Dig Baton Rouge

Tigers snag first home SEC win

O’BRYANT TURNS IN A VINTAGE PERFORMANCE

Johnny O’Bryant III dominated in LSU’s Saturday night win over Vanderbilt at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. In 29 minutes on the floor, the junior forward recorded 22 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Tigers to a comfortable 81-58 win.

And when O’Bryant registers a double-double, LSU usually wins.

The Tigers are 3-1 this season when O’Bryant records a double-double, with the lone loss coming in the season opener to UMass by a mere two points. Last season, LSU was 11-4 when O’Bryant performed at a double-double level.

“I just felt like I had the hot hand tonight, and I was just taking it to them,” said O’Bryant. “I just wanted the ball in my hands so I could go attack.”

“He said he was ready and really focused,” said LSU coach Johnny Jones. “I thought he went out and did it from the start – rebounding and trying to get extra opportunities scoring around the basket.”

Through 16 games, O’Bryant’s points and rebounds are actually up from last season, but his perceived lack of intensity during some games this season has fans, pundits and even his coach scratching their heads.

“What we’ve got to made sure of is that we don’t just have to rely on Johnny in terms of his scoring, but in terms of the impact that he can make on the game whether he’s scoring or not,” said Jones.

“Earlier I kind of got hesitant and wanted to catch the ball and read the defense instead of just attacking,” said O’Bryant. “If you do that over and over, you lose your aggression with attacking.”

When O’Bryant plays with intensity, his teammates follow suit, particularly freshman Jordan Mickey, who averages 14 points and 8 rebounds when O’Bryant records a double-double.

“When Johnny comes out like that, it really helps the team a lot,” said Mickey. “He puts a lot of pressure on defenses, and he is a big guy to have to guard.”

“I thought Johnny O’Bryant did a super job in terms of setting the tone for our basketball team,” said Jones. “I really credit his teammates for feeding off of it.”

Frontcourt players Jarell Martin and Mickey combined for 24 points and 10 rebounds to complement O’Bryant’s superb performance against Vanderbilt.

“He came out of his foxhole, and he’s back now,” said Martin.

“Those guys can do so much with the ball, and I’m blessed to have those guys around, helping me rebound and doing a lot things on the block,” said O’Bryant. “I do a great job of trying to find those guys on cuts when I can because I know it’s tough on them coming down and throwing it inside every time.”

The success of LSU’s season hinges on O’Bryant’s ability to repeat the high caliber performances during his First Team All-SEC season last year.

Saturday’s contest mirrored O’Bryant’s performance in his fourth SEC game last season, when – after failing to score in double digits against three straight conference opponents – O’Bryant exploded for 16 points and 14 rebounds against Georgia. The game versus the Bulldogs served as a launching pad for O’Bryant’s rampage through the SEC. There he accumulated nine double-doubles in 11 games.

“It’s good that I had a game like this, but I’m not satisfied,” said O’Bryant.

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