From LSU Sports
BATON ROUGE – The LSU men's basketball team looks to rebound from a disappointing effort Saturday at what is hopefully just the right time – the Southeastern Conference opener at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center against the University of Tennessee.
The two teams will be the first to start the 18-game conference season when the ball is tossed up at 6:02 p.m. CST as LSU will host the main Super Tuesday SEC broadcast for the first time since Feb. 2009. Brad Nessler, Jimmy Dykes and Shannon Spake will have the call on the national cablecast on ESPN, ESPN3 and the Watch ESPN app. The radio broadcast with Jim Hawthorne and Ricky Blanton, along with host Kevin Ford, will be available on the affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network (including Eagle98.1 FM in Baton Rouge and WWL 870 AM in New Orleans).
Tickets are available at LSUtix.net and the upper concourse ticket windows will open at 4:30 p.m. The first 2,500 fans will receive an LSU license plate feature the new men's basketball center court Tiger logo. LSU students will be admitted free to the contest and for the first time this year the Student Lounge will be open for pre-game food and drink, sponsored this year by La Carreta.
LSU is 9-3 overall coming off a 74-70 loss to Rhode Island on Saturday while Tennessee ran its record to 9-4 with a 98-51 victory over Tusculum College.
It was Jordan Mickey, the freshman who Monday was named one of the best five players in the SEC in non-conference play by COllegehoopsdaily.com, who led LSU with 21 points, hitting 10-of-15 shots, while Andre Stringer had 13 and Johnny O'Bryant III added 11. Stringer had 7 assists and 5 steals and Shavon Coleman again showed his abilities when LSU pressed, getting 5 steals.
But the Tigers saw URI use a 13-0 run in the first half to take control of the game and another run late that LSU couldn't overcome to snap a five-game winning streak.
LSU is 44-36 in SEC openers and it will be the first time that LSU and Tennessee will open conference play. Since 2000, this will only be the sixth league opening game at the Maravich Center.
Mickey (13.9 ppg, 7.8 rpg) is expected to again be joined by freshman Jarell Martin (8.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg) and junior O'Bryant III at forward (14.8 ppg, 7.5 rpg) with Anthony Hickey (9.3 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 3.5 apg, 2.5 apg) and Stringer (12.5 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 3.2 apg) at guards.
But Hickey and Stringer have the unique position of being 1-2 in the Southeastern Conference in assist-to-turnover ratio. Hickey has 42 assists and 12 turnovers, an SEC best 3.5 ratio, while Stringer with 39 assists and 15 turnovers, is at 2.6 and second place.
Tennessee has won three straight with an 82-67 win over Morehead State and an 87-52 win over Virginia before the Tusculum game and three Volunteers are averaging in double figures for third-year coach Cuonzo Martin. Jordan McRae is averaging 18.9 points per game, Jarnell Stokes 13.8 points and Jeronne Maymon 11.1.
LSU will go on the road after this game for two games – Saturday at South Carolina and Jan. 15 at Ole Miss – before returning home on Jan. 18 against Vanderbilt.
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Coach Johnny Jones met with the local media earlier on
Monday and here are some of his comments:
"We're really trying to bounce back from a setback on Saturday against a team (Rhode Island) that really came in, and I thought played well from tip to finish. They made the necessary plays down the stretch and throughout the game to kind of put us in a situation unfortunately that we didn't overcome right there at the end but at least had a shot to tie or win it there late. I think it sets up for us what we've planned in the first place – we've planned a very difficult non-conference schedule to try and prepare us for a very tough conference schedule. We certainly feel like we've done that going 9-3. Certainly, there are some games throughout the year – those nine wins that we had – could have been setbacks that we were able to overcome and play well in. In the other games that we've had setbacks, we felt like we played close enough that the games could have certainly gone either way. But with that being said, we felt like those challenges have prepared us for what we are getting ready to face. We understand that the intensity level certainly has to go up in conference play because the importance of the games. Tennessee, the team we are facing tomorrow, is one of those teams that are playing extremely well. They've really played well their last three games – really demolishing in a sense their last three opponents which includes a very good, defensive basketball team in Virginia. They have great post play in (Jerome) Maymon and (Jarnell) Stokes. Both guys are really physical, strong post players. They have great presence inside. Their perimeter guys with (Josh) Richardson, (Jordan) McRae and (Antonio) Barton have done a tremendous job for them in this early part of the season. They are really playing their best basketball right now especially those last three games. They present a great challenge for us. South Carolina, on Saturday, has won five of their last six games and has really played well as of late. It will certainly be two really good games right off the bat for us in conference play."
On sending a message…
"I think the most important thing is trying to make sure you condition and get your team so it's not about one game. I'm not trying to win one game. I'm trying to build a program, and I think program-building is more important than any one particular game. Certainly because of my competitiveness, I want to win every game that we participate in, but I think there's a certain way that you have to go about participating and playing because of the nature of the business that we're in. It's about program-building, and I want to make sure we do things the right way all the time. I think that our guys get the message and understand that."
