After relying heavily on forwards Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey for their scoring in the first 14 games this season, the LSU basketball team tapped into another offensive source Saturday night against Georgia.
Just two nights after Martin and Mickey were held to nine points each in an overtime loss at Missouri, the Tigers’ four-guard rotation of Josh Gray, Keith Hornsby, Tim Quarterman and Jalyn Patterson picked up the scoring slack.
While Mickey dropped in 17 points, the four guards combined for 63 points in LSU’s thrilling 87-84 double-overtime win over Georgia — helping coach Johnny Jones’ team avoid an 0-2 Southeastern Conference start.
With Martin and Mickey drawing lots of attention down low in the first two SEC games, which will probably continue the deeper they get into the schedule, the guards can play a key role for LSU (12-3, 1-1 SEC) starting with Wednesday’s 6 p.m. matchup with Ole Miss (10-5, 1-1 SEC) in Oxford.
Missouri and Georgia took a chance in doubling down Martin and Mickey, who were among the SEC leaders in providing nearly half of LSU’s scoring output with a combined 34.5 points a game.
The gamble paid off handsomely for Missouri, but not for Georgia when the guards knocked down 21 field goals — including 10 baskets from 3-point range — many when Martin and Mickey kicked the ball back outside.
Quarterman poured in a career-high 27 points on 6-of-10 shooting from beyond the arc, while Gray and Patterson had 15 each. Hornsby added six points.
“It really helps our post guys, and what really happens is people are watching and (deciding) what they’ll try to take away,” Jones said. “Jordan and Jarell’s numbers have been really good over a period of time, and the defenses are designed to try to maybe take those guys away.”
“Teams have been having that focus on them,” Quarterman said of the Tigers big men down low. “We need to space the floor and make sure we have outlets to pass the ball. Then they can make good passes to us so we’ll have opportunities to make plays on the offensive end.”
“The more options you have, the harder it is to stop you,” Hornsby said. “That was great. ... We’ve been waiting for that for a while, and now we have it.”
That certainly worked against Georgia, and the Tigers are confident it can keep working in the future now that the four guards, none of whom played together until the season opener in November, are in sync.
“It took us awhile to find out where you get good shots,” Quarterman said. “Some games, we took bad shots, and that was out of character. But we’re coming along playing with each other every day and getting to know each other’s tendencies. We’re figuring it out, and it’s coming through.”
“We felt like it was always possible, but it hadn’t really happened with three of us … or all four,” Hornsby said. “Sometimes it was Jalyn standing out, maybe Tim, maybe me, maybe Josh.
“This game (against Georgia) showed how much we’re developing and how much more confidence everybody is getting on the floor. This is the right time of the year for it to happen.”
Now they hope it’ll lead to bigger and better things.
“We just have to go out there with that same mentality every game,” Quarterman said. “The bigs created lots of opportunities for us against Georgia, and we do that for them. We need to share the basketball and get a lot of assists and just keep building on that.”
“You’ve seen the ability of our perimeter guys to step up and make plays and do it at a great rate and a big percentage,” Jones said. “Hopefully, this balances out for our guys making shots and making plays on the perimeter.
“If you have a great balanced attack, it’s going to be really tough to defend.”
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter @MicklesAdvocate.