You hear all the time about two teams facing each other with contrasting styles.
Try this one on for size as the USC men’s basketball team prepares for its trip to LSU on Wednesday: The Tigers (9-4, 0-2 in SEC) swipe more than 10 steals per game. USC (10-5, 0-2) coughs up the ball more than 17 times per game.
LSU guards Andre Stringer, Charles Carmouche and Anthony Hickey are the primary bandits. Hickey, in particular, is a nightmare, averaging 3.5 steals, but has games of 7, 6 and 5 thefts. As a team, LSU has racked up more than 10 steals in 8 of 13 games.
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“I’m just telling you, you guys wonder what coaches lose sleep about?” Gamecocks coach Frank Martin said. “I’m going to tell you what I’ve lost sleep about for two days. With our turnover problems and as aggressive as those three guards are, if you take a lazy dribble or make a lazy pass, they make it into a comedy show.”
But there is much more to LSU than its poaching skills. The three guards are marksmen from 3-point range. In the post, LSU starts 6-foot-9 Johnny O’Bryant and 7-3 Andrew Del Piero.
“O’Bryant is a high-profile high school kid,” Martin said. “You watch him on tape and you understand the talent, the ability to score and rebound. He’s a double-double waiting to happen.”
Del Piero is a fun story. He is a former walk-on who was playing the tuba in the LSU band when he was discovered. He is now on scholarship
“I think that’s an awesome story,” Martin said.
As important as the guard matchups will be for USC, so, too, will be the battles in the paint between LSU’s big duo and the Gamecocks’ counter of Michael Carrera and Lakeem Jackson, both 6-5.
There are bigger options for the Gamecocks. Mindaugas Kacina (6-7) will see plenty of time and there is 6-11 Laimonas Chatkevicius and 6-8 RJ Slawson. The reason why Martin will stick with Carrera and Jackson, though, is fundamental.
“Michael Carrera is our shortest post player, yet he’s our best post defender because he doesn’t play behind,” Martin said. Often on Saturday against Auburn, the Gamecocks’ post players failed to get in front of 6-10 Rob Chubb, which allowed Auburn to get him the ball and do significant damage.
“I was furious with the post defenders because, outside of Michael Carrera, everyone else played behind Rob Chubb,” Martin said. We’re not supposed to play behind. That’s the easy way out.”
But the post play was only part of the Gamecocks’ breakdown. Martin said a failure in the perimeter defense made it that much easier to get the ball inside.
“Our perimeter defense wasn’t as good as it needed to be, and we allowed the ball to get to places where that became a problem,” Martin said.
A good defensive effort against Mississippi State and a decent offensive effort against Auburn kept the Gamecocks in both games. Unfortunately for the Gamecocks, they were unable to win either game at the end.
USC will need strong performances at both ends to avoid falling to 0-3 in SEC play. The team returns home Saturday to play host to Vanderbilt.
WHO: USC (10-5, 0-2); LSU (9-4, 0-2)
WHEN: 8 p.m. Wednesday
WHERE: Pete Maravich Center, Baton Rouge, La.
TV: None (ESPN3)
RADIO: WNKT 107.5 FM
SERIES: LSU leads, 14-12
COACHES: Frank Martin (10-5 in first season at USC, 127-59 in sixth season); Johnny Jones (9-4 in first season at LSU, 214-166 in 13th season)
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: USC is returning to the scene of its last SEC road win. On Feb. 2, 2011, USC defeated LSU 64-56. USC has since lost 14 consecutive league road games. ... LSU has made 103 3-point goals, shooting 35.2 percent while opponents have made 77 at a 32.8 percent rate. ... LSU has scored 70 or more points in 10 games, more than all of last season. ... Against Auburn, USC grabbed 17 offensive rebounds and scored 20 second-chance points. ... The last time USC visited LSU, then-freshman Bruce Ellington scored 20 points.
PROBABLE STARTING LINEUPS
|C||7-3||Andre De Piero||5.1|