The Tigers must win it all to keep the 2008 season going. LSU will play the first game of the SEC Tournament on Thursday against South Carolina, a team the Tigers beat by seven points in Columbia only 13 days ago.
LSU earned a four seed, in the Western Division of the SEC, by winning four of their last five games.
The season started off promising whil playing against inferior opponents, but took a turn for the worse at the Maui Invitational, where the Tigers lost two of three. Their lone win coming against the hosting team (Division II) Chaminade Silverswords. The Tigers blew big leads in both games against Oklahoma State and Arizona State. The Tigers tied the Sundevils with a three at the buzzer, but lost in overtime 87-84.
The Tigers blew a 21-point lead to Villanova three games later, but the Tigers would hit rock bottom after losing to in-state rival, Tulane for the first time in more than 25 years. That game would be part of an eight game losing streak for the Tigers, ultimately leading to the firing of Head Coach John Brady mid-way through his 12th season.
Assistant Head Coach Butch Pierre took over for the Tigers after losing seven of their last 13 games. With the help of freshman sensation Anthony Randolph, the Tigers were able to win five of their remaining nine conference games. Three of those four losses were by less than 10 points, including a heartbreaking two point loss against Tennessee in Pierre’s head coaching debut.
The Tigers go into Thursday’s contest lead by three coaches all-SEC team players. Marcus Thorton leads the Tigers in scoring with 19.7 points per game (second in the SEC); Freshman Anthony Randolph averages 15.4 points per game for the Tigers; along with 8.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per contest and one of the league’s best defensive players in Garrett Temple.
The Tigers held the Gamecock’s leading scorer Devan Downey to a season low six points in their previous meeting. Zam Fredrick led South Carolina with 21 points, but the Tigers out rebounded the Gamecocks 44-28. The Gamecocks must see a bigger outing from Downey if they hope to extend their season past Thursday.
The Tigers should be able to control the tempo of the game if they can be as effective on defense as they were in their previous matchup. Look for the Tigers to earn the right to take on No.1 seeded Tennessee winning another close one. Tigers by six.