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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

What was that?

There was an undermanned, smaller LSU team playing at evil, taller and heavily favored Kentucky on Tuesday night.

The Tigers' star center, Glen Davis, was back home with an injury. And there were the Tigers playing with more movement, more energy and more flow than they have in nearly two months. And they were winning 28-12 at Rupp with 6:45 to go in first half.

This had Dale Brown written all over it.

But it was coach John Brady pressing all the right buttons for about the first time since he beat Connecticut back on Jan. 6.

Here's somebody hitting a 3-pointer from the corner whom I didn't recognize. Alex Farrer? Who is he? He's a freshman from Phoenix, whose 3-pointer more than doubled his points per game average.

Magnum Rolle started at center and was mixing it up with Kentucky center Randolph Morris, blocking shots, getting rebounds and making tip-ins as if he was Ricky Blanton.

Tasmin Mitchell played some power forward like he had been there all season, which begs a question. Why the hell hasn't he been there the whole season? He scored 19 points and looked more dangerous near the basket than trying to be a 3-point shooter.

Dameon Mason for once looked like the player he was advertised to be out of Marquette.

But in an instant, it was all gone.

Kentucky put up an 18-3 run to get within 31-30 at the half. LSU was still ahead, but it had just lost the game. Brady got too far from the bench and drew a technical to aid the Wildcats' cause.

LSU couldn't score, threw the ball away and just played stupidly. That was the 2006-07 Tigers I know.

The Tigers still had some fight left and stayed close until nearly the very end, but in the final minutes it let yet another get away. A pair of inexplicable missed layups down the stretch by Darnell Lazare and Mason keyed a 10-0 run by the Wildcats to give them a 68-58 lead, and it was over.

Despite the 70-63 loss, Brady deserves credit for finding his team and making it play hard and inspired basketball just three days after probably its worst and most uninspired game of the year. The ESPN announcers kept saying how much better the team was playing without Davis. The inside was more open. There was better flow.

Therein lies a problem, though. LSU should be able to play like that with Davis.

When a team plays that well in spots - and that's been LSU's story all year - the question is why can't it maintain that kind of play. That comes down to coaching. And this continues to be Brady's worst season as a coach. There is enough talent there to be about 18-9 and 7-6 right now instead of 14-13 and 3-10. If it's chemistry, the coach is in charge of chemistry.

Now, if the rest of the team can play like that for longer periods of time, and Davis can return for Saturday's 2:45 game on CBS in Baton Rouge, LSU might just give the No. 3 Gators a game, too.


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