LSU basketball vs. Tennessee: Score prediction and scouting report
BATON ROUGE - Can LSU basketball stop its five-game losing streak?
Regardless of whether they can or not, the Tigers will have to end it soon in order to save their season which continues against No. 9 Tennessee at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center on Saturday (3 p.m., ESPN).
LSU (12-6, 1-5 SEC) has crumbled on offense in recent weeks. The Tigers, winless in 2023, haven't posted a field goal percentage over 45% in a game since Jan. 3 against Kentucky. In its most recent defeat, a 67-49 loss to No. 17 Auburn, LSU had trouble even converting layups, only making 7-of-24 attempts.
With the Volunteers coming to town, the schedule doesn't get any easier. Tennessee (15-3, 5-1) has an elite defense and is coming off a 70-59 win over Mississippi State on Tuesday.
Does LSU have a prayer on offense vs. the nation's best defense?
Tennessee is No. 1 in the country on defense in ESPN's College Basketball Power Index and on KenPom.com. It has plenty of length on the perimeter, great athletes up and down the roster and the necessary size to protect the rim.
To put it plainly: There can't be a worse matchup for LSU at the moment.
Besides KJ Williams, the Tigers haven't been able to find any sort of consistent offense during conference play. Adam Miller has struggled mightily from the floor, despite taking a high volume of shots, Cam Hayes struggled in his return to the starting lineup on Wednesday and freshman forwards Jalen Reed and Tyrell Ward haven't provided a boost.
And it doesn't help that Justice Hill has left the team for personal reasons and Mwani Wilkinson is out for the season with a shoulder injury, thinning a rotation that already lacked scoring options.
For LSU to pull off a sudden offensive turnaround and have a chance against the Volunteers, improved 3-point shooting will have to lead the way. The Tigers have shot under 30% from 3-point range in their last two contests. If it can reverse that trend, as it did against Kentucky, LSU might have a shot.
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Limiting offensive rebounds will be key
Tennessee is one of the best offensive-rebounding teams in the nation. The Volunteers are 12th in the country in offensive boards per game and 13th in total rebounding.
Freshman forward Julian Phillips and sophomore forward Jones Aidoo are averaging at least two per game. Tennessee also has 7-foot-1 center Uros Plavsic to help out on the glass.
That's a tough mismatch for LSU, which struggles to corral rebounds, especially on defense. The Tigers have surrendered at least 11 offensive rebounds in their last three games and lack size overall, often playing with three-guard lineups.
Score prediction: Tennessee 68, LSU 45
Tennessee's defense swallows LSU whole and the Tigers have no way to respond. On the flip side, the Volunteers' offense struggles early but eventually figures out LSU's scheme and dominates the offensive glass.
Koki Riley covers LSU sports for The Daily Advertiser and the USA TODAY Sports South Region. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @KokiRiley.