On its recent 11-day tour of Italy, the LSU men’s basketball team visited such historic landmarks as the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, the Roman Colosseum, the Milan Cathedral and Lake Como.
They probably enjoyed nothing they experienced more than their results on the basketball court.
LSU routed six opponents in as many games, beating a menu of Italian teams with foreign names and players. No matter the competition, LSU needed those wins.
The Tigers had not won six straight games since reeling off 10 straight late in the 2008-09 season. They won no more than four straight at any point last season.
Most hadn’t had success like this since high school.
LSU opened the tour with a 107-60 thumping of Virtus Frusino and never looked back, totaling 555 points to their opponents’ 382 for an average victory margin of 92.5-63.7. Its closest game was the last, a 92-74 triumph against Basket 7 Laghi of Gazzada Schianno the day before Friday’s flight home.
Who exactly were the Tigers beating?
Virtus Frusino featured former UC Davis forward Kyle Brucculeri, who averaged 7.5 points in four college seasons. Basket 7 Laghi had three players LSU coach Trent Johnson said “reminded me of (Anatoly) Bose,” referring to the Nicholls State scoring sensation from Australia.
LSU last made an Italy trip in the summer of 2000 after losing NBA draft picks Stromile Swift and Jabari Smith. That team finished the tour 3-2 after an 0-2 start.
If these Tigers regroup after back-to-back 20-loss seasons, they may very well look back at their 9.5-hour flight from Atlanta to Rome as the launching point.
Justin Hamilton still must show he can do it against the Kentuckys and Floridas of the world, but the 6-foot-11 center’s stats in Italy jumped from LSU’s news releases. Ineligible last year after transferring from Iowa State, Hamilton averaged a team-high 14.5 points to go with 8.9 rebounds in the six games.
Ralston Turner, the team’s leading scorer as a freshman, averaged 13.6 points after scoring 21 in the first two games. Storm Warren averaged a double-double: 11.5 points, 10.5 rebounds.
Eddie Ludwig, adjusting to a new role playing with his face to the basket, averaged 10.7 points, reaching double figures in five games. Chris Bass averaged 6.7 assists to help trigger an unselfish, up-tempo offensive attack playing with a 24-second shot clock, a wider lane and a deeper 3-point line.
None of them could make the trip because they’d yet to enroll in school, but 2011 signees Johnny O’Bryant, Anthony Hickey and John Isaac will soon lend a hand.
They will join a team that lost only Aaron Dotson and Daron Populist from last year and, thanks to 11 successful days overseas, enters Johnson’s fourth season on a six-game win streak.
Like the players themselves as they stood at the foot of the Spanish Steps, things in the LSU basketball program are starting to look up.