The LSU Tigers will attempt to turn their season around Tuesday night when they visit Thompson-Boling Arena to face the Tennessee Volunteers.
LSU (13-9, 2-6) had high hopes coming into the season after last year’s regular season SEC title, followed by their Cinderella run to the Final Four. However, the Tigers are feeling the effects of losing 2005-06 SEC Freshman of the Year forward Tyrus Thomas and senior guard Darrel Mitchell. LSU has lost its last five games and is coming closer each game to having its NCAA tournament bubble busted. After Saturday’s loss at Mississippi State, the Tigers find themselves in the cellar of the SEC West at 2-6 yet only two games behind Alabama, who is in first.
The Tigers are led by last season’s SEC Player of the Year Glen “Big Baby” Davis. Davis is averaging a double-double, leading the team in scoring with 18.5 points per game and rebounding with 10.3 per game. Tennessee (15-8, 3-5) coach Bruce Pearl knows all about the 6-foot-9, 295-pound forward.
“He’s a great player, and he makes everyone else around him better,” Pearl said. “He’s a load to guard one-on-one.”
LSU has a good supporting cast for Davis, which makes the team’s underachieving that much more bizarre.
Second on the team in the scoring and rebounding columns is sophomore Tasmin Mitchell, who might have won SEC Freshman of the Year last season had it not been for Thomas. Mitchell, a 6-foot-7 forward, is averaging 13.6 points and 6.3 rebounds per game.
Another key player for the Tigers is sophomore point guard Garrett Temple. Temple is leading the team with four assists per game and is one of the best on-the-ball defenders in the conference. Temple held Duke All-American J.J. Redick to just 3-17 shooting in last year’s Sweet Sixteen match-up as LSU marched past the top-ranked Blue Devils.
Even with the production from those three, there have been a couple disappointments thus far for the Tigers. Senior forward Darnell Lazare has not contributed nearly as much as LSU coach John Brady would have liked. Lazare stepped up for the Tigers in the NCAA Tournament last season but has only provided modest numbers this season.
Another disappointment for LSU has been guard Tack Minor. Minor missed all but three games of the 2005-06 season because of a school-related suspension followed by an MCL tear in his third game. This season Minor played a reserve role, providing little contribution, and left the team in the middle of last week.
This game has equal significance to both LSU and UT because neither team can afford another conference loss. With added importance for this game, Pearl has reportedly said that Chris Lofton’s availability is probable.
“I think he’s got the best chance to play Tuesday than any of the other games,” he said.
Freshman forward Wayne Chism said the Vols will have to execute much better against LSU than they did Sunday at Florida.
“We have to come out and play hard, hit easy shots and rebound better,” Chism said.
Tigers look to end slump
Published: Tue Feb 06, 2007 | Modified: Tue Feb 06, 2007 03:34 p.m.