Lagniappe: Sifting out tidbits after LSU’s marathon with Bama

Advocate staff photo by CATHERINE THRELKELD — LSU guard Malik Morgan and Alabama guard Retin Obasohan fight for the ball during the game between LSU and Alabama Saturday at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

Twenty-four hours removed from the Tiger’s 97-94 victory against Bama, there’s still some tidbits to process after the PMAC’s first ever triple-overtime affair.

The Three-Pointer

First, it’s hard to believe the 42-year old arena hasn’t hosted one, but the Deaf Dome now owns that distinction.

Second, ice baths are the chore of the day for six players from both rosters that logged 40-plus minutes:

  • LSU guard Charles Carmouche: 54
  • LSU forward Johnny O’Bryant: 51
  • Alabama guard Trevor Releford: 50
  • Alabama guard Trevor Lacey: 43
  • Alabama guard Rodney Cooper: 42
  • LSU guard Anthony Hickey: 42

Talk about extremes for Carmouche, who only logged 3 minutes at Tennessee after being sat town after an in-game tiff with Tigers assistants. Ironically, his average for the week lands at 28.5 — only five minutes above his figure for the season — but coming in a way that touched both ends of a Bell Curve.

It’s also likely Hickey would have topped the 50-minute plateau, but Jones sat him from the 11:32 mark until 2:11 left in the second half. Afterward, Jones clarified his wasn’t trying to send a message to Hickey, who at times was matched up with Releford as the Bama sophomore racked up 29 points in 34 minutes.

Here’s Jones’ response from a post-game presser:

“Absolutely not. It was just a decision I had to make because he was playing hesitant. He plays so hard, and I just wasn’t sure what it was going on with him. The aggressiveness wasn’t there at times. I had to get him out and allow him to look at the game a little bit. He hadn’t done anything wrong.”

Only reading between the lines there’s another hint: Jones wants Hickey, the Tigers’ quickest guard and fastest in the open floor, to get North-South to the rim more and create. It’s a desire Jones hinted at a couple weeks ago, and seems to be lingering.

Not to veer to far astray on a tangent, but an driving Hickey wouldn’t hurt, either. On the season, he averages 4.2 fouls drawn per 40 minutes, according to kenpom.com. By comparison, the SEC leaders average at least six per game. They’re listed below:

  1. Charles Mann, UGA, 6.8
  2.  Jarnell Stokes, UT, 6.5
  3.  Michael Carrera, USC, 6.1
  4. Trae Golden, UT, 6.1
  5. Archie Goodwin, UK, 6.1

Correlation doesn’t always mean causation, but if you look at SEC squads that shoot the most free throws in relation to field goal attempts the top three are Georgia (48.5 percent), Kentucky (47.3 percent) and Tennessee (44.0). Where is LSU? The Tigers rank No. 12 at 30.2 percent. Translation: If Hickey can find a way to get into the paint, it obviously forces a defense to collapse and raises the potential for a foul by a help-side defender. Or it leaves a chance for O’Bryant to receive a feed and draw contact when his primary defender tries to recover after the dish. Finally, if Hickey pitches out to a slasher such as Shavon Coleman (an undersized stretch four player), it can create a seam to drive against a slower on-ball defender and enhance the probability of a foul. This isn’t a revelation, but merely a statistically-backed observation.

On the bench, Hickey said he watched the ebb and flow of the game and wasn’t peeved at the move.

“Just staying engaged,” Hickey said. “Coach made his decision to sit me out for a little bit, catch my breath. And just watching them and cheering them on waiting for my turn to be called. I just kept pushing them while I was on the sideline. You gotta have faith in your team.”

Closing out the talk of minutes and how they were apportioned, there’s the obvious concern about how much Jones turns the vise in practice over the next couple days. It’s also pressing because Arkansas (17-10, 8-6) arrives Wednesday. The Razorbacks are devotees of the renewed 40 Minutes of Hell installed by former UA assistant and current head coach Mike Anderson, and they live up to the imposing title. Arkansas averages 71.1 possessions per game, which is No. 14 among 347 NCAA Division I programs.

I can’t think of a worse gift than to have to draw a foe that wants to run more than LSU. Any concern, though, stems solely from the volume of minutes and not the pace on Saturday. What’s the difference? LSU had roughly 86 offensive possessions (based on traditional formulas), and here’s how those broke down:

  • First Half: 34.8
  • Second Half: 30.4
  • First OT: 6.0
  • Second OT: 5.8
  • Third OT: 8.8
  • Total: 85.8
The first half conformed to LSU’s average pace of 69 possessions per game, but regressed back toward Alabama’s desired 62 trips after that. If we look at the 15 minutes of extra time, the two teams were sluggish, on pace for 54.9 possessions over a full game.
Conclusion: LSU wasn’t playing at an open-throttle pace all day, which is a sign of relief. In reality, it took the Tigers 45 minutes to clear the number of possessions Arkansas racks up in regulation. And the bulk of those nine possessions in overtime were spent at the free-throw line. So, really the second overtime — a mere five minutes — is truly extra exertion.

