Johnny Jones

LSU forward Ben Simmons (25) drives past Arkansas forward Moses Kingsley (33) during an NCAA college basketball game against LSU in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016. (Hilary Scheinuk/The Advocate via AP)   MAGS OUT; INTERNET OUT; NO SALES; TV OUT; NO FORNS; LOUISIANA BUSINESS INC. OUT (INCLUDING GREATER BATON ROUGE BUSINESS REPORT, 225, 10/12, INREGISTER, LBI CUSTOM); MANDATORY CREDIT
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Ben Simmons becomes LSU’s second-ever top overall draft pick

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Thursday night the worst-kept secret in the 2016 NBA Draft became official news, as the Philadelphia 76ers selected former LSU forward Ben Simmons with the top overall pick. Simmons was expected by many to be taken first overall, and with his selection he becomes the second LSU product to be taken first overall in an NBA Draft.

The first was Hall of Fame center Shaquille O’Neal, who was taken by the Orlando Magic in 1992. In total nine former LSU players have been top five draft picks in program history, with Bob Pettit (1954) and Stromile Swift (2000) going second overall in their respective drafts.

Simmons posted gaudy numbers in his lone season at LSU, averaging 22.0 points, 13.5 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 2.3 steals per game despite the absence of a perimeter shot. And the team wasn’t as successful as expected either, as the Tigers failed to qualify for the 2016 NCAA tournament and sat out postseason play.

LSU coach: Tigers won’t play in any postseason tourneys

NASHVILLE, TN - MARCH 12:  Ben Simmons #25 of the LSU Tigers stands on the court after being charged with a technical foul in the game against the Texas A&M Aggies during the semifinals of the SEC Tournament at Bridgestone Arena on March 12, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) LSU freshman Ben Simmons’ college career could be finished.

Coach Johnny Jones announced Sunday that the Tigers will not participate in a postseason tournament after being left out of the NCAA field.

The Tigers (19-14) finished in a tie for third place in the Southeastern Conference for the second straight year. They failed to play up to expectations created by the arrival of Simmons, who might declare for the upcoming NBA draft.

Jones says LSU “will be able to utilize this time to get better and start preparations for next season.” The coach says the Tigers fell short of their mark of getting to the NCAA Tournament and he takes full responsibility, adding he’ll do what is necessary to ensure LSU accomplishes one of its main goals in the future.

LSU’s Ben Simmons playing with finger injury on shooting hand

FILE - In this Nov. 24, 2015, file photo, LSU forward Ben Simmons (25) drives downcourt as teammate Antonio Blakeney (2) follows in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against North Carolina State in New York. For all of his gaudy numbers, Simmons is still trying to figure out the best way to put the Tigers in position to win. And now the schedule gets harder, starting with Tuesday night's, Dec. 29, 2015, tilt against Wake Forest, followed by the opening of Southeastern Conference play against Vanderbilt and No. 10 Kentucky. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File)
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In the aftermath of LSU’s home loss to Alabama Wednesday night, head coach Johnny Jones noted that his best player has been playing at less than full strength.

Thursday afternoon Jones stated to the media that freshman forward Ben Simmons has been playing with an injured finger on his left hand according to Sheldon Mickles of The Advocate. It’s unknown which finger Simmons injured and when the injury occurred, with Jones not providing any clarity on either front Thursday.

When asked during his twice-weekly media availability if Simmons was playing with an injury, Jones said, “Yes, it happened a couple of games ago. It’s on his shooting hand.”

Jones did not elaborate on which finger was affected and whether it hindered his shooting touch, and Simmons did not attend the media session.

Simmons has shot 50 percent or better from the field in seven of LSU’s last eight games, with the Tigers’ loss to South Carolina being the only exception. Wednesday night Simmons scored 20 points, shooting 5-for-10 from the field and 10-for-19 from the foul line.

LSU, which is part of the bubble conversation while also just a game behind Kentucky in the SEC standings, plays its next two games on the road beginning with Saturday’s contest at Tennessee.

No. 1 Oklahoma denies LSU a much-needed signature win

Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) drives to the basket as LSU guard Antonio Blakeney (2) defends in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016. (AP Photo/Bill Feig)
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With a front court rotation that consists largely of senior Ryan Spangler and sophomore Khadeem Lattin, No. 1 Oklahoma doesn’t have the elite post players that many recent national champions have called upon. However they’ve got the nation’s best player in Buddy Hield leading a deep perimeter rotation, and that’s what makes Lon Kruger’s team a serious threat to not only reach the Final Four but win two more games once there.

Saturday evening the Sooners shook off some cold (by their standards) shooting to beat LSU 77-75 in Baton Rouge. Not only did the Tigers enter the game with freshman phenom Ben Simmons and some other talents capable of hurting the opposition, but they were in a position where this was a critical game for their NCAA tournament hopes. LSU didn’t accomplish a whole lot in non-conference play, and Saturday represented the opportunity that could have made up for all of that.

Instead, it was Isaiah Cousins who took advantage, as his shot with 3.8 seconds remaining gave Oklahoma the victory.

Hield, who scored 32 points and grabbed seven rebounds in another outstanding performance, has received most of the attention when it comes to Oklahoma and rightfully so. He’s put in the work throughout his career in Norman, and shooting better than 50 percent both from the field and from three the senior from the Bahamas has turned into a player who’s damn near impossible to limit for a full 40 minutes.

