LSU seeks consistency


Published: Friday, January 12, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 12, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

A trip back to McComb, Miss., provided LSU basketball coach John Brady some perspective.

Facts

Kevin Brockway's SEC power rankings

1.
Florida (15-2, 2-0): If only the Gators could make more free throws
2.
Alabama (14-2, 1-1): Must learn to play better on road
3.
LSU (11-4, 0-1): See Alabama
4.
Arkansas (12-4, 1-1): Deep frontcourt will help this season
5.
Tennessee (13-3, 1-1): Outrebounded 40-33 in Vandy loss
6.
Kentucky (13-3, 2-0): Not sold on the 'Cats yet
7.
Vanderbilt (11-5, 1-1): Good home win against Tennessee
8.
Georgia (9-5, 1-1): Tough non-conference slate will help
9.
Mississippi State (10-5, 1-1): Improved, but we'll find out more Saturday against Kentucky
10.
Ole Miss (11-5, 0-2): Playing better than its record indicates
11.
South Carolina (10-4, 0-1): Point guard Tre Kelley is hurting, and so are the Gamecocks
12.
Auburn (11-6, 1-1): Good home win against Vandy, but looked awful against Kentucky

In his native town, Brady visited his mother, 79-year-old Marilyn Brady, who was recovering from open-heart surgery Wednesday.

"My mom came out fine," Brady said. "Her color is back. It's pretty amazing with medical technology today, how you can be in a hospital room talking 24 hours after having your chest cut open."

For Brady, it's been a season-long search for consistency since guiding LSU to the Final Four last April. The Tigers appeared ready to roll after beating No. 24 Connecticut at home last weekend in front of a frenzied crowd for ESPN's College Gameday. But LSU followed it up with a dud, a 71-61 road loss against a vulnerable Alabama team in its SEC opener.

Alabama, coming off a 27-point road loss at Arkansas, still has issues in the backcourt, with starting point guard Ronald Steele hurting with knee tendinitis.

Poor shooting was the culprit. Even with a monster effort from junior center Glen Davis (24 points, 17 rebounds) two days after injuring his ribs in a minor car accident, the rest of the Tigers couldn't pick up the slack. LSU shot a dismal 35.7 percent from the floor, missing too many good looks from outside.

"You can't go to that well too many times," Brady said of Davis, the reigning conference player of the year. "Other coaches are too good and other players are too smart.

"We need find a way to make some shots to give him some space to work inside."

Many wondered how LSU would replace 6-foot-9 shot-blocking phenom Tyrus Thomas inside. Thomas declared for the NBA Draft last spring as a redshirt freshman and was picked fourth overall by the Portland Trail Blazers before being traded to the Chicago Bulls.

In truth, LSU has missed senior point guard Darrell Mitchell more. Tack Minor has been adequate at the point, but Mitchell also provided a consistent perimeter threat that the Tigers haven't been able to duplicate this season.

Terry Martin, a transfer from Texas Tech, has shown flashes of shooting ability off the bench but has struggled in recent games. Martin was 1-of-9 from the floor Tuesday night against Alabama.

"We're just going to have to stay with it," Brady said. "You coach the players that you have. As coaches, we have to believe in them, encourage them."

Afterwards, Brady shouldered some the blame, saying that it was his fault for not inspiring confidence in his shooters to make shots.

"I just have to put them in positions on the floor where they are going to feel comfortable and confident in their shooting," Brady said.

Strange days, indeed

These are desperate times in Big Blue Nation. How desperate? The Kentucky sports information department sent out a missive its media explaining how the Wildcats, not Florida, actually were the first to hold Division I football and basketball championships at the same time, in 1950.

According to the press release, Kentucky's football team held the football title at the end of the 1950-51 according to the Sagarin Computer Ratings, a system that didn't even come into existence until Jeff Sagarin stared computing his formula 1973. Kentucky ended Oklahoma's 31-game winning streak in the Sugar Bowl that season. In basketball, Kentucky went on to win the 1951 NCAA Tournament.

Are you still following this?

Back to reality. This year's Kentucky basketball squad is off to a 2-0 conference start, but there are still holes inside, where a second quality big man hasn't developed to complement center Randolph Morris. Whether freshman forward Perry Stevenson becomes that player will determine if Kentucky can truly be back.

Kentucky coach Tubby Smith rightfully squashed complaints about whether his team should be ranked, saying the Wildcats have yet to pick up a signature win. That chance might not come until its Feb. 10 showdown at Rupp Arena with Florida.

Home sweet home

Home cooking is still alive and well in the SEC. In 11 league games, home teams are 10-1, winning by an average margin of 10.5 points per game.

A big reason can be found at the line, where home teams are going to the free-throw line an average of 6.7 more times than their opponents.

Florida, in its first two conference games, benefitted from its home floor. The Gators went to the line 18 times in its SEC opener against Georgia, compared to five trips for the Bulldogs. On Tuesday night, Florida has 29 free-throw attempts to Arkansas' 24 attempts.

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