NEW YORK -- We interrupt the Ben Simmons show with breaking news: Marquette beat LSU.
Most everyone in the Barclays Center, including the 51 members of NBA personnel, came to see the LSU superfreshman. And they got a great show, indeed, as Simmons finished with a ridiculous 21 points, 20 rebounds and seven assists, but his individual line was ruined by the final result, an 81-80 win by the Golden Eagles.
So why did LSU lose? Here are a few reasons:
Simmons is too unselfish. In grade school, sharing is a good thing. In college basketball, if you’re the best, you don’t share. Simmons twice passed the ball up on LSU's final possession, allowing Josh Gray to take the final shot at the buzzer, a long-distance 3-pointer that clanked off the rim and allowed the Golden Eagles to hold on for the win.
That Simmons isn’t a diva is a remarkably wonderful quality, especially in today’s "me first, second and last" world, but had no one else touched the ball on that last possession, it would have been all right. In fact, it would have been very right. Part of the education process for Simmons going forward is realizing he is better than anyone else on the court and it’s OK to be selfish.
And LSU has to get the ball to Simmons more. File this under "D'oh!" You have the best player in the country, a kid who is as skilled as a passer as he is a scorer, and it would seem like a pretty obvious idea to get him the ball frequently. Except too often the Tigers fall into a jack-up-a-shot-and-hope-it-falls offense (and when we say jack it up, we mean from way, way deep), all but ignoring their otherworldly freshman.
Against Marquette, Simmons took 14 shots while Brandon Sampson, Antonio Blakeney and Tim Quarterman combined for 37. Some were good shots; his teammates were open because everyone was paying attention to Simmons. But it was more than that. Simmons frequently was a spectator to his own team, left watching the offense roll around him instead of through him. Not surprisingly, when LSU got the ball in Simmons' hands, good things happened. That’s not an accident, and it shouldn’t be a shock to the Tigers.
It wasn’t just LSU that contributed to the Tigers’ loss. Marquette played a role in the result too. The Golden Eagles, 28-point losers to Iowa in their previous game, looked like a completely different team. The 22 turnovers, no doubt, gave Steve Wojciechowski a case of angst, but they Marquette dished out 21 assists on 30 made baskets.
Luke Fischer led Marquette with 19 points, but the game also was something of a "hey, remember me" effort for Henry Ellenson. NBA scouts are every bit as excited over the freshman big man as they are over Simmons, and he proved why here.
Saddled by foul trouble, the Golden Eagles’ freshman played just 10 minutes in the first half yet still finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Projected as a lottery pick himself, Ellenson showcased a pretty sweet repertoire, knocking down a pair of 3-pointers, hitting jumpers from the elbow and baseline and scoring deftly inside. Ellenson no doubt benefits from the presence of Fischer, the other big man taking some of the heat inside and providing a support system down low that Simmons doesn’t have. Still, if the guards can shoot and drive like they did here, Marquette might be a factor in the Big East.