Lowe: Basketball Passion Back in 'Challenge' Win
Communications Sr. Associate
There is a Christmas carol with an opening line, "Do You Hear What I Hear?"
I believe what I heard was a faint rumbling of a new era of LSU men's basketball having its coming out party last Thursday night at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center against a Seton Hall team that won 20-plus games a year ago.
Granted it's only one game, it's November and you've heard me say things like this before.
While it's only one game, it's only November and a break even season in the SEC will be easier said than done, the way the game played out and the response of the crowd gives me a feeling. Throw in a nationally-ranked recruiting class for next year, and there's an optimism that hasn't been seen in a while.
I've sat and watched a lot of basketball in what is the opening month of my 25th year at LSU and many years beyond that, but even last year's comeback from 17 down in the first half against Mississippi State didn't quite have the same drama or fervor for such a long periods of time as did this one.
Seton Hall was pretty much doing what the rest of the BIG EAST was doing for much of the first half, building a 35-27 halftime lead. Then 20 seconds into the second half, a three-pointer, an inbounds turnover by LSU and a three-pointer, made the lead suddenly 14. That lead would go to 16 at 17:16 and 16:39 (48-32).
The Tigers came down and scored and as the ball went through the net, Johnny Jones turned to the official and quickly called a time out. Being the first of the second half, the timeout gave him two minutes to plot strategy.
It was an MVP two minutes as far as I'm concerned. Now, there is a little debate on this as to whether or not the players were seeing this for the first time or whether or not they had done a little practice on this at some point since Oct. 15, but Coach Jones quickly put together a press that was as much helter-skelter-go find the ball pressure in the backcourt as much as anything.
And, it began to work. As it began to work, first the students began to roar and soon the crowd was entirely behind the Tigers pushing them on-and-on as the gap between the two teams closed.
The lead was down to single digits, eight points, at the 11:52 mark and the crowd was beginning to find its voice. In all LSU would force turnovers, rushed shots and mayhem to tie the game for the first time at 8:55, 52-52.
Seton Hall scored the next five and you might have thought, wow, great run but we might be out of gas. But LSU just turned up the pressure some more. The crowd responded and got louder. LSU took the lead for the first time at the 6:06 mark and only gave up the lead for one brief moment the rest of the way in the 72-67 win.
My main remembrance after the game was that in the final two minutes, not only was the student section standing, but everyone in the arena was standing. The crowd was still there and still loud right to the end despite the late night. It wasn't the Deaf Dome yet, but it shows LSU fans can still get passionate about their men's basketball.
It was great to see Coach Jones and the players go down to the student section and thank them for being there and helping the team with their cheering. Even more impressive was the comments by the players and coaches about the crowd in the post-game. They recognized what a difference the crowd can make and if this is a sign what the team and its fans can be like in the months and year to come, I like it.
Coach Jones asked the fans if they liked what they saw to bring a friend next time. Bring 2 or 3 why don't you. There's a difference. There's an interest, and we are just entering December. Again, this team could have struggles ahead, especially on a difficult road trip or in the league, but at home this team may be able to make life miserable for opponents.
LSU and Seton Hall on Thursday had a special feeling to me. I heard a crowd. I saw a crowd get behind its Tigers. I saw a team respond and not give it up. I like what I saw.
Come see for yourself on Dec. 11.