A blowout 92-53 defeat to Notre Dame in the semifinals of the Maui Invitational was not the most painful loss for LSU on Tuesday night. The Tigers also lost starting shooting guard Brandon Sampson to a serious ankle injury just 30 seconds into the game.
According to coach Will Wade, the initial prognosis is that Sampson will miss 3-4 weeks with a high ankle sprain.
Sampson rolled his left ankle landing on the foot of a Notre Dame player after a jump shot. He returned to the Lahaina Civic Center from a local hospital just a minute or so before the game ended.
Here is Brandon Sampson, who returned from the hospital right before the end of LSU’s loss to Notre Dame. pic.twitter.com/Q0r9LdCRPa
— Alex Hickey (@bigahickey) November 22, 2017
As the final score demonstrated, Sampson is one of the most vital components of first-year head coach Will Wade’s new-look Tigers.
The junior from Baton Rouge is the most versatile player in the LSU lineup, ranking second on the team in scoring with 13.3 points per game and first in rebounding with 5 boards per game. He has also been LSU’s most effective defender early in the season.
“It deflated us,” Wade said. “… He’s one of our better players, so it hurt us defensively. He gave us some length. We’re going to use him on [Matt] Farrell a little bit to give us some length, and it didn’t work out.
“But we’ve got other guys. They’ve got to step up. Some of these other guys have wanted opportunities, and they — we’ve got to step up. We’ve got to get some of these guys ready to go tomorrow and really step up.”
SEC Country’s other observations from the Maui Invitational semifinal:
Notre Dame is where LSU aspires to be
The 13th-ranked Fighting Irish are an elite basketball team this year. It takes a strong starting backcourt to reach the Final Four, and senior point guard Matt Farrell and sophomore TJ Gibbs provide the Irish with precisely that capability. Farrell had 17 points and 7 assists and Gibbs led all scorers with 26 points.
LSU is still growing by leaps and bounds over where it was at last season, but the Tigers simply don’t have the ability to compete with the nation’s elite just yet. That only became more true when Sampson was hurt.
“They’re a Final Four-caliber team. They shoot it, and they’ve got great poise,” Wade said. “They play with unbelievable pace. It would have taken a very good effort from us to win tonight with or without Sampson.”
Tremont Waters will have days like this
Freshman point guard Tremont Waters was sensational in LSU’s 77-75 upset win over Michigan Monday night. Against Notre Dame, he came back to earth.
Gibbs hounded Waters all night, limiting him to 8 points on 2-of-7 shooting from the field while forcing 3 turnovers.
LSU’s offense has to improve against elite defenses
The SEC is a vastly improved basketball conference this season. In order to compete in the league, the Tigers will have to improve their offensive efficiency.
LSU came into the game making 60 percent of its field goals. Against Notre Dame, the Tigers shot just 37 percent from the field to go along with 17 turnovers.