College athletes are supposed to have steely focus. It's all about the task at hand. But if you have an ounce of normalcy, you're going to sneak a peek of what's going on around you. Which is what some of LSU's basketball upperclassmen are doing with the SEC regular season race that enters the final three weeks next week. There's No. 3 and unbeaten Florida in first place, two games ahead of No. 14 Kentucky. And there's a group of five schools with four and five league losses. LSU (15-8, 6-5 in the SEC), which plays at Arkansas (15-9, 4-7) on Saturday at 5 p.m., is in that pile of teams behind the SEC frontrunners trying to do something special that will impress the NCAA Tournament selection committee. That "something special" is simple. "Road wins will separate you from everybody else," LSU junior guard Anthony Hickey said. "That's why everybody is bunched up. Everybody is not getting road wins." Only Florida and Kentucky have winning road records in SEC play. The other 12 league teams have losing road records in conference action; none of those squads have more than two road wins and three teams haven't won an SEC road game. LSU's transformation from a confident, unshakable crew that is 5-1 in SEC games in Maravich Center, to a foul-prone, step-slow defensive group that is 1-4 on the road, remains a puzzle that second-year Johnny Jones is still trying to solve. The Tigers' average SEC victory margin at home is 11 points per game and their average league road defeat margin is almost 10 points. LSU's road losses follow almost the same pattern. Opponents successfully get Tigers' forward Johnny O'Bryant in early foul trouble and it impacts LSU at both ends of the floor. In Wednesday's 83-73 loss at Texas A&M, O'Bryant picked up two fouls in the game's first 7:29. He played just 26 minutes, finishing with 15 points and 6 rebounds. A&M, meanwhile, bombed in 10 three-pointers and shot 48.5 percent from the field. In LSU's last three SEC road losses, the Tigers have allowed teams to combine to shoot more than 50 percent from the field. "To be a good road team and gets wins you have to be a really good basketball team," Jones said. "That's what we're striving for. We think we've made some positive strides, but we haven't got into the area yet away from home where you have to be able to raise your level. "Teams are going to play well at home. Texas A&M hadn't shot the ball well. It had been shooting about 40 percent (in SEC play) and was averaging 60 points. Then they get 83 points at home against us." LSU has been a slight cut above Arkansas on the road. Thursday night at Missouri, the Razorbacks scored 10 straight points to take a two-point lead heading into the final 90 seconds before Mizzou rallied for an 86-85 win. Two weeks ago in Baton Rouge, LSU handled Arkansas 88-74. The Tigers jumped to a 26-9 lead and never looked back. Arkansas managed to reduce the LSU lead to six points with 4:53 left before the Tigers went on a 10-0 run. But fast forward to the present, and there are several obstacles for LSU that are unique to this road trip.
LSU hopes to catch Hogs snoozing at home in Fayetteville
New Orleans Times-Picayune | Feb 14