SEC coaches viewing LSU as more than just Simmons

SEC coaches viewing LSU as more than just Simmons

January 26th, 2016 by David Paschall in Sports - College

LSU 6-foot-10 freshman Ben Simmons leads the Tigers in scoring, rebounding, assists and blocks as they face Georgia tonight.

Photo by Mic Smith

Standout freshman Ben Simmons continues to lead LSU in scoring, rebounding, assists, steals and blocks, but opposing coaches are having to warn their teams that the Tigers are more than a one-man show.

Owning that task now is Georgia's Mark Fox, whose Bulldogs play in Baton Rouge tonight at 9 EST on ESPN.

"Ben Simmons is not a one-man army," Fox said Monday on the SEC teleconference. "He's as good of a college player as you'll see, but he's got a lot of help around him. The media talks so much about Ben Simmons, as they should, but he has a lot of help, and that makes them a very good basketball team right now."

The 6-foot-10 Simmons is averaging 19.6 points, 12.6 rebounds and 5.1 assists a game for the Tigers, who are 12-7 overall and 5-2 in Southeastern Conference play. LSU is indeed getting solid contributions from players of all classes, with senior guard Keith Hornsby averaging 13.5 points per game, junior guard Tim Quarterman averaging 11 points and 3.5 assists and sophomore forward Craig Victor averaging 13 points and 6.5 rebounds.

Another freshman, guard Antonio Blakeney, is averaging 9.6 points per game for LSU fourth-year coach Johnny Jones, who insists the perception of a one-man show has not affected his team.

"Our guys are excited to have Ben here with us because the attention that has been shown," Jones said. "At the same time, the guys who were here last year understand the impact he has made on the team. This wouldn't work if Simmons was one of those guys who was selfish and ego-driven.

"He is very inclusive of his teammates, so it has worked out really well. We know we have other guys who make great contributions to our team, so there haven't been any issues because of that."

Where from here?

The Vanderbilt Commodores played one of their best games of the season last Thursday night, throttling Tennessee in Knoxville 88-74. They followed that up with arguably their worst performance, getting whipped 76-57 Saturday at Kentucky.

Vanderbilt hosts Florida tonight at 9 on ESPNU, and Commodores coach Kevin Stallings isn't dwelling on the erratic week.

"There are things you could circumstantially suggest, but I think they would all be excuses," Stallings said of his team, which is 11-8 overall and 3-4 in the SEC. "Kentucky came out and went at us pretty hard, and we didn't respond very well. I just think you have to give them credit."

Silent but deadly

Although Simmons is snatching headlines across the league and the country, Florida has a standout freshman of its own. KeVaughn Allen, a 6-2 guard from Little Rock, is currently second on Mike White's Gators with 11.3 points per game.

"He has probably exceeded my expectations a little bit," White said. "He's had a handful of terrific games for us, and I wasn't anticipating him logging this many minutes. He's been better defensively than I thought, but he still will have freshman moments, like all freshmen do."

In an 80-71 win at Ole Miss on Jan. 16, Allen scored 27 points on 9-of-11 shooting, including 6-of-7 from 3-point range. He also collected six rebounds against the Rebels.

Allen is not a candidate to be scolded by White for talking out of turn.

"He's as quiet a kid as I've ever coached," White said. "He speaks with action."

Good, solid week

After losing to Auburn for the first time since 2000, Kentucky bounced back last week with an 80-66 win at Arkansas and the 19-point thumping of the Commodores.

"They played with more of a sense of purpose," John Calipari said of his Wildcats. "They zeroed in on what their job was for their team, and I think they took on some responsibility instead of letting one guy do everything."

Kentucky's two wins last week bumped the Wildcats from No. 23 to No. 20 in the Associated Press poll. The Wildcats, who host Missouri on Wednesday and play at Kansas on Saturday, and the No. 5 Texas A&M Aggies are the only ranked teams from the SEC.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.


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