When it comes to going against high-scoring guards, the LSU basketball team has held its own since Southeastern Conference play started a week and a half ago.
Vanderbilt’s Wade Baldwin IV and Riley LaChance combined to go 7-of-19 from the floor in LSU’s huge victory in Nashville, Tennessee.
Kentucky’s Tyler Ulis was 7-of-16 even though teammate Jamal Murray went 9-of-17 from the field in the Tigers’ blowout a week ago.
Florida’s KeVaughn Allen and Chris Chiozza combined to go 6-of-24 in the Gators’ win over the Tigers on Saturday.
Now here comes the next big challenge for Johnny Jones’ team: Ole Miss’ 5-foot-11 guard Stefan Moody, the SEC scoring leader at 23.9 points per game.
Since Moody accounts for 31.7 percent of his team’s scoring and hands out 4.1 assists per game in his new role as the team’s point guard, he’ll be the focal point for LSU (9-6, 2-1) when it meets Ole Miss (12-3, 2-1) at 8 p.m. Wednesday in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
LSU certainly was aware of Moody a year ago when it beat Ole Miss twice.
Tigers defenders hounded him in both games. He was 5-of-18 from the field and had 14 points in the game at Oxford, Mississippi, then went 3-of-16 and had 15 points in the rematch in the PMAC.
But with Jarvis Summers gone, Moody has taken over at point guard and has put up some big numbers.
In addition to his scoring and assists, Moody has gotten to the free-throw line a league-high 133 times and made 115 for 86.5 percent — second in the league.
He’s scored at least 20 points in the past 10 games, the most for an Ole Miss player since Gerald Glass had 13 in a row back in 1990.
In his team’s last outing on Saturday night, Moody poured in 29 points — with the final two coming on a game-winning layup with 3.8 seconds to play as Ole Miss slipped past Georgia 72-71.
Jones said his team was able to do some things that were beneficial to his team against Moody last season because he was playing the two.
But they’ll probably need a different strategy now, Jones said.
“Playing him at the point, we will certainly have to look at adjusting and doing some other things differently,” he said. “We’re hopeful that we can maybe keep him off balance and not give him the same looks, because he’s an excellent shooter and very explosive.”
Explosive is a word Jones used repeatedly when talking about Moody.
“He’s a very explosive guard, and this year he has the ball in his hands a lot more,” Jones said. “He’s creative, tough off the bounce. He’ll get to the rim and shoot the deep ball in terms of the 3-pointer. He’s really dangerous.”
Still, the Tigers might try to use a strategy similar to the one they used on Ulis, a 5-9 dynamo who still wound up scoring 23 points on them.
They limited him from the field, rotating guards with length like Antonio Blakeney, more length like Tim Quarterman and speed and quickness in Josh Gray.
“(Moody’s) a real good shooter; he’ll pull up any time,” Blakeney said. “He’s aggressive, he’s strong, and he’s real athletic. It’ll definitely be a tough matchup for us.”
Blakeney, who helped hold Allen down at Florida, noticed one big difference between Ulis and Moody.
“Moody is a more aggressive scorer than Ulis,” he said. “I think Ulis scores only when he has to.”
That won’t be the case Wednesday night, which means that staying out of foul trouble will be key for LSU after Quarterman and Keith Hornsby had to go to the bench early at Florida and played a total of eight minutes in the first half.
“It’s going to be tough, but it should be a fun challenge,” Hornsby said. “Anybody who’s on him, no matter what our strategy is, will be looking forward to the challenge, because it was fun last year.”
“We’ll see a lot of different guys on him,” Jones said of Moody. “He almost beat Kentucky single-handedly last year at Kentucky; he’s that explosive and can really get going.
“So we’ll throw a combination of guys at him to hopefully wear him down and give him different looks. He’s going to have the ball in his hands all the time, so we’ll use some guys to try to get him out of his rhythm.”
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter, @MicklesAdvocate.