If heat shrinks, then UK head honcho Billy Gillispie must stand 5'5" about right now. "Honey, We Shrunk the Coach" is the next Rick Moranis masterpiece headed to movie theater's across the Commonwealth. It's only February, but the Craft Center must feel like a sauna in the Sahara, with no oasis in sight.
If ever a win was needed, this is the game. After UK's uninspiring 77-59 embarrassment of an effort in Columbia, South Carolina Wednesday night, the 'Cats are in search of some mojo for the stretch run (which will hopefully reside in Rupp Arena about 4:00 o'clock this afternoon). If UK, after standing 5-0 in the SEC and 16-4 overall in early January, was then to miss the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1988, illicit calls of gloom, despair and agony on me (my apologies to Grandpa Jones and his "homey's") will be heard from Boyd to Ballard County.
The arrival of the SEC's best team, though, provides Gillispie and the 'Cats with a most opportunistic shot at redemption. For beating #18 LSU (24-4, 12-1) would go a long way in extinguishing the fanning flames aflutter in the Bluegrass. The players, the coaches, the fans need a victory ... conference games get no bigger than this.
I've probably written too much already, so it's on to the Fightin' Tigers of LSU:
Marcus Thornton: 6'4" 205 lb senior guard -- Overall Thornton averages 20.9 points (2nd in the SEC), 5.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.7 steals per game (6th in the SEC). He shoots 48.9% from the field (7th in the SEC), 40.8% from the three-point line (62-152), and 75.5% from the free throw line (7th in SEC).
In league play he averages 23.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per game. He shoots 49.0% from the field, 42.7% from the three-point line, and 80.2% from the charity stripe. In his last four games Thornton is averaging 26.8 points per contest, while making 31-62 shots and 12-30 threes (40.0%). He's also made 22 of his last 24 free throw attempts, and 33 free throws in his last four games. Last year versus UK (a 67-63 Wildcat win) Thornton played 36 minutes scored nine points on 4-14 shooting. He also had one assists and one steal.
Tasmin Mitchell: 6'7 235 lb junior forward -- On the year Mitchell is averaging 16.6 points, (8th in the SEC) 7.3 rebounds (9th in the SEC), 2.6 offensive rebounds, 1.9 assists per game, and 1.5 steals per game (8th in the SEC). He makes 54.5% of his field goal attempts (5th in the SEC), 56.3% of his threes (9-16), and 72.8% of his free throws (9th in the SEC).
In SEC play Mitchell is averages 19.4 points, 8.3 rebounds (3.0 off. reb), 2.0 assists, and 1.7 steals per game. He makes a very solid 56.4% of is field goal tries, 66.7% of his threes (6-9), and 72.2% of his free throw attempts. The '05 McDonald's All-America scored 41 points against Mississippi State on February 11. He's scored over 20 points eight times on the year. Mitchell has recorded 16 career double-doubles, and he has scored in double figures in 17 consecutive games. Mitchell did not play against UK last year; he missed all but three games due to a knee injury.
Garrett Temple: 6'6" 190 lb senior guard -- On the season, LSU's defensive dynamo, averages 7.4 points, 4.6 rebounds, 4.2 assists (5th in the SEC), and 1.9 steals per game (4th in SEC). He makes 38.2% of his shots, 32.9% of his threes (24-73), and 85.1% of his free throws. Temple sports 117 assists to only 58 turnovers, a 2.02 assist/turnover ratio, good for second in the SEC.
In conference play, Temple averages 8.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.4 assists (2.2 turnovers), and 1.2 steals per game. He shoots 37.9% from the field, 33.3% from beyond the arc, and 91.2% from the free throw line (31-34). Over his last three games, Temple is averaging 16.5 points per game. He's made 12-21 field goals and 6-10 threes in that span. He's dished out 6+ assists in nine games this year. Temple has 461 career assists, and 103 career blocks. Last year versus UK, Temple played 38 minutes, scoring eight points on 2-6 shooting (2-5 three-pointers). He also recorded five rebounds, three steals, and two assists.
Bo Spencer: 6'1" 185 lb sophomore guard -- For the year Spencer averages 11.6 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game. He shoots 44.2% from the floor, 41.1% from the three-point line (44-107), and 84.4% from the free throw line.
In SEC play Spencer is averaging 10.6 points, 2.9 assists, and 2.8 rebounds per game. He's making 41.8% of his shots, 37.5% of his threes (18-48), and 81.0% of his free throws. Spencer recently missed two games due to an ankle injury. Since going 5-6 from beyond the arc versus Arkansas on January 31, Spencer has made only 4-17 trey attempts (23.5%).
Chris Johnson: 6'11" 210 lb senior center -- On the season the big man averages 8.4 points, 7.6 rebounds (7th in the SEC), 2.3 offensive rebounds, 2.9 blocks (2nd in the SEC), and 1.3 assists per game, in 26.0 minutes per contest. He shoots 45.8% from the field, and 75.4% from the free throw line.
In SEC play Johnson averages 8.7 points, 8.2 rebounds (2.7 off. reb), 3.8 blocks, and 1.7 assists per game (he averages 28.4 minutes per game in league play). He makes 51.5 % of his shots, and 91.7% from the free throw line (11-12). Johnson recorded seven blocks versus Arkansas on January 31. He's recorded six blocks in two games -- versus Ole Miss on February 14, and versus Arkansas on February 18. Versus Tennessee he grabbed 14 rebounds (seven offensive). He's recorded four double-doubles, and he's nabbed double-digit rebounds in eight games. He's made 19 of his last 35 shots (54.3%) over a span of four games. Johnson has 161 career blocks. Last year versus Kentucky, Johnson played 32 minutes, scored four points, grabbed four rebounds and had one block.
