NCAA Baseball Championships:
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2/10/19 5:50 am CST
Good morning, Tiger Fans,
The LSU men’s basketball team proved once again that it wouldn’t be denied with an 83-78 victory over Auburn. A familiar story played out in the PMAC, though it certainly followed a different script. After trailing by 16 points in the first half, LSU found yet another way to rally and win an impressive SEC matchup. Here’s Jake’s recap of how the Tigers improved to 19-4 overall and 9-1 in SEC play.
That “second-half lull” we’ve written about several times this season came early for LSU Saturday afternoon. LSU missed its first six shots to start this game, and Auburn wasn’t much better. The teams combined to start 1-for-11 from the field. As bad as LSU was offensively (22 percent in the first three minutes), the Tigers were much better on the offensive glass with four boards. That allowed LSU to take a short-lived 7-6 lead early on. After that, Auburn took a 26-10 lead on a 20-1 run. LSU struggled to convert from the outside (missed first five 3-pointers), and more specifically, Skylar Mays and Tremont Waters could not make Auburn pay with open looks from the outside. LSU missed eight straight field goals (0-for-6 from 3-point range), as Auburn built its lead. But then LSU went to work inside. Darius Days came off the bench and hit a couple of shots to provide a spark. A Mays steal on one end that resulted in a layup on the other finally cut the deficit to single digits. A triple by Mays on the ensuing possession cut Auburn’s lead to five, and Waters followed with a steal on the other end. The PMAC could sense it. It was the patented LSU comeback, only earlier than usual. Auburn led 29-26 after Emmitt Williams slammed an easy dunk out of an inbound from the baseline, which forced Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl to erupt and call for a substitution. But Auburn couldn’t stop hitting from outside. The visiting Tigers made 11 3-pointers in the first half (58 percent). Meanwhile, LSU hit only one 3-pointer in the half. The Tigers clawed their way back into it by remaining active on the offensive boards and securing seven steals. Waters drained a 3-pointer at the buzzer for LSU to enter the locker room down 41-38.
Waters had an early heat check in the second half, and the Tigers rode it to their first lead of the game. Waters gave LSU its first lead of the game with a trey from the corner that put the Tigers up, 45-43. And then he came right back down and hit a deep, off-balanced triple to bring the PMAC to its feet. A circus shot from Mays at the basket gave LSU a 53-46 lead six minutes into the half, and at that point, it just felt like LSU was in the driver’s seat, though the Auburn Tigers never went away. Timely 3-pointers kept them in the contest, even though LSU was much better defending the threes in the second half. Still, Auburn cut the deficit to six with less than a minute and a half to play. Auburn got a stop, but Kavell Bigby-Williams secured LSU’s 22nd offensive rebound to put Waters at the free-throw line with less than a minute remaining. And you’d better believe he was money. While Auburn made things interesting late (cutting it to one with 30 seconds left, getting a steal, and getting a last-second 3-point attempt off, etc.), LSU hit the free throws down the stretch to secure a wild victory. Mays led the Tigers with 20 points, while Waters had a double-double with 19 points and ten assists.
Stats never tell the whole story but here are few that say a lot about how the game was won: LSU out-rebounded Auburn 22-7 on the offensive boards, which amounted to a 29-1 advantage on second-chance points. LSU also took advantage of 19 Auburn turnovers and posted a 31-12 advantage in points off turnovers. Those numbers, folks, are a formula for success.
At 9-1 in SEC play, these Tigers have turned a lot of heads on the national level, and they’ll have a chance to continue garnering well-earned praise with a very challenging week ahead. The Tigers travel to nationally-ranked Kentucky on Tuesday for a primetime (6 p.m. CT) showdown on ESPN and then travel to Georgia next Saturday. LSU is back at home on Feb. 20 against Florida.
Now switching gears to football, it’s time to continue our series on the top six vote-getters from our poll asking, “Which incoming LSU football signee(s) will make the biggest impact in the 2019 season?” Yesterday we profiled the top two vote-getters, LSU’s highest ranked defensive signee since Patrick Peterson (Derek Stingley, Jr.) and one of two prized running backs in this year’s class (John Emery). Today’s we’ll take a look at our third place winner, a kicker with some awfully big shoes to fill.
