The Tigers went to an opposing team’s court (half a world away, no less) and played better than they have all season the road. LSU was led by a fiery Jarell Martin in the first half to a 71-63 victory over the San Francisco Dons. The Tigers typical inability to defend the 3 was notable absent, as the Dons lofted up 23 from long range, connecting on only 3. Clutch shooting from Andre Stringer, Anthony Hickey, Shavon Coleman, and Tim Quarterman from beyond the arc in the second half let LSU build some breathing room en route to opening a 16-point lead in the second half.
Yes, the Tiger effort wained as the moments drew down after that large lead, but LSU was able to hold off the Dons. LSU didn’t play perfect basketball like we saw them play for a stretch in mid-February, but it was enough to get the job done and cinch a key postseason victory for Johnny Jones. Yes, this is the NIT, but for a team that hadn’t won a postseason game since 08-09 it’s huge for future building purposes. A few more notes past the jump.
Jarell Martin came out in the first half looking like a different player. Perhaps declaring his desire to return for his sophomore season took some pressure of him or what have you, but Martin played fantastic ball, logging 14 points in the first half alone. Gone was the guy who settled for the awkward outside shot. Martin took the ball to the rack with authority & USF had no answer for him. Seeing that type of play is encouraging for next year, when more will be expected of him.
The Tigers could have gone inside even more, but lapsed into their habit of settling for easy jumpers on a couple of occasions. LSU holds a decided advantage inside on most nights and against USF it was no different. There’s no reason why they should be taking low-percentage shots and not pounding it inside. USF out rebounded LSU, which speaks to the effort inside. LSU had the advantage; they should have exploited it more.
LSU now turns to face Southern Methodist, coached by legend Larry Brown. The Mustangs were in a fight with UCI for most of their first round game, before taking control late in the second half. SMU, had they played a tougher schedule, would have been in the NCAA tournament. Brown’s team poses a distinct challenge for LSU and they’ll have the advantage of the home court. LSU looked like a team that didn’t mind being on the road for the first time this season against USF, they’ll need to play the same way against SMU if they want to carry on.
Game 2 will be on ESPN Monday night at 8pm.