from Stringer (or any Tigers perimeter player) is on Grant’s mind, too. “They have two dynamic guards that can really stretch you with the way they shoot the ball,” he said.

Alabama

  • F Shannon Hale, Fr., 6-8, 220: This was a run off with Rodney Cooper, who has put together some quality offensive nights, and Jimmie Taylor, a freshman filling in for the absent Nick Jacobs. Hale’s a pick-and-pop risk hitting 34.9 percent of his 3-pointers. Inside the arc, though, he’s shooting 49.5 percent, but only 32.5 percent of those looks come in the paints. If you can lure LSU’s bigs away or put them in a bind on whether to scramble back to help or protect the rim, Hale poses a threat. Granted, I like how Taylor has filled in as a post defender, but the Tide need some production from its big men scoring-wise to alleviate pressure on Releford, Cooper and Levi Randolph.

The Line

KenPom Prediction: LSU 70, Alabama 69 (57-percent confidence).

O’Bryant lands on All-SEC team on big day for LSU’s front court trio

Johnny O’Bryant III was named to the All-SEC team on Tuesday, nabbing the honor a second-consecutive season.

O’Bryant, a 6-9, 256-pound junior, averaged 15.6 points and 7.9 rebounds per game this season for the Tigers, who open up the SEC tournament Thursday against Alabama.

The Cleveland, Miss., native is ninth in the SEC in scoring and fourth in rebounds, and he has eight double-doubles this season along with 25 for his career.

O’Bryant wasn’t alone in picking up accolades from SEC coaches on Tuesday morning. Freshman forward Jordan Mickey was picked second-team All-SEC, and landed on the conference’s All-Defensive team. Additionally, he and fellow Tigers freshman Jarell Martin were named to the All-Freshman team.

Mickey, who hails from Dallas, averaged 13.0 points per game and 7.6 rebounds with a league leading 96 blocks during the year.  He leads the league in block average both overall and in the SEC and his shooting percentage of 53.3 percent is second in the SEC. His rebound average is fifth overall in the SEC.

Martin posted 10.2 points per game this season, but bumped that to 11.4 points per game during conference play. The last time two LSU freshmen made the first-year team was 2006 when Tasmin Mitchell and Tyrus Thomas were selected.

LSU Lady Tigers snap 6-game losing streak with 78-65 SEC tourney win over Alabama

DULUTH, Ga. – Shanece McKinney and Danielle Ballard each scored 18 points and Theresa Plaisance recorded a double-double as the LSU Lady Tigers snapped out of a nightmarish six-game losing streak Thursday with a 78-65 victory over Alabama in second round of the SEC Tournament.

No. 10-seeded LSU, winning for the first time in exactly one month, improved to 19-11. The Lady Tigers advanced to face No. 2-seeded Tennessee at 5 p.m. CST Friday in the SEC quarterfinals.

No. 7 Alabama, which beat LSU 78-60 in Tuscaloosa on Sunday to close out the regular season, finished 14-16 in its first season under Louisiana native and former Louisiana Tech assistant Kristy Curry.

Running and sinking shots at a pace rarely seen in their recent outings, the Lady Tigers built a 25-point lead midway through the second half after leading 34-27 at halftime.

Alabama cut the deficit to 10 at one point but LSU pulled away at the free throw line.

McKinney also had a career-high 10 rebounds to go with her 18 points on 8 of 9 shooting and recorded four of LSU’s eight blocks.

Jeanne Kenney had 16 points while Plaisance, LSU’s All-SEC forward, had 12 points and 12 rebounds for her 16th career double-double.

LSU split with Tennessee in the regular season. The Lady Tigers won 80-77 on Jan. 2 in Knoxville and lost 72-67 to the Lady Volunteers at home. LSU rallied in that game from a 21-point halftime deficit to tie the score 59-59 with 3½ minutes left before Tennessee hit a couple of clutch baskets for the win.

The victory over Alabama likely erased any doubts of LSU’s NCAA tournament hopes. The Lady Tigers still possess the nation’s No. 12 RPI and No. 1-ranked strength of schedule.

LSU will host first- and second-round NCAA Tournament games March 23 and 25 at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

Victories by Arkansas and Tennessee set LSU’s SEC ceiling at sixth place

Not much is certain in terms of sorting out the SEC.

But LSU can enter its final two games knowing it will need to reel off four wins in as many days next week at the conference tournament in Atlanta.

How so?

Arkansas (21-9, 10-7) and Tennessee (19-11, 10-7) both won Wednesday, meaning they can finish no worse than 10-8 in the regular season. Missouri (21-9, 9-8) led for all of 7.3 seconds, but fended off Texas A&M in a 57-56 victory to put 10 wins in play, too. LSU, for its part, could also sweep its final two games to finish with the same record.

No matter how you slice it, though, the tiebreakers don’t tilt in LSU’s favor.

Let’s look them over.

