November 22, 2015

LSU's Ben Simmons and Marquette's Henry Ellenson are off to vastly different starts to their college careers.

These highly regarded freshmen meet Monday night when Simmons and the 22nd-ranked Tigers take on Ellenson's Golden Eagles in a Legends Classic semifinal at Barclays Center.

Simmons and Ellenson are considered among the best freshmen in the country, with the LSU forward garnering consideration as the top player in college basketball and Ellenson being seen as a possible NBA lottery pick.

Simmons is averaging 18.7 points and 63.2 percent shooting for the Tigers, finishing with 23 points and 16 rebounds in Thursday's 78-66 victory over South Alabama.

''I'm just trying to win, so my focus was on being aggressive and assertive the whole game,'' Simmons said. ''As soon as I started driving, I got into a rhythm and felt comfortable."

Simmons has helped LSU (3-0) get off to its best start since opening 6-0 in 2012-13.

Marquette has lost two of its first three for the second straight season under second-year coach Steve Wojciechowski, who is building around Ellenson. The 6-foot-10 forward scored 39 points in his first two games before being limited to three on 1-of-8 shooting in Thursday's 89-61 home defeat to Iowa.

Ellenson is shooting 34.3 percent.

"With Henry, people are game planning for him and that's new," Wojciechowski said. "This is a different level to high school. He's going to be at the top of everybody's scouting report. We have to help him better and he can play better."

The Golden Eagles suffered their worst home loss since an 84-56 defeat to DePaul on Jan. 28, 1991. They trailed 48-21 at halftime.

''I take full responsibility for it,'' Wojciechowski said. ''I didn't have my team ready to play in that level of game. I take full responsibility for it.''

One way to take pressure off Ellenson would be to get the ball more consistently to center Luke Fischer, who has made 13 of 17 shots and is averaging 12.3 points. Fischer fouled out in 16 minutes with eight points against the Hawkeyes, making all four shots.

Marquette entered play Sunday ranked last among major college teams in 3-point shooting at 21.9 percent.

"We have not shot the ball well," Wojciechowski said.

LSU freshman Antonio Blakeney has taken advantage of the attention on Simmons to average a team-high 19.3 points. The shooting guard scored 22 on Thursday.

"I just saw opportunities and open shots so I had to try and knock them down," he said.

The Tigers are uncertain if starting center Elbert Robinson will be available after he sprained his ankle Thursday. Coach Johnnie Jones said he'll see if Robinson can practice Sunday.

Marquette has taken two of three meetings with LSU, winning 84-80 in the last one Dec. 22, 2012.

The winner will face Arizona State or North Carolina State in Tuesday's title game.

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