Harris: LSU’s flaws on display vs. Missouri

Associated Press photo by L.G. PattersonLSU's Andre Stringer tries to maintain control of the ball during the second half Saturday against Missouri in in Columbia, Mo. Show caption
Associated Press photo by L.G. PattersonLSU's Andre Stringer tries to maintain control of the ball during the second half Saturday against Missouri in in Columbia, Mo.

Say this much: Shavon Coleman tried.

Scooting across the lane in the second half against Missouri, LSU’s willowy forward fought a battle to plant his flag on the low block. Mizzou forward Alex Oriakhi, who is 6-foot-8 and 255 pounds, did not budge — no matter how low the shorter Coleman squatted to obtain leverage.

That about sums up LSU’s 89-76 loss at Missouri on Saturday.

For the bulk of the afternoon in snow-blanketed Columbia, LSU was battered and bludgeoned in the paint, outscored 52-24 along with allowing a 23-14 edge in second-chance points.

Oriakhi and fellow fifth-year forward Laurence Bowers tallied a combined 41 points and 20 rebounds, while also holding LSU’s best option in Johnny O’Bryant under wraps until the latter stages of the second half.

“They did a great job of controlling the paint area today,” LSU coach Johnny Jones said. “One of the big things we wanted to do was to keep them off the offensive glass, and that was extremely tough for us. Unfortunately, I think that was a big reason for such a setback.”

Yep. It was.

And in a season when Jones has cottonmouth from applying spit-polish to a thin roster, Saturday exposed the biggest facet in need of a complete overhaul: the frontcourt.

Only Johnny O’Bryant, who is 6-8, 260 pounds and has 12 double-doubles, is a known entity.

Center Andrew Del Piero is a nice story, as is his progress from a walk-on tuba toter into a player with 20 starts and averaging 4.2 points and 3.2 rebounds. Coleman is a 6-5 swingman playing out of position and prone to being manhanled in direct post-up situations.

Meanwhile, Mizzou clearly wanted to show LSU it had no such issue.

Help arrives this summer in the form of a top-10 recruiting class, but youthful potential needs a buffer as it makes the daunting transition to college.

Five-star recruit Jarrell Martin, along with four-star prospect Jordan Mickey and Aussie Darcy Malone all have size — ranging from 6-7 to 7-0 — but are considered “stretch” fours comfortable playing off the block and putting the ball on the deck.

Potent as it might be offensively, there’s a risk that rebounding might be more difficult, and the prospects’ strengths still a work in progress.

But if O’Bryant tests the NBA draft waters, LSU could face a different strain of the vexing issue exposed at Mizzou Arena: a skimpy interior attack to ease the burden on its guards, whose propensity for 3s can create long rebounds and transition chances for opponents.

“I think their size and strength is good enough when you’ve got guys like Oriakhi to push you off the block and make it extremely tough for you to get angles,” Jones said. “At times, they tried to double us down and I think we made the right reads when we kicked it out and made shots on the perimeter instead of hitting our guys cutting to the basket.”