But he doesn’t lack for help offensively either. Cousins added 18 points, shooting 8-for-12 from the field, and Spangler held his own in the post to the tune of 16 points and ten rebounds. The Sooners can attack teams from multiple areas, and in the game’s decisive sequence it was Cousins who was entrusted with making a play. And at different points this season if it wasn’t Cousins or Hield, Jordan Woodard proved himself capable of stepping forward as well.

Oklahoma’s ability to take advantage of LSU mistakes, be it turnovers or second-chance scoring opportunities, helped the visitors get back into the game in the second half. Oklahoma scored 18 of its 41 second-half points off of LSU turnovers or offensive rebounds, and that combined with Hield getting hot set the stage for the climactic finish.

The Tigers have some positives to take from this game, most notably the play of Tim Quarterman as he led four player in double figures with 18 points to go along with six rebounds and four assists (two of which were on key Antonio Blakeney three-pointers). But ultimately this game will be about missed opportunities, be it their inability to get a stop down the stretch or the many questions as to why Ben Simmons (14 points, nine rebounds, five assists and five turnovers) didn’t have the ball in his hands more down the stretch.

LSU has the potential to be a dangerous team should they get into the NCAA tournament. But “potential” isn’t about a finished product. Oklahoma’s farther along in that regard, which enabled them to make the plays that needed to be made regardless of who had the ball in his hands.

Defense, rebounding cost LSU in loss at Houston

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Having lost the biggest games on their non-conference schedule to date, LSU entered Sunday’s game at Houston in a position where they could ill-afford any more losses before the start of SEC play. But thanks to issues on the defensive end of the floor Johnny Jones’ team suffered its fourth loss of the season, falling 105-98 in overtime at Hoffheinz Pavilion.

Ben Simmons fouling out late in regulation did the Tigers no favors in the extra session, which came as a result of a Keith Hornsby three-pointer with nine seconds remaining in regulation. But when you defend and rebound at the level that LSU did Sunday night, it’s tough to win close games.

Houston shot 51.4 percent from the field and grabbed 17 offensive rebounds, converting those opportunities into 20 second-chance points. The played who posed the biggest issue for LSU in this regard was junior forward Chicken Knowles, who accounted for 20 points and nine rebounds before fouling out with six of his boards coming on the offensive end.

Houston scored 50 points in the paint Sunday night, taking advantage of numerous defensive breakdowns in the process. Those points came from second-chance opportunities and dribble penetration, with guard Rob Gray Jr. hitting multiple floaters on his way to a career-high 31 points. That all isn’t on the shoulders of the LSU big men given Houston’s ability to get quality looks off the dribble, but the Tigers need more from the likes of Aaron Epps (12 points) and Elbert Robinson III as they combined for four rebounds in the game.

The addition of Arizona transfer Craig Victor will help LSU in the front court; besides Simmons they don’t have much in the way of consistent production on the glass in the paint (Epps and Robinson average a combined six rebounds per game). But the Tigers’ issues when it comes to their lack of attention to detail, which was once again evident against Houston, cannot be solved by the arrival of one player.

That’s going to be a collective effort, and to this point in the season LSU hasn’t shown the ability to do this against quality competition on a consistent basis.

The offense is there, and the return of Hornsby is a big deal for a team that had issues with perimeter shooting. Hornsby scored 32 points, shooting 6-for-10 from three with his teammates combining to shot 3-for-16 from deep. Simmons added 13 points, 14 rebounds and five assists before fouling out, and Quarterman accounted for 27 points, ten rebounds and six assists off the bench (disciplinary reasons).

For all the talk about Simmons’ individual gifts and how his game translates to the next level, there’s work to be done at the college level first. And if Simmons and his teammates are to have any shot at getting to the NCAA tournament, they have to straighten things out on the defensive end.

Lee College tandem verbally commits to LSU

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With two seniors in their perimeter rotation and a freshman forward in Ben Simmons who’s projected to be a high draft pick next June, LSU has some departures to account for on the recruiting trail. Wednesday afternoon head coach Johnny Jones received verbal commitments from two junior college players who are currently teammates.

The Lee College (Texas) tandem of 6-foot-4 Branden Jenkins and 6-foot-10 power forward Duop Reath made their pledges to attend LSU, as first reported by Brad Winton of JucoRecruiting.com.

Both will be signing during the early signing period, which begins November 16. LSU is now up to four verbal commitments in the 2016 class, with point guard Skylar Mays and wing Wayde Sims being the others.

Both Jenkins and Reath were on the receiving end of recruiting interest from multiple high-major programs. In regards to Reath, the Tigers have a player who’s regarded as one of the top players at the junior college level according to Winton.

Reath is arguably the top forward in the 2016 JC class and is extremely skilled for his size. He has the ability to score with his back to the basket in the low post and can also score from the perimeter. He has a smooth stroke with range that extends beyond the three-point line. He can also attack the basket off the dribble against bigger/slower forwards. The 6’10 forward has improved quickly since last season and has a very high ceiling.

LSU is certain to lose guards Josh Gray and Keith Hornsby at the end of the upcoming season, and it’s expected that Simmons won’t be in Baton Rouge all that long himself. These additions should help the Tigers account for those anticipated losses, as they have two players with the skill needed to have an immediate impact at the Division I level.