K, 6'1", 190 Prosper High (Texas)
(Third in our poll with 12.3% of the votes)
It was almost a given Cade York would garner a lot of votes in this year’s impact freshman series. And how could he not? Coming off of a season where Cole Tracy generated an authentic argument for MVP of the team, Tiger fans were quickly reminded just how important the position is with Tracy’s clutch field goal kicking (29-of-33). Tracy’s 88-percent field goal conversion rate was 11th best in the country, and his game-winning kick against Auburn made him a Tiger legend. Will York follow a similar path? First of all, putting Cole Tracy expectations on York is admittedly not fair, as Tracy was as close to automatic as you can get within range. But York has undeniable talent. In the Under Armour All-American Game in January, York nailed a 59-yard field goal. It was so impressive that even NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes tweeted about York after the feat. With the 59-yard field goal, York seems to have a stronger leg than Tracy, and we can only hope he can be in Tracy’s ballpark when it comes to accuracy. As a senior at Class 6A Prosper High School in Texas, York made 9-of-11 field goals with a long of 47 yards.
Stay tuned for our write-up on our fourth highest vote-getter, a highly heralded offensive lineman with an interesting nickname.
In softball news, LSU’s offense continued to shine on day three of the Tiger Classic, as LSU defeated Iowa 16-1 in five innings and then turned around and beat Bucknell 10-1 in five innings. Get this: The LSU softball team is now 5-0 on the season, all five games have been won in five innings (mercy rule), and the combined score of the five wins is 65-2. That, my friend, is total domination. But back to yesterday’s games… In the first one, freshman Jordyn Perkins hit a three-run dinger and junior Maribeth Gorsuch secured the game in the circle, allowing only one hit on the day. In the second game, freshman Ali Kilponen earned her first career victory in the circle, finishing with six strikeouts. Here’s LSU’s recap of both games.
• It was great hearing from many of you yesterday who are even more fired up about LSU baseball after reading my two-part Q&A with Coach Paul Mainieri. Here’s something else that will get you fired up: In yesterday’s scrimmage, freshman right-hander Landon Marceaux allowed only two hits in 5.1 innings and recorded nine strikeouts. Baseball at the Box: Five days and counting!
• In closing, I want you to know that I’m working on a Q&A with NFL and College Football Analyst Mike Detillier on LSU’s recent signing class. If all goes well, we’ll begin running that tomorrow.
Enjoy your Sunday, Tiger Fans.
2/9/19 5:30 am CST
Good morning, Tiger Fans,
First, I want to thank all of you who voted in our poll asking, “Which incoming LSU football signee(s) will make the biggest impact in the 2019 season?” With over 14,000 votes cast, the top six vote-getters are clear, and they’re a very impressive group. The half dozen includes the top player in the nation, four players who rank No. 2 nationally at their positions, and the state of Utah’s No. 1 player. Here’s how it breaks down: CB Derek Stingley, Jr. (29.5%), RB John Emery (25.8%), K Cade York (12%), OG Kardell Thomas (5.9%), DT Siaki Ika (4.82%), and LB Marcel Brooks (4.8%). In today’s report, we’ll begin a series in which we briefly profile these six Tigers, starting with Stingley. Here we go…
Derek Stingley, Jr.
CB, 6'1", 193, Dunham School
(First in our poll with 29.6% of the votes)
If LSU’s bowl practices are any indication of the immediate impact Derek Stingley, Jr. will have with this program, then it’s easy to see why he was the top vote-getter. If you’ll recall, Stingley took advantage of a rarely used NCAA rule that allowed him to take part in bowl game practices, and drew rave reviews from the coaches. Ed Orgeron said that had Stingley been eligible to play in the game, he would have been LSU’s best cornerback and one of the best players on the field. That gives us a ton of confidence that Stingley will quickly fill the void Greedy Williams left as a lockdown corner opposite of Kristian Fulton. Of course, his high school highlights and elite status as the nation’s top prospect gave us plenty of reasons to be confident already.
Stingley is one of five talented defensive backs signed in this year’s class – along with Raydarius Jones, Jay Ward, Cordale Flott, and Maurice Hampton – but will undoubtedly be the face of this group. In Stingley, the Tigers get a flexible corner with fluid movement, great anticipation, and the toughness needed to make tackles in the open field. They also get an athletic freak with the ball skills, speed, and athleticism needed to electrify LSU’s return game. Don’t be surprised to see this youngster wearing No. 7 sooner rather than later.
By the way, Stingley also excels in the classroom and earned Academic All-State honors while at Dunham School in Baton Rouge.
RB John Emery
5'11" 202, Destrehan High School, RB
(Second in our poll with 25.7% of the vote.)
