LSU head basketball coach Johnny Jones. (Associated Press)
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 16, 2013 2:12 PM
At some point tonight in the Maravich Assembly Center — probably often — LSU’s basketball team find itself in the zone.
First-year head coach Johnny Jones just hopes the Tigers can eventually shoot their way out of it.
Two games into the Southeastern Conference schedule and evidently the scouting report on the Tigers — pack a zone defense back and take your chances.
“We’re pretty sure we’ll see some more zone defenses in the coming weeks because of the way we’ve played against it,” Jones said. “I think that’s an area we’ve really got to clean up.”
There will be a sense of urgency when the Tigers (9-4, 0-2 SEC) take on one of the other five winless conference teams when South Carolina (10-5, 0-2) visits.
“Unfortunately for us and our mentality, all of them have a sense of urgency,” Jones said. “The same will hold true for South Carolina.”
Jones said he wants to run an up-tempo offense, a ploy hampered by the zone defenses and has further complicated by the Tigers’ woeful rebounding and shooting in the first two SEC games, a road loss at Auburn and at home before an encouraging crowd against nationally ranked Florida.
The new-style offense was on display for most of the lead-in games before conference started.
But LSU ranks next to last in conference play both in shooting percentage (35 percent) and rebounding margin (minus-8 per game).
“It’s tough,” Jones admitted. “I think we have to do a better job of executing against a zone. We have done a great job the last couple of games in just being patient enough to get into the gaps. … We’ve done it on occasions, just not enough.
“That’s some areas we’ve got to work on. I think we’ve got a really good shooting team. It’s just a matter of making sure we’re putting the ball in the right areas to get the shots that we need.”
A healthy Johnny O’Bryant III as a force inside would help.
O’Bryant, probably LSU’s best player, missed several games early in the season and has been hampered all season by nagging injuries.
He was able to score two points in 14 minutes in the loss Saturday to Florida.
When he has been on the floor, O’Bryant often faces double teams.
“The great thing is when guys are double-teamed, it leaves other guys open for us,” Jones said. “I’m hopeful that we can continue to where we are double-teamed so that we can make the right pass out of the double team that’s going to lead to baskets or high-percentage shots for us.
“We welcome the double team. We’ve just got to clean up how we’re playing out of it.”
The Tigers might have found the right opponent.
South Carolina, which also has a first-year coach in Frank Martin, is 12th in SEC games in defending opponents shots (48 percent).
Jones said the urgency not to lose a second consecutive home game, especially with a trip to Rupp Arena this weekend to take on Kentucky.
But he also isn’t ready to panic.
“You don’t want them to feel handcuffed and start playing tight,” he said. “You want them to still have the ability with the freedom to take those good shots when they get them. I think throughout the season we’ll get there. When we get it is when I think you’ll see the beauty of what we’re doing offensively.”