After connecting on just 1-of-10 free throws in his LSU debut against Gardner-Webb back on Dec. 16, Tigers forward Craig Victor has improved considerably from the line.
In fact, Victor was 8-of-9 in Saturday’s 76-71 win over then-No. 15 Texas A&M after knocking down all four of his attempts three nights earlier at South Carolina. Dating back to the Mississippi State game on Feb. 6, Victor has made 13 of his last 14.
“I was never worried about my free throws because throughout high school I shot about 79 percent, almost 80 percent,” said Victor, who didn’t play in the first eight games while completing the transfer process from the University of Arizona. “It never was a problem for me.”
In his last nine games, Victor is 30-of-40 for 75.0 percent after going 23-of-50 for 46.0 percent in his first eight outings. For the season, Victor is up to 58.9 percent from the line.
“I’m not making excuses, but that first game in the arena — in that environment — after not playing for a year and a half was hard,” he said. “I’ve been making them since.”
Ben likes dunks
LSU freshman Ben Simmons said Monday he wished Saturday’s NBA Slam Dunk Contest could have ended in a tie between winner Zach LaVine and Aaron Gordon.
He liked LaVine because he can take off on gravity-defying dunks from the free-throw line and Gordon because he took a ball from the Orlando Magic mascot and launched over him for a spectacular between-the-legs slam.
“But probably Zach,” Simmons said. “I know how tough that is. Between the legs I can do it, but not from the free-throw line.”
Simmons was asked if he sees himself in the slam dunk contest one day.
“No … the skills challenge, though,” he said. “But eventually, maybe.”
The 19-year-old Simmons said he never dunked in a game until he was 15.
LSU’s victory over Texas A&M impressed at least one of the nation’s most respected bracketologists — ESPN’s Joe Lunardi.
Lunardi, who saw LSU as a No. 10 seed a week ago and moved it up to a No. 9 on his Thursday update despite a loss at South Carolina, has the Tigers up to a seven seed in his NCAA tournament bracket posted Monday.
LSU, which is trying to make the NCAA tournament field for the second year in a row, was included by Lunardi in the South regional in St. Louis as the No. 7 seed and was paired with 10th-seeded Syracuse.
CBSSports.com’s Jerry Palm isn’t as sure about LSU. He has the Tigers as one of the last four teams in the field, playing Connecticut in the First Four in Dayton, Ohio, for the right to earn the No. 11 seed in the Midwest regional.
With Florida’s loss to Alabama and South Carolina’s crushing defeat at the hands of Kentucky on Saturday, only two SEC teams remain undefeated at home in league play with three weeks remaining in the season.
LSU, with its win over Texas A&M, and Kentucky are both 6-0 with three home games left. Florida fell to 6-1 at home and South Carolina dipped to 5-1 with their Saturday setbacks.
Florida tip time set
The SEC announced Monday that LSU’s Feb. 27 home game with Florida will tip off at 7:30 p.m. and be televised by either ESPN or ESPN2.
Earlier that afternoon, at a time still to be determined, the statue of former LSU and NBA great Bob Pettit will be unveiled in the plaza between the basketball and new gymnastics practice facilities.
Specially-priced upper (300) level tickets are available at $7 each for Wednesday night’s game with Alabama and can be purchased at www.LSUtix.net or at the LSU Athletic Ticket Office.
The ever-popular “Quick Change” act, which has made numerous appearances in the PMAC over the years, will return to perform at halftime.
— Scott Rabalais contributed to this report.