Monday night’s decisive loss at the College of Charleston was the worst performance of the young season for an LSU team saddled with lofty expectations. The Tigers couldn’t make shots, and even though he managed to tally 15 points, 18 rebounds and four assists in that game freshman forward Ben Simmons shot 4-for-15 from the field and also had seven turnovers.
LSU needed to rebound Wednesday night against Atlantic Sun preseason favorite North Florida and they did, winning 119-108 thanks in large part to an incredible performance from their 6-foot-10 freshman phenom.
Simmons shot 15-for-20 from the field, with just two of those attempts coming outside of the paint, scored 43 points while also accounting for 14 rebounds, seven assists, five steals and three blocked shots. And he only turned the ball over twice against the Ospreys, who didn’t look to double-team Simmons all that often. He took advantage, getting to just about wherever he wanted to go on the court against a team whose tallest player who saw action was 6-foot-8.
Look at that stat line! Ben Simmons' 43 pts tonight are the most by an LSU player since Shaq also scored 43 in 1991. pic.twitter.com/tCFJySQmuN
So what do we take out of this? A historic performance, one in which Simmons joined Shaquille O’Neal and Pete Maravich as the lone players in school history to score 43 points in a game? Or a game in which, while acknowledging Simmons’ achievements, the Tigers allowed 108 points? How about both?
Wednesday’s game produced multiple standout offensive performances, with UNF’s tandem of Beau Beech and Dallas Moore scoring 31 points apiece and LSU guards Josh Gray and Tim Quarterman both posting stat lines of 20 points, six assists and one turnover on the night. But it would be Simmons, projected by many to be the top pick in next June’s NBA Draft, who stole the show.
The performance certainly deserves praise. But if Simmons is to have the opportunity to showcase his skills on college basketball’s biggest stage, LSU has some strides to make defensively.
Compliance issue costs LSU senior guard trip to Australia
LSU will be without Josh Gray as they get ready to depart on their trip to Australia this month.
Gray played in a game this summer in a league that was not sanctioned by the NCAA and was not vetted by LSU’s compliance department.
“We had a little bit of a setback with Josh Gray playing in some type of game that wasn’t sanctioned prior to checking with our compliance people,” head coach Johnny Jones told The Advocate. “Until compliance goes through whatever issues that they have to and filter things out, I won’t have any further comment on it.”
Gray, a junior, averaged 7.1 points and 3.8 assists in 20 starts in his first season with the Tigers. He transferred into the program from a JuCo in Texas after spending his freshman season at Texas Tech.
Tim Quarterman is expected to start at the point for LSU this season, meaning that Gray will be competing with Keith Hornsby, who started all 33 games last season, and freshman Antonio Blakeney for a starting spot off the ball.
LSU starting point guard will miss time with injured ankle
LSU starting point guard Josh Gray will miss some time with an ankle injury that the junior suffered on Saturday in a win over Sam Houston State. The 6-foot-1 Gray landed awkwardly on his right ankle three minutes into the second half and did not return after being looked at by trainers.
The Tigers have a game against UAB on Thursday and if Gray is in a boot and on crutches it might be tough for him to be ready for that game. After that, LSU has three more non-conference games before SEC play begins with a Jan. 8 game at Missouri, so Gray will hopefully be healthy by then.
If Gray can’t go, the Tigers could promote sixth man Tim Quarterman from the bench, as the 6-foot-6 sophomore has played well this season off the bench. It would give LSU more size but less perimeter shooting and perimeter depth.
Gray is averaging 11.1 points, 4.7 assists and 3 rebounds per game this season while shooting 47 percent from the field and 44 percent from the three-point line. He can really fill it up from the perimeter, but he’s also averaging 3.7 turnovers per game and can get reckless with the ball.