Stellar guard play sparks LSU surge

MILWAUKEE — When the LSU men’s basketball team needed a push in the right direction against Marquette on Saturday, the Tigers’ guards kicked it into another gear.

Andre Stringer scored a season-high 20 points, Anthony Hickey added 18 points off the bench and Charles Carmouche chipped in 15 to lead the charge.

Down by as many as 21 points in the first half, LSU started to crash the boards and get its guards in transition to get some easy looks. The Tigers scored 28 points on the fastbreak, a lot of those being pull-up 3-pointers and layups.

“Hick got on the break, he’s a fast guard,” Stringer said. “I try to keep up with him as much as I can. He got me open, and some shots were able to go down. Sometimes when they didn’t leave me open, they left the lane open for him and he was able to get some layups. It was real big for us.”

LSU converted on 10 of 26 3-pointers as Stringer was 6-for-10. His biggest buckets came on back-to-back 3-pointers to pull LSU within two at 57-55.

“He was able to get good looks,” LSU coach Johnny Jones said about Stringer. “I thought his teammates did a great job of screening for him and making big plays.”

Stringer and Hickey were a combined 14-for-30 from the field for the game after going 6 of 14 in the first half.

“Hickey and Stringer, they knocked down some big shots,” Carmouche said. “We were able to execute and Coach drew up some plays and they were able to get wide open and knock down some shots.”

Hickey didn’t start the game, but the sophomore substituted in at the 17:13 mark and had an immediate impact.

He scored a team-leading nine points in the first half to help LSU pull within 12 points at halftime.

“Hickey came in and really changed the tempo of the game, and unfortunately we took him out in the second half when they had a 9-0 run, I think, after we tied it up,” Jones said.

Along with the three guards scoring 15-plus points, LSU had a great balance on the offensive end with two other players in double figures. Johnny O’Bryant III was a force inside with 14 points and two monster dunks and Shavon Coleman added 11 points off the bench.

Marquette coach Buzz Williams was impressed by what he saw from LSU. He believes LSU is a better team than last season even though the Tigers downed Marquette 67-59 in Baton Rouge.

“I really like the pieces that they have. … I think they play differently than they did last year, they’re much faster, but I also think they’re much more offensively potent,” Williams said.