You could say Shavon Coleman filled Johnny O’Bryant’s shoes Tuesday from the opening tip.
Coleman, though only 6-foot-5 and recruited by LSU as a guard, handled the tip for the Tigers in the second game of the Johnny Jones era, then handled most of the heavy lifting in a 73-48 rout of McNeese State before an announced crowd of 6,776 at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
Coleman got the first start of his young Division I career because LSU was without sophomore big man Johnny O’Bryant, who suffered a strained left calf early in Friday’s season opener. He responded with 25 points — 23 of them in the first half — and 10 rebounds, both game highs.
“He came out from the start, put his foot on the gas and never stopped,” LSU guard Charles Carmouche said of Coleman.
Many of the fans who filed into the PMAC to watch the O’Bryant-less Tigers may not have known the player who wore jersey No. 5 and started alongside senior Eddie Ludwig, a 6-9 forward, on LSU’s small, thin interior.
Coleman took a roundabout route to LSU, bouncing from Thibodaux High — where he earned District 8-5A MVP honors as a senior — to Howard College in Texas and then back to Louisiana earlier this year.
In the opening victory over UC Santa Barbara on Friday night, Coleman had six points and four rebounds in 28 minutes off the bench.
O’Bryant had 13 points and eight rebounds in the first 12 minutes of that game before leaving with the calf injury. He is listed as day-to-day.
“We knew Johnny probably wasn’t going to play, so we talked as a team about what we all needed to do,” O’Bryant said. “It was all about stepping up.”
The performance of Coleman helped LSU pull away early as Jones stayed perfect through two games as his alma mater’s coach.
This win came at the expense of McNeese State coach Dave Simmons, the predecessor to Jones as DeRidder High’s point guard in the 1970s and a dear friend of the LSU coach. Jones and Simmons had never met as head coaches.
“I was hoping our first meeting would come in NCAA tournament,” Jones said.
With the win, the Tigers improved to 21-0 all-time against McNeese.
Coleman hit from inside and outside, showing the kind of versatility that helped him average 14.7 points and 6.6 rebounds for Howard College last year.
On back-to-back possessions late in the first half, the junior knocked down a 3-pointer from the left side and then threw in a transition dunk, sending him into intermission with 23 of LSU’s 38 points.
Coleman became the first LSU player to reach 20 points in a half since Tasmin Mitchell, en route to a 38-point effort, scored 23 in the first half against Auburn three seasons ago.
At halftime, Coleman was 10-of-14 from the field, including 2-of-3 from 3-point range.
That left little drama the rest of the way — until former LSU band member Andrew Del Piero entered the game.
Del Piero saw the most extensive action of his career with eight minutes off the bench. He scored seven points, grabbed four rebounds and had one crowd-rocking blocked shot.
The roof of the PMAC may have come off had Del Piero converted an open dunk on a pass from Corban Collins with about three minutes left. He couldn’t put it home.
“We were happy for him,” Collins said. “He works hard, and he’s come a long way. Just to see him out there showing the crowd he’s ready to play, it’s big. I’m glad he was able to get on the scoreboard and show some of the things he can do.”
It was Coleman, however, who stole the show.