Last Wednesday at the Maravich Center the LSU Tigers got off the mat and notched their first Southeastern Conference victory. Not only is that cause for hope, but the Tigers also gave Kentucky all they could ask for Saturday afternoon in Rupp Arena. The game was tied with only minutes remaining, before UK got the shots they needed to fall and LSU didn't. The Tigers rode their wave from the A&M victory to that fantastic performance in Lexington. So is there hope for this basketball season after all?
LSU 58, Texas A&M 54: You have no idea how good it feels to put LSU's name first in that bold text. LSU improved to 1-4 in conference play with their first SEC victory under Johnny Jones against the Aggies. In a game in which the statistics go both ways, the fact that LSU shot 19 more times than A&M ultimately gave LSU more chances to win. The Tigers again couldn't buy a free throw, shooting a paltry 42% from the charity stripe and managing under 22% shooting from beyond the arc. LSU's third in its triple-pack of weaknesses, turnovers, proved to be the spot on the evening, as LSU committed only 11 to A&M's 24 and Anthony Hickey continued on his steal-em-all campaign racking up eight more. This game wasn't much different than the previous four conference games, but LSU got the buckets to fall at the end where it counts. This game has improved the teams confidence tremendously, as we'll see that LSU rode that momentum right into Lexington.
Kentucky 75, LSU 70: This game was closer than even the score suggests. LSU came back from double-digits down in the first half to make it a one-point game with seconds remaining. LSU played a sound game, shot decently and managed turnovers fairly well. JOB was a man on a mission, tallying 21 points before it was all over. Anthony Hickey added 15 of his own, relishing every moment playing against the man, Calipari, that didn't even recruit him coming out of his Kentucky high school. The Tigers shot under 40% for the game, but shot 40% from outside and figured out that hey, you can get easy points from the free-throw line, shooting 80%. The Tigers did most things well in this game putting together a sound effort. The problem was the game was against Kentucky, who even though is not having the season they thought they'd have, is still vastly more talented than LSU.
You have to wonder how a close heartbreaker like that will affect a team, whether it be positive or negative. I personally believe it becomes whatever the coaching staff turns it into. With the right motivation, this could be a sign of life from this basketball team and not one that should be given up on just yet.
The difficulty is that one of the few ranked teams in the SEC, Missouri, comes into the Maravich Center this week. LSU's chances will be much like they were against Florida–bad. They will need to weather another storm and keep the confidence up to get the victories that are possibly down the stretch.