LSU will have the momentum from two of its best performances going for it when the Tigers visit Alabama tonight for a nationally televised game.
The Crimson Tide will have Coleman Coliseum.
And although not normally associated with college basketball’s death traps, Coleman has become the Tigers’ very own little shop of horrors.
LSU has won there only twice since the dawn of the millennium, none sine 2004, and has lost nine straight and 16 of its last 18 in the place.
The LSU football team, which drops by Tuscaloosa every other year, has won six times on the Alabama campus in the span it has taken the basketball team to win twice.
But the Tigers (12-5, 3-2 Southeastern Conference), who have won their of their last four, will head there trying to find out if they learned anything at home after victories over Vanderbilt (81-58) and Missouri (77-71).
“It’s certainly a process,” LSU coach Johnny Jones said. “We have improved and gotten better. We’re heading in the right direction, and I think they understand that. I think it’s important to have the ability to play with a sense of urgency all the time. I think because of their awareness, that’s something that we will have to continue to work on and hope that it becomes a habit for us.”
Alabama (8-10, 2-3) is coming off a 68-62 loss to No. 6 Florida on Thursday night. The Tide have played the SEC’s toughest nonconference schedule.
And, of course, there’s the Coleman factor.
“It will be a great challenge for us, Jones admitted.
But he also said his young team is starting to grow up and welcomes the litmus test of a traditionally tough road venue.
“I felt that we played well on the road in a very tough environment in Oxford (overtime loss to Ole Miss) and I thought we played well at South Carolina, a game that we won there,” Jones said. “I think the growth of the team has been gradual. They’ve been tested. I think they’ve shown great signs of improvements.”
The most recent win was particularly encouraging for the Tigers, who had let several games get away down the stretch before coming through against Missouri.
“I think we’ve found a sense of toughness and executed well at the free-throw line,” Jones said. “We were able to do that the other night at home when Missouri made their run late in the game.
“I think we’ve been able to get stops and rebound,” Jones said. “We’ve done a much better job in the last two games rebounding the basketball … and at the same time being able to execute and make plays on the offensive end.”
The Tigers will go with their adjusted starting lineup of Anthony Hickey and Malik Morgan at guards, with Jordan Mickey, Johnny O’Bryant and Shavon Coleman inside.
O’Bryant, a terror in recent games, leads the Tigers with 14.4 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. Freshman Jordan Mickey is second in both and also leads the SEC with 62 blocked shots.
Guard Trevor Releford leads the Crimson Tide with 18.1 points per game.