On Johnny O'Bryant III's response since Saturday's game…
"Johnny responded well last year when we had maybe some things that we wanted to get better in and weren't awarded for a lack of doing certain things. He understood that, and I thought he responded well in those instances last year just like all of our other players have. Johnny is no different from any of those guys that we have to address for certain situations, and I'm sure that he will do the same in this instance because he loves playing, he loves winning, and this team is important to him."
On the loss to Rhode Island being a wake-up call…
"Playing a team like Rhode Island – a team that played a lot of folks close this year and knew that they would come in and be a challenge for us – we knew they would present a challenge. But at the same time, if you're going to have a setback and get an attention-getter, you'd much rather it be prior to conference play than getting into conference play and that happening to us. We certainly hope that we can roll up our sleeves, learn from our last outing and be better because of it. It's a great teacher for us. Sometimes you can win games in certain ways that you probably didn't deserve really to win. It would be fool's gold, and you don't correct some mistakes. Therefore, it costs you down the road. We're hopeful that we will benefit from it."
On Jordan Mickey's rebounding …
"I just think we've got to continue to work. Some teams are going to present certain challenges because of the people that we're defending and the areas we may be defending on the floor. If he (Mickey) gets caught out on the floor when the shots taken, then it will be a lot tougher for him to get to the glass. If he's guarding a guy that's more engaged inside, then there's an opportunity a shot will go up. You then have the opportunity to block out and go possess the basketball. It ranges. There are a lot of reasons out there that your numbers may be down from one game to another. At the same time, it could be more of a scouting report issue to where people may go try and double him when shots go up to keep him off of the offensive glass especially. But on the defensive end of the floor, we should have more inside position to garner more rebounds. When a team winds up shooting a good percentage like that, there are less rebounds to be had. Sometimes, it's a little bit more difficult."
On Tennessee's lengthy guards grabbing rebounds…
"(Jordan) McRae, (Antonio) Barton and (Josh) Richardson – all those guys are very quick, rangy and they have the ability to rebound. The good thing is, we had two guys under six foot (Anthony Hickey and Andre Stringer) who led us in rebounding in our last game. If we do a great job of blocking out and going possess the ball, some good things can possibly happen for us. We are very capable, and we just have to be more in-tune to how important it is. I think sometimes you get a little bit spoiled. I thought last year that everybody just assumed that Johnny O'Bryant was going to get the rebound. They'd block out, and Johnny went and got the rebound. His average was around 10 or so (a game) for us last year. This year we have Jordan Mickey who has really been a good rebounder, and we have other guys that are very capable. Sometimes, people relax and allow or think someone else is going to do their job. They block their man out, but they haven't gone and possessed the ball. Then, we've gotten beat by someone else. We've just got to be more in-tune. We always use the phrase, ‘More attention to detail,' in terms of doing that and being more disciplined about keeping guys off of the glass."
On the team having a mean streak…
"I think you either have it or you don't. I think we have guys on our team that are just physical and mentally tough. They are just that way. It seems sometimes when have a team that's like that you have other guys that are on the team become more confident because of and have the ability to really rally around. I like the mentality of our team. We are going to be certainly playing focused and have a little bit of edge about them. We have to make sure that we play that way because when conference play starts you are going to get that every night. It's the teams with an edge about them that go out there, and the most aggressive team that's executing at a high level has a chance to be successful in games."
On making Tennessee's Jordan McRae uncomfortable…
"We haven't figured that one out yet. He was really comfortable last year when we played them, and I think other teams have had difficulty finding that out as well. Just this week, he's picking up his second player of the week award in our conference. I think that means that he is a very good and solid basketball player that can score inside and out. He has a great mid-range game and has really been playing well."
On what it means for the players that Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf
(former LSU player in town to watch Tuesday's game)…
"I thought it was really good because his message to them was ‘You're going to get out of the game what you put into it.' Coming from him, he put a great deal into it away from practice being in the gym alone and really working on his game. Getting them to understand how important it is for them to play together as a team and what it's going to mean to them down the road. Not necessarily now – but years from now and being able to embrace the moment. Utilizing your God-given gift and making sure that you maximize it. I think it was a really strong and powerful message to our team."
On LSU rebounding as a team…
"Unfortunately for us, we had a bunch of spectators Saturday. Those two (Johnny O'Bryant III and Jordan Mickey) both had zero rebounds at the half, and we know that they are much better and more capable than that. Anytime you have guys that are as dominant on the boards, a lot of time guys will spectate and are not as aggressive in terms of going to the glass. Not meaning that they are not doing their jobs, our goal is to make sure that each person when the shot goes up strike, find their man and block them out. Generally, the people closest to the basket wind up with the rebounds. When you talk about people going to get rebounds out of their area, our guys are capable of doing that. Who would have thought that our two guards (Anthony Hickey and Andre Stringer) – the two smallest guys on the floor – would lead us in rebounding on Saturday? I mean they had to go get rebounds out of their area, chase them down and run them down. Long shots and long rebounds – those things are going to happen. With those two forces inside, I think we're both probably guilty of watching a little bit too much when we are on the perimeter instead of going and possessing the ball because we expect our post guys who lead us to get those jobs done."