BATON ROUGE - After just two home games in the month of January, the LSU men's basketball team finally starts a stretch of four-of-its-next-six games at home as they host South Carolina Wednesday night at 7 p.m. at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
Several promotions are in effect for the game including it being the first of two "Student Priority Point Nights" as LSU students, who are admitted free with their ID, will also earn points toward tickets for post-season events and football bowl games by their attendance at the contest.
Also, students will be given scratch-off tickets and in the second half of the game a number will be revealed that will win one LSU student a $1,000 scholarship sponsored by McDonald's.
Also, one Maravich Maniac member has the chance to win a free ticket to next year's season-opening football game at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, against Oregon. The pre-game student lounge will be open on the upper concourse by the student entrance with food and drink provided by Acme Oyster House.
Those fans attending the Bayou Bash recruiting party Wednesday earlier in the day at the River Center can use their tickets to purchase a ticket for the basketball game for only $5.
Tickets are available online for the game at www.LSUtix.net and beginning at 5:30 p.m. on game day at the ticket windows on the upper concourse of the Maravich Center.
The game will be regionally televised on the SEC Network (Louisiana affiliates: Baton Rouge - WBHX; Lafayette - KLAF; New Orleans - WUPL; Shreveport - KSHV) and on the affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network (WTGE New Country 100.7 FM The Tiger in Baton Rouge) and at LSUsports.net/live.
LSU is 10-11 on the season, 2-4 in the league after losing four straight conference games while South Carolina is 12-7 and 3-3 in the league. That's puts both teams fourth in their respective divisions. South Carolina is coming into the game off a home loss, 79-64, to Auburn, while the Tigers lost at Alabama, 70-46.
Ralston Turner will play his second game back from injury after scoring four points in 20 minutes against the Tide in his first action since suffering a stress reaction in his right foot against Virginia on Jan. 2. Coach Trent Johnson in his media session Tuesday said that Turner did not have any ill effects from the first game and would probably play about 25 or 30 minutes against the Gamecocks.
Storm Warren remains a question mark with the tendonitis in his right Achilles. He has played limited minutes since missing the Jan. 2 game at Virginia and did not play in either game last week.
LSU is expected to go with the same lineup as started at Alabama with the freshman backfield of Andre Stringer (12.6 ppg), Matt Derenbecker (6.6 ppg overall, 11.3 ppg in SEC play) and Turner (team leading 13.1 ppg) with sophomore Eddie Ludwig (3.7 ppg) and junior Malcolm White (8.2 ppg) at forwards.
South Carolina's Sam Muldrow is averaging 11.0 points per game and 7.4 rebounds, is nearly averaging a double-double with 14.5 points and 9.7 rebounds per contest and an SEC-best 5.5 blocks per game against conference opponents. USC leads the nation in blocked shots per game with 6.9 per outing. Muldrow ranks fourth in the nation in blocks per game (3.5).
Freshman Bruce Ellington leads the Gamecocks in scoring at 14.2 points per game. Sophomore forward Lakeem Jackson, averaging 9.2 points, is expected to be back in the starting lineup versus LSU after missing the Auburn contest due to a sore left foot.
The Tigers also play at home on Saturday at 3 p.m. against Mississippi State. Faculty and Staff with their LSU ID can purchase tickets for just $1. Peter Rabbit, the Bucket Drummer, will make a return appearance as the halftime entertainment. Follow LSU Basketball on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/LSUBasketball and on Twitter @LSUBasketball and @LSUCoachJohnson.
Here are some of Coach Johnson's comments on the game during his Tuesday media session:
Opening Statement ...
"After Saturday we usually take Sunday off, but we came back and practiced on Sunday around 5 p.m. We worked on press breakers, went up and down the court and got after each other for about an hour and a half. The kids lifted on Monday and we are back at it now on Tuesday. It was important to just get right back on the floor and it also freed up the assistants and the coach to get out and go look at a couple of players.
"South Carolina is very skilled. Sam Muldrow in the post is leading the league in blocked shots. They are very much improved from their team last year. (Bruce) Ellington has done a very good job as a freshman point guard, he is a handful. For the most part we need to get better and try and sustain something. I thought we had an opportunity (at Alabama) when it was 32-29 if we got a crucial stop here, we take a good shot and make a couple good shots we put ourselves in a better situation past the 15 minute or 12 minute mark in the second half. Much is being said about Alabama's pressure. They do a good job defensively but obviously for me I think it was just bad decisions on our part and an inexperienced team in that kind of environment.
"Injury wise, Ralston (Turner) is fine. Storm (Warren), I don't know if he will go today. Other than that we have some guys that are banged up and bruised like everyone else at this time of year.
On how close Storm Warren was to playing on Saturday and if he's going to play Wednesday ...
"Not very. I'm not going to put him out there when he is hobbling around and limping on one foot. He is struggling with not playing. I just can't do that because that is an Achilles. The next thing is that thing could pop. He is struggling. He has done everything in the pool and he is going to do some stuff on the floor under supervision. We will make a decision from there. If he would play he would probably only be 50-60 percent. It's hard for him because he is so competitive. We know we need everybody on deck for us to be successful. In my position I just can't because that doesn't make sense. I'm not going to jeopardize a kid's career for a series of games or any game."
On if he sees the drive from the team to turn the season around ...
"The only way to answer that is these guys are continuously listening. There is no quit. From what I see and what we as a staff see, they are still on board. I think what's hard is for them to understand that as much as we have been put in this situation, a missed block out here and a missed open shot there, that with this team against good teams and good players can be contagious and start to slide. That is what you have to continue to battle your way through. As bad as we have played and as bad as we've shot the ball we're 2-4 in the league. We're 10-11, which is by no means good, but we have some games to play. It's about us just staying the course and continuing to try and get better. That's hard for a young team and hard for a team in many ways that is inexperienced. Right now they feel really bad because they feel they are letting whoever else on the outside down, but I tell them they need to make sure they satisfy themselves and their teammates first. That's the long answer, but they're good. This is a good group of kids and they're fine in terms of staying together. This weekend is important and they know it."
On if he has ever had so many big losses in a row ...
"Yes, in my first two years at Nevada. I was asked that question about a week ago. My approach is that's why I am a firm believer in the next possession, the next play. You never get too far ahead of yourself. Whether we are down 20 or up 20 I'm still going to coach each possession and I'm still going to coach this basketball team. Kids need to understand that, but also being on both sides of that is how you conduct yourselves when there is some adversity. I have been in some situations where we have been really, really good with three teams but I won't let my guys get arrogant and full of themselves. Then I have been in this situation before where you don't hang your head and don't feel sorry for yourself. You have to learn how to lose before you can learn how to win. There is a group of guys in this locker room that has to learn how to win at this level. If you want to know the numbers I was 9-20 my first year at Nevada and then 10-18 the next, the rest is history."
On being back home after the road stretch...
"Well home or on the road, we have to play well. Again and when I say play well we have to compete well and do the fundamental things where we break down at. Then they have to enjoy playing the game on the offensive end and not feel pressured when you are open to turn down a shot here or there. It's hard because the people we are playing against are good, but it's all about playing well. Home or on the road, it doesn't matter."
On how he expects Ralston Turner to play in his second game back ...
"I thought he handled himself very well mentally in terms of being put in that environment. After it he didn't dodge any questions, he was very respectful towards Alabama and didn't make any excuses. He came in and got his time in. I know he worked out on the off day, so I will play him probably 25-30 minutes and I expect him to make some open shots. I expect him to be a lot better. This game is a game of rhythm, especially the position he plays. I expect him to be better and I expect us to be better (Wednesday)."