November 24, 2015

The last thing coach Johnny Jones ever wants to witness is Ben Simmons carrying LSU single-handedly.

Even the standout freshman's best collegiate performance to date wasn't enough in the first game of the Legends Classic.

The 22nd-ranked Tigers are going to need to provide Simmons with some help as they prepare to face North Carolina State in the consolation game Tuesday night in Brooklyn.

Simmons has been anointed the No. 1 pick in next year's NBA draft by many and has handled the hype about as well as could be expected. He's averaging 19.3 points and 14.5 rebounds while shooting 57.7 percent from the field despite being the focal point of the opposition's defense.

He played all 40 minutes Monday against Marquette, hit a twisting go-ahead layup with 21.5 seconds remaining and finished with 21 points, 20 rebounds and seven assists, becoming the first player from a major conference since Oklahoma's Blake Griffin in 2008-09 to have a 20-20 game.

Simmons couldn't do everything, though, as LSU (3-1) shot 37.0 percent from the floor and fell 81-80 after Marquette hit a pair of free throws with 10.8 seconds left.

The Tigers hadn't shot worse than 45.9 percent in their previous three. Freshman Antonio Blakeney went 5 of 13 from the floor and finished with 14 points.

''We know the potential,'' Jones said. ''We know how good Ben is and what he is capable of providing for this team. As a team we cannot ask him to put up these kinds of numbers night in and night out.''

Simmons had the ball in his hands twice in the final seconds with the Tigers looking for the winning bucket, but he passed off both times. Jalyn Patterson's long 3-point attempt at the buzzer fell short as LSU finished 8 for 27 from behind the arc.

Although Simmons put up strong numbers, he was disappointed with his play at the defensive end. Marquette's starting front line shot 16 for 28 and scored 42 points combined.

''I think I let Marquette score too much,'' Simmons said. ''It was too easy for them inside the post. That was the main thing for me.''

N.C. State (2-2) doesn't have much to throw at Simmons with just eight scholarship players available. Three of its top four scorers from last year's Sweet 16 team that beat LSU in a 66-65 thriller in the NCAA Tournament's round of 64 are gone.

Also, West Virginia transfer Terry Henderson tore ligaments in his right ankle shortly into the season opener.

The Wolfpack were outrebounded 47-35 in Monday's other semifinal against Arizona State and fell 79-76. Their starting front line combined for just 13 boards, and 6-foot-2 guard Anthony Barber tied for the team lead with six rebounds.

Barber also had 22 points and eight assists while Maverick Rowan added 14 points. Barber's 3-point attempt that could have tied it at the buzzer was off.

''Our concern right now is making sure we get better,'' coach Mark Gottfried said. ''I don't think we're a great basketball team right now. I thought our guys battled and we played pretty hard, but a team has to learn how to make key plays at the right time.''

Barber finished with 17 points and Abdul-Malik Abu added 13 against LSU in the NCAA Tournament win. Tim Quarterman had 17 in the defeat for the Tigers, who blew a 14-point halftime lead.

You May Like