Johnny O’Bryant admitted to some soreness following the last two games.
No, the pain hasn’t been originating from the sprained ankle he suffered in early January. It’s come from fatigue. The sophomore forward has played 34 or more minutes in the last three games, and the results show how positive that is.
All three times out O’Bryant registered a double-double.
Behind O’Bryant’s 14 points and 10 rebounds, LSU toppled Texas A&M. Saturday, O’Bryant poured in 21 points and grabbed 12 boards playing against one of the country’s premiere shot blockers in Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel.
“I tell Johnny to get a double-double every game,” said sophomore guard Anthony Hickey. “That’s what he should be aiming for. That’s what he should get. I got high expectations for Johnny.”
It’s tough for anyone to live up to those expectations from the bench. That’s where O’Bryant spent a ton of time earlier this month due to the ankle tenderness and foul trouble.
O’Bryant has already fouled out of four games this season, twice the number he did in all of last season.
In LSU’s two non-conference losses at Marquette and Boise State O’Bryant was saddled with five fouls. He also bowed out of a tough loss at home versus South Carolina. Dating back to November, LSU had to squeak by Northwestern State. Not so coincidentally, O’Bryant fouled out of that contest as well, playing just 19 minutes.
“I was getting a lot of silly fouls, a lot of little reach in and trying to take floppy charges,” O’Bryant said. “I just kind of cut down on making silly fouls.”
Of O’Bryant’s eight double-doubles, seven have come when he plays 28 or more minutes. Only twice all season has O’Bryant played 28 minutes and not recorded a double-double.
Coming down the stretch in one of college basketball’s most hallowed houses, LSU head coach Johnny Jones entrusted freshmen Malik Morgan and Shane Hammink to contribute.
The sophomore southpaws combined for 35 minutes at Rupp Arena, chipping in six points and four rebounds while turning the ball over just once.
For Morgan, the playing time was nothing new. He’s been a part of the regular rotation as injuries continue to pop up. Hammink, on the other hand, hadn’t played 10 minutes since LSU’s loss at Auburn. Twice, versus South Carolina and Texas A&M, Hammink didn’t see the floor at all.
Saturday he exploded to the rim for a gorgeous finish to trim the Wildcat lead to seven with 5:42 on the clock.
"I thought (Hammink) had some good minutes on Saturday,” Jones said. “He played really aggressive on both ends of the floor. Offensively, he had a really strong move to the basket and finished. On the defensive end of the floor, I thought he was very physical and played strong inside.”
Morgan buried both of his free throws after a questionable flagrant foul call. He also flushed home an alley-oop in the first period.
Both players fit the mold of Jones’ rangy, athletic style, and as the program matures, so will they.
“Every time they come in, I tell them to play like they’ve been here before,” said sophomore guard Anthony Hickey. “They didn’t play like a freshman last game. Malik came in with some great hustle plays for us. Shane made a big play for us. It’s all about them getting better.”
Senior forward Eddie Ludwig and freshman guard Corban Collins continue to miss time dealing with concussion issues.
Ludwig hasn’t played in the league, though he sits on the bench with the team.
After taking a nasty knee to the face in Georgia, Collins has missed the last two games. The gash above Collins’ eye has healed up, but he did not rejoin the team until Monday when he watched a practice from the sideline according to Coach Jones.