In the wake of a difficult loss to Auburn on Thursday night, LSU basketball coach Johnny Jones indicated changes would be coming for his team before Saturday’s crucial game with Alabama.
With only one day of practice between games, there was little time to implement them.
Nonetheless, Jones delivered on his promise.
Seeking a faster start, he plugged high-energy guards Tim Quarterman and Jalyn Patterson into the lineup for the Southeastern Conference matchup with Alabama in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
Jones got the results he wanted almost from the opening tip. Patterson, a freshman making his first career start, knocked down the first points for LSU on a short baseline jumper, and he and Quarterman went on to combine for 21 points in a 71-60 victory.
The win halted the first two-game losing streak of the season for LSU (17-6, 6-4 SEC) and gave the Tigers a much-needed boost going into a Tuesday night showdown with top-ranked and undefeated Kentucky in a sold-out PMAC.
LSU never trailed against Alabama (14-9, 4-6 SEC) even though the Crimson Tide tied the game at 2 on a basket by Levi Randolph and trimmed a 17-point second-half deficit to just two points with 9:09 left in the game.
But the Tigers scored the next eight points, starting with an alley-oop dunk by Jarell Martin on a feed from Quarterman and ending with a Martin basket after Patterson kept the ball from going out of bounds underneath the Tigers’ goal.
Alabama, which had gotten back in the game with a 25-10 run, never got within eight points the rest of the way.
“We knew they were going to go on a run,” said Patterson, who started in place of Josh Gray. “It’s a game of runs, so we knew they were going to go on some. We just tried to contain them and do what we do.”
“When they went on their run and got the lead back down to two, that’s where we had to come together as a team,” Martin said. “That’s where we had to come together as a team, and go out and execute and get some stops.”
After being torched for 52 points by Auburn guards KT Harell and Antoine Mason, LSU did a much better job with their perimeter defense. Alabama’s three-guard offense of Randolph, who led Alabama with 17 points, Justin Coleman and Rodney Cooper combined for just 30 points.
Jordan Mickey had 24 points and 12 rebounds to lead LSU, while Martin added 16 points.
Quarterman had 15 points, eight rebounds and three assists, while Keith Hornsby contributed 10 points. Patterson finished with six points, four assists and two steals.
One of the things Jones stressed after the Auburn loss was playing with an edge and getting a faster start — especially on their home floor.
An energized LSU team got off to a 10-point lead in the first 10 minutes and built the cushion to as many as 16 points, eventually taking a 30-20 halftime lead while holding Alabama to 24.1 percent from the field.
“We came out with a great deal of energy,” said Quarterman, who’s usually the first player off the bench. “We made shots, and we made some big plays for each other. That was the big thing we wanted to do as a team.
“We got our assists up and moved the ball and got the extra pass. That helped.”
It didn’t hurt that Jones got their attention in Friday’s lone practice.
“I thought for the quick turnaround we had, we were only going to be on the floor for (a short) amount of time,” Jones said. “We had to make sure we addressed some things early on … and we did.”
Several players talked about how competitive the practice was, which, they said carried over to Saturday’s game.
Quarterman said the players even took it out on each other in the workout, but everyone responded well.
“Coach was fired up after the (Auburn) game,” he said. “But he did it in a positive way. He said we should be doing better as a team, and we had to work hard. He was fired up about our work ethic out there on the court.”
“The guys did a great job of understanding, regardless of the minutes they would play tonight, that they had to do some things and address some issues at practice,” Jones said. “I thought they did a great job taking that in.”
“That was exactly what we needed,” Hornsby said. “We got the job done. They started coming back, but we stuck together and got the win that we needed.”
The LSU athletic ticket office announced Saturday that Tuesday night’s game with Kentucky is officially a hard sellout, the first for the program since the Georgia game in 2006.