The LSU basketball team tipped off the Johnny Jones era Friday night with a 77-63 victory over UC Santa Barbara.
The win had the new coach’s fingerprints all over it.
LSU played the up-tempo, fan-friendly style Jones made his hallmark at North Texas the past 12 seasons, registering 16 steals, forcing 23 turnovers, knocking down 10 3-pointers, and generally pushing the tempo to produce offense.
“You saw us running up and down the floor and knocking down shots,” LSU forward Eddie Ludwig said. “That’s what we’ve been doing since he got here. That’s his style.”
The margin of victory Friday was impressive considering the Tigers played most of the way without star big man Johnny O’Bryant, who left the game because of an injury with LSU leading by seven and less than eight minutes to play in the first half.
O’Bryant, who scored 13 points, grabbed eight rebounds and had one steal in 11 minutes, appeared on the way to a career night.
“He just said he felt a little strain in his leg,” Jones said of O’Bryant. “I haven’t had a chance to visit with our trainer (Shawn Eddy) extensively to find out exactly what happened.”
LSU fell behind by as much as seven points in the opening five minutes, but the play of O’Bryant combined with hot start from 3-point range to help the Tigers rebound. O’Bryant’s final basket gave LSU a 31-24 edge with 7:41 left in the half.
“That’s a big player that went down,” LSU point guard Anthony Hickey said. “We struggled a little bit when he went down, but we came together as a team.”
Hickey, suspended for Monday’s exhibition for disciplinary reasons, provided one of the night’s comical moments after Jones tried to get him his first action with about 16 minutes left in the first half.
As he approached the bench to check in, Hickey realized he wasn’t wearing a jersey – only an undershirt -- under his warmup shirt.
So he jogged to the locker room to retrieve the proper attire. He went on to score six points with seven steals.
“Ain’t no exhibition game,” Hickey said with a laugh.
Hickey helped lead the fast-pace transition game that put LSU out in front by double figures most of the second half. The Tigers led by as much as 21 points in the final minutes.
In going 10 of 26 from behind the arc, LSU made its most 3-pointers in a game since last year’s season opener against Nicholls State.
On the flip side, the Tigers were a dreadful 7-for-20 (35 percent) from the foul line.
Memphis transfer Charles Carmouche led LSU with 16 points after scoring 19 in the exhibition game Monday. Freshmen Malik Morgan and Shane Hammink each had 10.
Junior guard Kyle Boswell scored 17 points to lead UC Santa Barbara, going 3 of 6 from downtown to help the Gauchos 4 of 11 behind the arc.
UC Santa Barbara made back-to-back trips to the NCAA tournaments in recent years, but entered Friday’s opener with the nation’s third-youngest team.
“I just want to say how excited I am to have gotten this game out of the way and under my belt,” Jones said. “I’ve been looking forward to it a long time.”
LSU returns to action Tuesday night when McNeese State comes calling.
The Southeastern Conference Friday announced the coaches preseason All-SEC teams and O’Bryant III was named to the second team.
O’Bryant, played in 28 games last season with 17 starts, while averaging 8.5 points and 5.7 rebounds.
The coaches’ preseason All-SEC first and second teams consist of a minimum of eight players on each squad, as voted on by the SEC coaches.
G Trevor Releford, Alabama Jr.
G B.J. Young, Arkansas So.
G Kenny Boynton, Florida Sr.
C Patric Young, Florida Jr.
G K.Caldwell-Pope, Georgia So.
F Nerlens Noel, Kentucky Fr.
G Phil Pressey, Missouri Jr.
F Jeronne Maymon, Tennessee Sr.
F Marshawn Powell, Arkansas Jr.
F Alex Poythress, Kentucky Fr.
F Johnny O’Bryant III, LSU So.
F Reginald Buckner, Ole Miss Sr.
F Murphy Holloway, Ole Miss Sr.
G Trae Golden, Tennessee Jr.
F Jarnell Stokes, Tennessee So.
G Elston Turner, Texas A&M Sr.