LSU's success – and failures – have been closely tied to Ben Simmons' shooting.
The freshman sensation will look to help the Tigers avoid a third straight loss Monday night when they visit the College of Charleston.
LSU (3-2) fell from No. 22 to out of the Top 25 after back-to-back losses against tougher competition, though both defeats at the Legends Classic in Brooklyn came in close fashion. The team lost 81-80 against Marquette last Monday and 83-72 in overtime against North Carolina State the next day.
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“We are hopeful that we can make sure we can clean up as a basketball team as we move forward prior to conference play,” coach Johnny Jones said. “I thought those two games we played were against similar conference-type competition, and it's really good for our young basketball team to get that valuable experience early on.”
Simmons had scored 66 points over a three-game stretch before being held to four on 1-for-6 shooting against the Wolfpack, though he still had 14 rebounds, 10 assists, three steals and no turnovers. He also fouled out in the first minute of overtime after having 21 points and 20 rebounds against Marquette.
“I think that's what probably people have to learn to appreciate being that he has the ability to impact the game in a lot of different ways,” Jones said. “Every night he's not going to come out and score, a lot of people are going to devise maybe to try and take him away. When you look at 10 assists, it could have been more.”
Simmons is 7 for 20 in LSU's two losses compared to 24 for 38 in the three wins. He's averaging 16.2 points, 14.4 rebounds and 6.2 assists.
“You want him to continue to stay aggressive in his nature and take shots,” Jones said. “He's spent countless hours in the gym working on his shot – be it perimeter, inside, various moves. He just needs to feel comfortable being able to apply that in the game as well.”
The Cougars (3-2) have had their last three games decided by eight points, and are coming off Friday's 57-56 home win against Western Carolina. Freshman Jarrell Brantley scored a season-high 17 and blocked a 3-point attempt with five seconds left.
This marks the first time they've hosted a ranked team since an 80-38 loss to then-fifth ranked Louisville on Dec. 4, 2012. They knocked off No. 9 North Carolina 82-79 in overtime at home on Jan. 4, 2010.
LSU won last year's meeting 71-47 at home on Dec. 22, holding Charleston to a 28.1 field-goal percentage and 15 first-half points. None of the Tigers' three double-digit scorers in that game are still with the team, however.
LSU, which also visits Houston on Dec. 13, won both its nonconference road games last season.