Those 51 minutes take a toll on your body. I’m pretty beat down, but I’m just going to get into the cold tub.”

My guess is LSU gets off today, has a lighter workout Monday with scout work, a full-scale practice Tuesday, and a game-day walk through on Wednesday. 
Third, Andre Stringer’s contributions didn’t fit into the confines of my game story today, but merit mentioning after an odd week for the junior.
On Tuesday, he was torched in guarding UT’s Jordan McCrae, who scored a career-high 34 points and hit 6 of 6  3-pointers. Three days ago, Stringer and Hickey to some blame in the matter, saying they needed to do a better job fighting through curl and stagger screens that allowed McCrae and teammate Trae Golden to get open. Offensively, Stringer gimped to eight points on 3 of 8 shooting in Knoxville.
Saturday, Stringer entered the first overtime with this stat line: 0-2, 0 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists. Three extra periods later, this is what it was: 3 of 5, 10 points, 3 of 3 on 3-pointers, 4 rebounds, 4 assists. In total, Stringer represented 35 percent of LSU’s scoring output, while O’Bryant’s 14 points were half of LSU’s production.
Not too shabby, eh?
 “I’ve got a team full of guys that make the right plays and make the right passes,” Stringer said “I try to take the shots that show up to me. Early on, I didn’t see areas where I had good looks. I didn’t to force it. Late in the game, I was able to knock them down based on Hickey’s penetration, ball movement and (Bama’s defense) trapping Johnny. I guess they kind of forgot about me, and I was able to get free.”

The Player

Trevor Releford, guard, Alabama: The sophomore scored 36 points on stunningly efficient 14 of 18 shooting. On its face, that’s easy to see as impressive. Yet look at what the rest of the Tide did: 21 of 58 shooting, including 4 of 17 behind the arc, and just 58 points. Guard Rodney Cooper scored 18 points, but it took a 7 of 22 shooting effort to get there. Yes, LSU won, but Releford controlled the flow of the game at times. In the first half, Releford tallied  14 of Bama’s 17 points over seven minutes in the first half to build a 33-31 lead. Meanwhile, he came back from a two minute rest on the bench at scored eight points three minutes to help Bama build a 64-54 lead. Or, put another way, he racked up 22 of his points in only 11 minutes. Stellar.

The Race

After Saturday, LSU sits alone in eighth place in the SEC, and the Hogs’ arrival at the PMAC couldn’t be more timely. The Tigers sit a game back in the standings, and a victory over Arkansas would create a tie for seventh in the league. Both teams would have identical overall win percentages of .629, but the Razorbacks would maintain the No. 7 seed, since they have a 1-1 record versus current top-seed Florida; LSU lost to the Gators by 12 points early January.

Still, it’s a critical week for the Tigers, who also trek to a flummoxing Missouri (19-8, 8-6), a team that is undefeated at home but putrid on the road. It remains a critical opportunity, though, to try and make headway in SEC tournament seedings. UT (16-10, 8-6), which has won five in a row, hosts Florida on Tuesday and travel to Georgia on Saturday. Let’s look at KenPom.com and its predictions for the week:

Tennessee: L vs. Florida, W at Georgia for a projected 17-11, 9-7 mark

Arkansas: W at LSU, L vs. Kentucky for a projected 17-11, 9-7 mark

LSU: L vs. Arkansas, L at Missouri for a projected 16-12, 7-9 mark

Arkansas has been awful on the road this season, going 1-6 in SEC games away from Bud Walton Arena. How bad? Anderson’s team is getting hammered in road games by an average margin of minus-13.5 points. It’s even worse when you consider UA is winning home games by 12.1 points. In effect, there’s a 25.6 point swing in scoring margin between home and road for the Razorbacks. As for LSU, their road scoring margin is minus-1.9, and their home scoring margin sits at a skinny plus-0.3. It adds up to a game where Arkansas isn’t facing a dominant home team, and LSU is drawing a group Auburn coach Tony Barbee said this season “plays less assertive” on the road. Put simply, it’s a toss-up, and the Tigers need it if they hope to realistically make a push out of the No. 8 seed and a potential second-round date with the SEC’s No. 1 seed.

The Track

On occasion, I’ll offer up a selected track as part of my Sunday post to send you away with a door prize for reading the blog.

This week, the selection is a new single from Scottish electropop group CHVRCHES called “Recover” and seems fitting given what went on yesterday at the Maravich Assembly Center.