LSU does two things particularly well on defense — block shots and steal the ball.
Missouri is understandably leery as struggling to finish in the paint and turnovers have been an issue at times this season.
Against Vanderbilt, Missouri missed 12 layups and that wasn’t against a team that averages 6.3 blocks per game like LSU, which ranks 16th in the country.
On Tuesday at the Pete Maravich Center in Baton Rouge, La., Missouri will face an imposing set of shot-swatters led freshman Jordan Mickey, who ranks sixth in the country (3.56).
“You always have to be on your toes and have different types of finishes — up-and-unders, shot fakes, use the rim,” sophomore Ryan Rosburg said. “You definitely think about that in the back of your head.”
Of course, junior Jordan Clarkson isn’t worried. Missouri has done a great job getting into the paint and getting to the line.
“I’m going to keep attacking the basket,” Clarkson said. “I know how to finish over bigger guys.”
That is the attitude Missouri coach Frank Haith wants all his players to have heading into LSU’s arena.
“When we get the ball on those two-foot shots that we’re not making right now, we’ve got to be aggressive,” Haith said. “We’ve got to attack. If we shy away, they’re going to block them, and that’s like a turnover too.”
Of course, that’s not the only danger for Missouri. LSU ranks 10th in the nation, averaging 9.4 steals per game led by Anthony Hickey (2.31).
“We’ve got to be strong with the ball, we’ve got to make good, solid decisions and we’ve got to meet passes,” Haith said. “We’ve got to play with a sense of urgency and play with some intensity, because they’re a type of team if you don’t, because of their talent, they can expose you.”
Of course, Missouri needs to be strong defensively too, especially on the interior.
“(Freshman Johnathan Williams III), in our last game when we went zone and the way we run zone, he was terrific — baseline-to-baseline, closing out, moving his feet,” Haith said. “Obviously, he’s blocked some shots.”
Rosburg handled junior Johnny O’Bryant well last season, Haith said, and another strong performance would go a long way toward helping Missouri win.
“There are different types of ways they score,” Haith said. “Johnny O’Bryant’s two feet in the paint. We’ve got to do our work early and can’t let him get established in post position and we can’t just let him go to work on our guys one-on-one. It’s got to be a great team defensive effort.”
If all else fails, Missouri hopes to simply run numbers at LSU with its bigs — Rosburg, Williams, senior Tony Criswell, junior Keanau Post and freshman Torren Jones.
“We’ve got five of those big guys,” Haith said. “We don’t want them to be shy and be soft in there. That won’t give us a chance to win.”