Well, LSU’s lack of elite star power in the backfield sure didn’t last long. We discussed the Tigers’ running backs quite heavily last offseason because we hadn’t had a year without a Heisman contender at the position in quite some time. Now with two incredible running backs in this class, LSU’s backfield is once again in a familiar position. While Nick Brossette and Clyde Edwards-Helaire did a very commendable job last season, LSU’s rushing attack had a drop in production. The Tigers rushed for nearly 450 yards less in 2018 than they did in 2017 and approximately 550 less than the 2016 season. There were many factors involved, including LSU’s increased emphasis on the passing game, but the most obvious reason for the drop in production was the departures of Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice. Will John Emery and Tyrion Davis be a Tiger duo like that one? LSU fans have reason to hope since both are rated as top-10 backs nationally.
Emery drew more than a fourth of the votes in our poll, and a big reason for that is his recruiting rankings. The Destrehan running back has a 99 ranking and is a composite 5-Star on 247 Sports. He is ESPN’s top running back in the country and is No. 11 on the ESPN 300. What makes Emery special is his acceleration at the second level. Like all great backs, he doesn’t waste any lateral movement. He gets north, builds momentum, and uses it to finish off runs. In other words, he’s a special back who will make plenty more highlights like these but in an LSU Tiger uniform.
Stay tuned for more on our impact freshmen series.
Turning to basketball, the LSU men’s team has been awfully fun to watch and seems to have more lives than a cat, but the Tigers can’t press their luck against an extremely good Auburn basketball team this afternoon. LSU and Auburn will tip off from the PMAC at 1 p.m. on ESPN2, and if LSU wants to make it two SEC victories in a row against former Top 25 squads, the Bayou Bengals will need to avoid that second-half lull that has created these double-digit deficit comebacks. It’s almost like this LSU team knows it’s talented enough to make late runs and make enough plays down the stretch to win these games, but that may not be the case against an Auburn squad that features one of the best backcourts in the country. Bryce Brown and Jared Harper combine to average more than 32 points per contest this season. It shouldn’t surprise you that Auburn tops the league in 3-point field goal percentage (37.4%), while LSU has fallen to 12th in the conference (32.7%) after dramatically cooling off recently. LSU shot 28 percent or less from behind the arc in each of its last five games. The good thing is that LSU has been able to overcome it for the most part (with Arkansas being the lone exception), but if Auburn starts draining outside shots like it typically does, it’s going to put even more pressure on LSU’s players to convert from the perimeter. And though the Auburn Tigers have a couple of conference losses, they’ve been on a roll as of late. Auburn crushed Missouri by 34 points, dismantled Alabama by 21, and beat Florida by 14 last Tuesday. Let’s see if (18-4) LSU can knock down outside shots and avoid that second-half lull against a dangerous Auburn squad this afternoon.
With the start of baseball season just six days away, it’s time to conclude the two-part Q&A with LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri we began posting yesterday. In this segment, Mainieri discusses the catcher’s position, what it means to have Chris Reid back on the team, and his propensity to advance runners via the hit-and-run in situations where many coaches would bunt instead. Give it a quick read and let me know what you think.
In softball news, LSU has played three games and has won each of them in five innings. Yesterday, the Tigers followed up a dominating 19-1 season-opener with a 9-0 win over Iowa and an 11-0 win over Tulsa. In case you didn’t catch that, the Tigers have out-scored opponents 39-1 through three games. Heck of a start for this Tiger team.
Speaking of strong starts, hats off to LSU freshman Shelby Wickersham, the daughter of former LSU quarterback Jeff Wickersham. She threw a no-hitter vs. Iowa in her collegiate debut.
LSU softball continues today, with LSU taking on Iowa at 3:30 p.m. and Bucknell at 6 p.m. in the Tiger Classic. The games will stream live on SECN+.
Lastly, I was sad to see that No. 5 LSU gymnastics lost on the road to No. 17 Kentucky last night, 197.150-196.025. With the loss, LSU is now 3-3 overall and 1-3 in the SEC. A positive from the night was senior Sarah Finnegan winning beam and floor. Up next, LSU begins a double-meet weekend in St. Charles, Missouri, on Friday at the GymQuarters Invitational. The Tigers then return to Baton Rouge to take on SEC foe Missouri at 2:30 p.m. Sunday inside the Maravich Center.
Have a great weekend, Tiger Fans.
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