SIDELINE PATROL: LSU?basketball is for real

Peter Silas Pasqua
Peter Silas Pasqua is the sports editor for the Gonzales Weekly Citizen. He can be reached at sports@weeklycitizen.com

I?admit, I?haven’t paid much attention to the LSU basketball team this year. I have only seen them play once when they loss to Xavier at the PMAC?on ESPN. I would have liked to have seen more games but this year’s Tigers have taken a while to get on the radar for T.V. to pick them up.

I?have kept up with them in the papers and  must admit I am pretty impressed with their run in SEC?play. However, I couldn’t help but believe all the analysts who say the conference is down this year.

That all changed Fat Tuesday. After beating the Arkansas, Ole Miss, Alabamas, Mississippi States and even Auburns of the SEC?West, LSU showed they were the cream of the crop in the conference this year, even if it is supposedly down, by defeating a very good Florida team 81-75, to wrap up a share of the SEC?regular season overall title with games to play.

Marcus Thorton was his usual self, scoring 32 points and a season-high six 3-pointers but more importantly he hit four free throws down the stretch to preserve the victory.

Thorton is LSU’s star, averaging 20.9 points per game, which seems to be increasing with each game. But he is not alone. There are Tiger mainstays, Garrett Temple and Tasmin Mitchel, emerging star Chris Johnson, steady point guard Bo Spencer and role players Chris Bass, Terry Martin and Quinton Thorton.

They have gelled and amassed a 24-4 overall record to go with their near perfect 12-1 mark in SEC?play under first-year head coach Trent Johnson.

Johnson had experienced success before, most notably with his previous team Stanford, and clearly looks like he was the right guy for the job after John Brady was fired last season. Brady had talent at LSU?and at times knew how to mold as evident by LSU’s run to the Final Four recently, but it has been awhile since I have gotten excited about Tiger basketball before March.

Some say Baton?Rouge is not a basketball town and unless Shaquille O’Neal or Pete Maravich are on the floor, people have shied away from the game. But what?Johnson has done in only in first-season should have LSU faithful anxious to watch them play, whether on T.V. or in person.

The Mardi Gras win over Florida now gives LSU’s basketball program its 10th SEC title. That makes LSU?the only school from the SEC to hold 10 conference titles in the three sports of football, men’s basketball and baseball.

In fact, LSU’s 10th title in basketball is second only to Kentucky. Baton Rouge is a sports town and they love LSU no matter who is playing and basketball has a great tradition there. It is only fitting that in the year LSU celebrates 100 years of the sport played by the school, there is a pretty good team on the court representing the name.

It is a name that includes Bob Petit, Rudy Macklin, Ricky Blanton, Chris Jackson,  Clarence Ceasar, Tyrus Thomas and one of my favorite Tigers, Vernel Singleton. LSU has never won a national championship in basketball which is determined by a tournament. This could be the year.