Terry Martin: 6'6" 210 lb senior guard -- On the year Martin averages 4.7 points, 2.3 rebounds, and one assist per game. He shoots 34.8% from the field, 32.1% from behind the arc (17-53), and 66.7% from the charity stripe. He averages 15.8 minutes per game.
In conference play Martin averages 4.6 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 1.1 assists per game. He makes 32.3% of his shots, 22.2% of his threes (6-27), and 66.7% of his free throws. Last year versus UK, Martin played 21 minutes, and scored 12 points on 5-10 shooting (2-4 threes). He also dished out one assist.
LSU Team Statistics -- Overall (SEC rank in parenthesis)
Points Per Game -- 77.0 (4) 65.1 (3)
Field Goal% -- 46.0 (3) 39.8 (3)
3-Point% -- 37.9 (2) 32.1 (5)
Free Throw% -- 72.3 (3) 69.4 (10)
Rebound Margin -- +6.6 (1)
Off. Reb. Per Game -- 13.6 (3) 11.4 (6)
Off. Rebound% -- 38.5 (1) 30.4 (2)
Def. Reb. Per Game -- 26.2 (3) 21.7 (3)
Def. Rebound% -- 69.6 (2) 61.5 (1)
Assists Per Game -- 15.9 (4) 8.7 (1)
Steals Per Game -- 8.0 (4) 6.3 (4)
Turnovers Per Game -- 12.4 (11) 13.6 (3)
Blocks Per Game -- 6.2 (3) 2.8 (1)
LSU Team Statistics -- Conference Games Only (SEC rank in parenthesis)
Points Per Game -- 78.8 (1) 67.9 (2)
Field Goal% -- 46.7 (2) 39.5 (2)
3-Point% -- 36.3 (5) 30.2 (1)
Free Throw% -- 74.1 (2) 67.5 (4)
Rebound Margin -- +5.1 (1)
Off. Reb. Per Game -- 12.8 (4) 12.1 (6)
Off. Rebound% -- 36.2 (3) 30.0 (2)
Def. Reb. Per Game -- 28.2 (1) 22.6 (4)
Def. Rebound% -- 70.0 (2) 63.8 (3)
Assists Per Game -- 16.2 (1) 9.7 (2)
Steals Per Game -- 7.3 (6) 6.3 (2)
Turnovers Per Game -- 13.0 (8) 12.5 (2)
Blocks Per Game -- 6.5 (4) 3.1 (1)
LSU has won nine straight games, and 12 straight SEC games ... It's their longest SEC win streak since winning 17 in a row in 1981 ... Versus Florida Tuesday night, Thornton and Temple combined for 53 points on 15-25 shooting (9-15 threes) ... In their last two games (Florida and Auburn) LSU has allowed 37.5% three-point shooting (15-40) ... Auburn is the only SEC team to shoot over 45.0% versus LSU ... LSU has recorded 12 steals twice in league play, versus South Carolina and Alabama ... Since scoring 59 points in their SEC opener versus Alabama, LSU has scored at least 70 points in every game ... The Tigers have scored at least 79 points in nine SEC games ... LSU has shot over 40.0% from beyond the arc five times in SEC play ... LSU grabbed 20 offensive rebounds versus Arkansas (Arkansas had only 22 defensive rebounds) ... In defeating Ole Miss, LSU blocked 11 Rebel shots, they blocked 16 shots versus Alcorn State ... Versus Troy in November, LSU dished out 28 assists to only six turnovers ... LSU has recorded only five turnovers in two games -- versus SE Louisiana, and Mississippi ... Both Tasmin Mitchell and Marcus Thornton have scored over 1,000 points in their careers ... LSU, with the win over Florida Tuesday, clinched their fourth West Division title since 2000.
The Trent Johnson File
New Tiger head coach Trent Johnson played his college ball at Boise State where he finished in the top 10 in career scoring and rebounding. He played in the 1976 NCAA Tournament after Boise won the Big Sky Conference.
Johnson's first college coaching job was as an assistant at Utah in 1986. His first head coaching job was from '99-'04 at Nevada where he posted a 79-74 record, and took the Wolfpack to the Sweet 16. He followed up that success with a four year stint at Stanford, where he posted an 80-47 mark.
Johnson has done a right nice job in his first year in Baton Rouge. And although many picked the Tigers to win the West, he and South Carolina's Darren Horn have to be running neck-in-neck for SEC Coach of the Year honors.
Patrick Patterson had some success last year versus LSU big man Chris Johnson. Patterson was 7-10 from the field, good for 14 points. After Wednesday nights block-fest, courtesy of South Carolina, he MUST remember to double paint-plant his defender, and utilize the ball fake.
Billy Gillispie stated after the South Carolina game that he was sick and tired of Patterson having no help in the paint -- That's being "called out" fellas. With LSU's affinity for rebounding, UK MUST hit the boards smarter and harder than they have recently, or another loss is in the offing.
UK once again faces two ball-hawking guards in Thornton and Temple. Michael Porter and DeAndre Liggins MUST do a better job of taking care of the rock if UK has any hopes of pulling out a win -- No more words are needed.
Jodie Meeks will be tailed from tip to horn by defenders as big or bigger then him, and nearly as quick. Some creativity MUST be utilized in helping Meeks get some open looks -- Some fast-break opportunities would be nice.
Kentucky MUST come out ready to play, unlike Wednesday night. They'll have a home crowd, and motivation aplenty ... this is the time to deliver.
This game is the definition of "MUST win."
Thanks for reading, and Go 'Cats!