At times, it has seemed like the LSU basketball team just can’t miss from the field in the second half of its first 10 games.
It may only seem that way, but it was especially so Thursday night in a 79-70 road win against UAB.
“I don’t know if that’s how it seems, but I guess so,” freshman guard Jalyn Patterson said after the Tigers buried 17 of 30 second-half field-goal attempts in erasing a 39-33 halftime deficit against the Blazers. “We’re just trying to focus in and just do what we have to do to win.”
With LSU knocking down 56.7 percent of its shots in the second half, after making just 35.5 percent in the first half, the Tigers took control of the game early after intermission and outscored UAB 46-31 to secure its second road win in a row.
It’s been an ongoing theme for LSU in the still-young season.
The 8-2 Tigers have claimed a win in all six games in which they’ve shot at least 50 percent in the second half. They’re connecting on 50.2 percent of their attempts after halftime — compared to just 41.9 percent in the first half. Overall, they’re making 45.9 percent from the field.
There’s no big secret to what they’re doing from one half to the next, LSU coach Johnny Jones said.
“I think we’re just making the adjustments we need to make at halftime,” he said. “We see some things in the first half, depending on how the opponent is playing us, and then we adjust and make a few more shots in the second half.
“We look (at halftime) at how we can get better scoring opportunities.”
Of course, it helps when you have players who can make them.
“The guys have done a tremendous job of being able to make plays,” Jones said. “We’ve made some outside shots and we’ve been able to take the ball inside as well. We’ve gotten good looks offensively, and our guys are doing an excellent job executing.”
Whatever the reason or reasons, it’s been a marked improvement from last season. In 34 games, LSU shot 50 percent or better in the second half only 10 times and hit 46.5 percent from the field overall after halftime.
Second-half shooting this season has been a key because LSU is 4-1 when trailing at halftime, like they were against an energetic UAB team sparked by an enthusiastic home crowd.
The only five LSU players to shoot in the second half all made at least half of them to spark the comeback. Jarell Martin was 5 of 9, Jordan Mickey and Keith Hornsby were 4 of 7, Tim Quarterman was 2 of 3, and Patterson was 2 of 4.
That came after Mickey and Quarterman both missed all five of their first-half attempts from the field.
“We didn’t settle (for jump shots), especially our post guys,” Jones said. “We were taking the ball, getting it down on the block, and taking it toward the rim. When we didn’t score, we got to the free-throw line and executed from there as well.”
Martin, who was 10 of 15 from the field in scoring a game-high 25 points, said the Tigers made it a point at halftime to make the adjustments needed to get better shots.
“We said we weren’t going to give up,” he said. “So we came out moving the ball a lot better. We made some extra passes and got some good looks and my teammates knocked them down.”
“I was a little frustrated because I missed some shots I’m capable of making,” said Mickey, who leads the team in field-goal accuracy at 51.2 percent. “I just had to slow down and play my game … just not get rattled.”
LSU has also shown steady improvement from 3-point range as well, especially when Mickey and Martin are drawing extra attention underneath the basket.
Through the first five games, LSU was shooting just 24.1 percent from beyond the arc; in their last five games, they’re hitting at a 42.9 percent clip.
“We’re playing inside-out,” Jones said. “When we’re able to do that, guys like Keith Hornsby and Josh Gray are going to get good looks at the basket and known down those shots.”
LSU is offering free admission to Monday night’s game against College of Charleston for fans who bring a new, unwrapped toy to the upper concourse ticket windows at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. Ticket windows open at 6:30 p.m. with tipoff at 8 o’clock. … Also, 2,000 LSU holiday tumblers will be given out. … Johnny Jones’ radio show will air this week at 8 p.m. Tuesday from TJ Ribs following the Nikki Caldwell Show.
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter @MicklesAdvocate.