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.
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.