COLUMBIA — Johnny O'Bryant's finally bringing his practice performances to the games — and that's got Louisiana State on a major run in the Southeastern Conference.
O'Bryant had a career-high 30 points and 10 rebounds as the Tigers won for the fourth time in five games with a 64-46 victory over South Carolina on Thursday night. LSU (14-8, 5-6 SEC) started 0-4 in the league, including an 82-73 overtime loss at home to the Gamecocksin January.
In that one, O'Bryant wasn't much of factor with nine points in 23 minutes. This time, the 6-foot-9 sophomore was pretty much unstoppable as he made 13 of 19 shots, all from just about a few feet of the basket. O'Bryant said he was too anxious earlier in the season, making early moves that wouldn't work. Now, he gives his teammates time to find him in the right spot and is more comfortable waiting for the perfect opportunities to attack the rim.
"It's just being patient, making the right moves and going to the rim strong. That's what I tried to do tonight. I just tried to get to the rim and finish," he said.
And he wasn't the only LSU big man to dominate the Gamecocks (12-12, 2-9).
The Tigers 7-3 center Andrew Del Piero was 3 of 3 with seven rebounds while 6-8 forward Jalen Courtney was 3 of 4 from the field with four rebounds.
LSU coach Johnny Jones has seen O'Bryant improve at practice. The rest of the SEC is seeing the results game after game.
"I think it's evident to him and he's really put forth that type of effort," Jones said. "He's really brought his practice to his play."
South Carolina's fifth consecutive loss meant the longest losing streak in the six-year college career of coach Frank Martin.
O'Bryant scored the most points scored by a LSU player since Tasmin Mitchell had 38 against Auburn in 2010. O'Bryant reached double figure points and rebounds for the seventh time in the last eight games.
Lakeem Jackson scored 10 points to lead the Gamecocks.
Andre Stringer finished with 12 points, including two of LSU's three 3-pointers.
LSU took advantage of its talent around the basket to pull away from the undersized Gamecocks in a game when the Tigers' outside shooting was off the mark. O'Bryant, Del Piero and Courtney were a combined 19 of 26 shooting. The rest of the Tigers went 7 of 33. LSU's starting backcourt of Anthony Hickey and Stringer made five field goals between them.
Then again, it didn't matter much with O'Bryant's dominant showing.
Jones said it was one of LSU's most complete games this season. "Especially in the second half, I thought we moved the ball around," he said. "Sharing it, getting it inside, getting post touches. And on the defensive end, I thought it was one of the best efforts that we've given all year."
The Gamecocks shot just 28 percent (18 of 64), the fifth straight game they finished under 40 percent shooting. For Martin, it was a milestone: "I've never been more embarrassed to call myself a basketball coach than I am today."
Both teams had their struggles early on. They combined to go 1 of 12 from the floor with five turnovers the first five minutes. The Gamecocks held a 16-12 lead on Brian Richardson's 3-pointer with nine minutes left in the first half when LSU got going.
O'Bryant had an inside basket and Jalen Courtney followed with another layup to tie the game. Charles Carmouche put the Tigers ahead to stay with a 3-pointer with 6:21 left.
The Gamecocks kept it close until the start of the second half when LSU opened with a 13-5 run. O'Bryant had three baskets in that stretch, last putting the Tigers up 39-29. South Carolina never got closer than seven points the rest of the way.
Martin said his players, save for Bruce Ellington and Michael Carrera, are not putting in the time to improve. "They didn't bring me here to create a bigger problem. They brought me here to fix a problem," Martin said. "And I'm not doing a very good job of that right now."