Scenario 1: Assume Missouri beats Tennessee, Alabama upsets Arkansas, and LSU takes down Georgia. This is the cluttered result:

  • Tennessee: 10-8
  • Arkansas: 10-8
  • LSU: 10-8
  • Missouri: 10-8

Under SEC tiebreaker rules, the group’s cumulative record against one another sorts out a pecking order. Missouri would be 4-1, earning the No. 4 seed. Tennessee and LSU would 2-2, with the Vols earning the No. 5 seed based on their head-to-head win over the Tigers. Arkansas would be the No. 7 seed with a 1-4 mark.

Scenario 2: Arkansas beats Alabama, Tennessee falls to Mizzou and LSU wins. Here’s the grid:

  • Arkansas: 11-7
  • Tennessee: 10-8
  • LSU: 10-8
  • Missouri: 10-8

Nothing changes, either. Mizzou would sit at  2-1 against LSU and UT, earning the No. 5 seed. LSU is 1-1, picking up the sixth seed. Tennessee would 1-2, and slotted as the No. 7 seed in Atlanta.

Scenario 3: Tennessee tops Missouri, Arkansas defeats Alabama, and LSU wins.

  • Tennessee: 11-7
  • Arkansas: 10-8
  • LSU: 10-8
  • Missouri: 9-9

This is easy to see unfolding. Arkansas and LSU split their season series, so we move on to another SEC tiebreaker to decide who is fifth and sixth in the standings. Under SEC procedures, the tie is broken based on who has a better record against the best team in the conference. If the tie still exists, you move down to the next team in the standings. So, LSU and Arkansas both lost once to Florida, and we move along to their records against Kentucky. The Razorbacks swept UK, while LSU split — painfully, too — with the Wildcats. As a result, UA is the No. 5 seed. LSU is slotted in the sixth position.

I don’t want to fathom the plethora of scenarios for the Tigers if they finish 9-9 when the regular season ends Saturday. But it’s clear LSU isn’t pushing for a double-bye anymore. If the Tigers are going to make a run, the best position they can attain is a No. 6 seed.

LSU Lady Tigers No. 10 seed in SEC tourney, to face Bama in rematch

LSU will be the No. 10 seed in this week’s SEC women’s basketball tournament and will turn around and play No. 7-seeded Alabama.

Tipoff is set for 5 p.m. CT at the Gwinnett Center in Duluth, Ga. The winner plays Tennessee in Friday’s quarterfinals, also at 5 p.m. CT.

LSU (18-11, 7-9 SEC) fell 78-60 at Alabama on Sunday to end the regular season with six straight losses and their seventh defeat in their last eight games. Alabama is 14-15 and 7-9.

LSU and Alabama wound up in a five-way tie for sixth place with Vanderbilt, Georgia and Auburn in the final SEC standings. LSU dropped to the 10th seed because it was only 1-3 against the other teams it was tied with having only beaten Auburn.

Here are the final SEC standings and seedings:

1. South Carolina (26-3, 14-2) – Friday in quarterfinals vs.

2. Tennessee (24-5, 13-3) – Friday in quarterfinals vs.

3. Texas A&M (23-7, 13-3) – Friday in quarterfinals vs.

4. Kentucky (22-7, 10-6) – Friday in quarterfinals vs.

5. Florida (18-11, 8-8) – Thursday in second round vs.

6. Auburn (16-13, 7-9) – Thursday in second round vs.

7. Alabama (14-15, 7-9) – Thursday in second round vs. LSU, 5 p.m. CT

8. Vanderbilt (18-11, 7-9) – Thursday in second round vs. Georgia

9. Georgia (19-10, 7-9) – Thursday in second round vs. Vanderbilt

10. LSU (18-11, 7-9) – Thursday in second round vs. Alabama, 5 p.m. CT

11. Arkansas (19-10, 6-10) – Wednesday in first round vs. Ole Miss

12. Missouri (17-12, 6-10) – Wednesday in first round vs. Miss. State

13. Miss. State (18-12, 5-11) – Wednesday in first round vs. Missouri

14. Ole Miss (11-19, 2-14) – Wednesday in first round vs. Arkansas

LSU Lady Tigers’ massive rally comes up short vs. Tennessee, 72-67

A massive second-half comeback by the LSU Lady Tigers came up short against archrival Tennessee on Thursday night, as LSU fell by a score of 72-67.

LSU trailed by 21 points, 42-21, at halftime, but rallied to force a tie at 59-59 with 3:28 left.

But No. 10-ranked Tennessee answered led by 31 points from Meighan Simmons, who hit a huge 3-pointer to put her team up 68-63 with 56 seconds left.

The loss was LSU’s fifth straight and sixth in their last seven games, the program’s longest losing streak since dropping six in a row during the 1994-95 season. LSU is now 18-10 overall and 7-8 in the SEC.

Tennessee improved to 23-5 and 12-3.

Seniors Jeanne Kenney and Theresa Plaisance, playing their final regular-season home games, led LSU with 21 and 20 points, respectively. Fellow senior Shanece McKinney had four points.

LSU wraps up the regular season Sunday at Alabama then heads to Duluth, Ga., next week for the SEC tournament. Despite its recent losing streak, the Lady Tigers will likely play in the NCAA tournament at home when they host first- and second-round games March 23 and 25.