Tigers show they still have ways to go

There may come a day in the not-too-distant future when the Pete Maravich
Assembly Center is again the Deaf Dome.

That day might see a talented LSU team running up and down the court, competing with the elite of the Southeastern Conference as a sellout crowd roars.

That’s the plan, anyway — to eventually have first-year coach Johnny Jones guiding a team reminiscent of those Dale Brown teams Jones directed as a point guard when the Deaf Done was in its heyday in the early 1980s.

Saturday wasn’t that day, but it would have been unrealistic to expect it to have been anything close to that.

In Jones’ first SEC home game, 11th-ranked Florida, one of the more dominant SEC and national programs during Billy Donovan’s 17 seasons as coach, showed the gap between it and the Tigers in 74-52 win.

“They exposed our size, strength and quickness,” Jones said.

Nonetheless, LSU showed glimpses of what it wants to be, and perhaps will be, once Jones has a couple of full recruiting classes on board.

The Tigers played hard and at times very well on defense, which kept them even for most of the first half. But their inability to score consistently helped the Gators overcome their own offensive inefficiency and take a nine-point halftime lead.

Florida put it away quickly in the second half with a 21-5 spurt to take a 50-25 lead.

When Jones went to full-court pressure, LSU forced four quick turnovers and cut the deficit to 13 as the crowd came to life. But the Gators had no trouble staving off the brief push.

“I would love to press more,” Jones said, “but we just don’t have enough bodies to expend that kind of energy.”

Early recruiting returns suggest Jones is stocking his roster with bodies, and capable ones at that.

In the meantime he’ll have to live with the offensive lapses. This was the Tigers’ lowest point total of the season for the second game in a row, coming on the heels of a 68-63 loss at Auburn in the SEC opener Wednesday.

He’ll have to continue to pick his spots for pressing and trapping until he has the depth to so on a more consistent basis.

But during that brief second half spurt, when Anthony Hickey made three consecutive steals and two turned into layups by him and the third turned into a 3-pointer by Shavon Coleman, the crowd of nearly 10,000 was standing and screaming.

It was a hint of what LSU hopes to see with more regularity before too long.

Brown has been where his former player is right now, taking over a program that’s a ways from matching what he envisions it becoming. He recalled shortly after being hired in 1972 when he was invited to watch the players he was inheriting play an exhibition against Catholic High.

“We lost by 20 points,” Brown said. “I called my wife and told her, ‘boy, oh, boy, I hope this wasn’t a mistake.’ ”

It wasn’t, of course.

“You just keep grinding,” Brown said, “and Johnny will really be good at that.”