On Top Down Under

On Top Down Under

September 28, 2015

Every four years, the NCAA allows teams to go on foreign tours. Some use the trip to help young teams mature and get to know each other, others to get some easy wins under their belt to give a team confidence, and others to face the challenge of what is expected to be a special season. You can put LSU in that latter category.

The Tigers travelled Australia in August and faced three teams from that country’s National Basketball League and two teams made up of professional area all-star teams. LSU went 3-2 against the top-flight competition.

“I just think the learning experience,” head coach Johnny Jones told LSUSports.net of his takeaways from the trip. “One, the 10 days of practice prior to leaving was beneficial for us. Then, getting over there and playing and competing at a certain level against some professional guys that really understood and knew how to play. You have to remember, we went into these games without any scouting report, not knowing anything about what they were trying to do offensively and defensively and had to really adjust on the fly. …There were some tough games, and these games were close. We had a setback in one early, won one. Then, we were able to win a couple of other really tight basketball games. I’m really pleased with the way our guys really stuck together and continued to battle. I thought they played extremely hard throughout the trip.”

It also afforded the opportunity for a couple of Aussies to play in front of family and friends as junior Darcy Malone and freshman Ben Simmons returned home.

Of Simmons, the consensus top freshman in the country and projected No. 1 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, Jones liked what he saw.

“I was really impressed with him from game one to game five. One, he’s just excellent on the floor. He has good height, basketball IQ, but more so just on the floor dealing with all of the attention and everything that was given to him in a short period of time over there. Every stop that we were on there was a lot of demand on him for his time, and then he was able to adjust, get on the floor and be productive and produce for his team. He was never affected or bothered by any of it. Toward the end of the deal in the last game, he may have gotten a little worn down with just minutes played and all of the things that were going on around him. Overall, he performed extremely well for us, and I was really proud of him.”

Soon enough we’ll see how a trip down under helped the Bayou Tigers when the games count.

LSU will take on Marquette and NC State will face Arizona State in the semifinals of the FanDuel Legends Classic on Nov. 23 at Barclays Center. The championship and consolation games will be played on Nov. 24. Tickets are available at: http://bit.ly/1Uyw6l2 

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