Men's Basketball Begins Prep for Bulldogs

LSU will face Mississippi State on Wednesday at the Maravich Center.
LSU will face Mississippi State on Wednesday at the Maravich Center.
Steve Franz
Kent Lowe (@LSUkent)
Kent Lowe (@LSUkent)
Communications Sr. Associate

BATON ROUGE – It was back to work Monday for the LSU men’s basketball team in preparation for the team’s return home to the Maravich Assembly Center for a game Wednesday with Mississippi State.

LSU and the Bulldogs will meet at 7 p.m. with the game televised on SECTV and broadcast on the affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network.

LSU is 15-9 on the season and 6-6 in the Southeastern Conference while Mississippi State is 13-12 and 3-9. Both teams are coming in off road losses – the Tigers 81-70 at Arkansas and Mississippi State lost 92-82 at Auburn.

There will be 3 point cards in the stands for fans at the game and it is Student Point Night where LSU students can earn priority points for attending. The acrobatic Bello Brothers are part of the halftime activities.

Coach Johnny Jones met with the media on Monday afternoon and here are some of his comments:

Opening Statement…
“We’re looking forward to another week of tough basketball. We have Mississippi State coming in on Wednesday. I know that it will be a tough battle. They’ve played in some very close basketball games against some very formidable opponents. They are certainly coming in here looking for an opportunity to play well on Wednesday. At the same time, we will certainly be looking to get back on the other side of winning as well on Wednesday. It will be a great battle. Then, we are on the road at Kentucky on Saturday. We look forward to a very challenging week of basketball.”

On shielding his players from criticism…
“It’s tough for guys. This day and age with the Internet and everything else that’s out there – those guys are familiar with it. They read and listen and do all of those things. They just have to understand that it’s part of the fabric of what they’re involved in. It comes with winning and losing. When you’re winning, sure they read it and hear it and all the great things that go along with it. When things are not going well, they have an opportunity if they’re involved in it to hear the other side of it as well. Part of your growth is how you deal with it and how you allow it to affect you. That’s the main thing, and we’re hopeful that as young men a part of their growth that they handle both the same way. Winning, when things are positive about them and how they handle it. When they have set backs as well – that’s part of life lessons.”

On the team being frustrated with criticism…
“Absolutely not – my coaches hopefully they are experienced enough and have been around it enough to know how to deal with it. When things are well and when things are not going well – how you handle it. At the same time, I have not seen that so much with kids because I think their ability to bounce back and what they have to focus on and the attention to detail that they have – I don’t think that it concerns them over that period of time. I think they’re really good to get on to the next game and play that way. I think they’re able to do that. Even with a setback at Texas A&M, they were able to bounce back and play in a great environment on Saturday at Arkansas and weren’t affected by the previous game. I think they are looking to their next opportunity which they very well should.”

On if any other teams he’s coach had such a stark contrast between home and road games…
“I think my second year as head coach at North Texas I think we were 7-21 or 7-22 on the season. We lost them at home and away. It was just a matter of getting up and preparing for the next game. I’ve been through those types of droughts. It’s really how you deal with your team in practice and in preparation for games and that opportunity to win the next one. You just have to make sure that those guys are in their right mind set in preparation for trying to win that next game.”

On if it’s good to be back at the Maravich Center…
“Absolutely – it’s always good to play at home. Regardless of what you’re going through or how games are being played, you always want to have an opportunity to play at home because of the success rate that we’ve had here. At the same time, we always look forward to all of the challenges. The good thing about this team is that I don’t think we’ve gone into a game this year feeling like we would have a setback. I always think we have a chance. Therefore, their attitudes are right going into the game.”

On the team’s defensive strategy for the Mississippi State game…
“I think we just have to continue to mix it up. I think you’ve seen where teams have shot well against us for whatever reasons and knock down three’s be it zone or man coverage. I think three teams have knocked down at least 10 three’s throughout the course of the game. We’ve got to make sure we do a good job of defending perimeter shooters, that we are closely attaches and do a good job of handling penetration as well. I think to mix up our defensive coverage will be able to help us. I don’t think you can allow teams to get in a rhythm in this conference. They’ve done a good job when they’ve been able to do that.”

On opponent’s three-point shooting success…
“I think it’s really a combination of things. Sometimes, we are not closing out to great shooters hard enough to get them off of a rhythm. The other thing is, teams are just hitting shots. They get in a comfort zone and able to knock down shots especially at home. Teams have been able to do that. We have to make sure that we keep people off-balanced or at least uncomfortable or certainly getting there on the catch. We need to force players to be drivers instead of shooters especially the great shooters. We need to be able to defend and contain the drive as well. That’s where we will continue to grow. Once we are able to do those things at a high level, we become a better basketball team defensively and that helps us.”

On possible lineup changes…
“I’m comfortable with our guys, and we don’t have as much flexibility with the injury (to Malik Morgan) and the ability to play at that two (shooting guard) and three (small forward) spot before moving them into the four (power forward) spot. We don’t have as much flexibility as we had before. Even with that, I was comfortable with where the lineup is right now. The lineup is not any concern or has anything to do with our ability of covering and not covering the three-point line. That’s just a matter of some adjustments we have to make and then being able to do it at a high rate.”

On the players’ perspective of the SEC standings…
“I think they have a good sense of where I am and how I feel about them. Our deal is to get ready for our next opponent and our next game. At the end of the season, all of that stuff has a tendency of playing itself out. Our concentration and main focus is our next game which is Mississippi State. I think you can see the parity in our league when you talk about the numbers, how many teams and how close it is in terms of our battle there. That’s been going on since the first game of the year. Some of these guys were on this team when we started out 0-4 last year in conference play. We had to battle through. They understand it. It’s about our next game. You can’t get caught up in other things.”

On how many SEC teams he thinks should go to the NCAA tournament…
“Probably about five – five or six teams possibly out of this league I think would have a legitimate chance because of Kentucky and Florida with the way that they’ve played. I think if you look at the other teams – you can talk about any of those teams that are bunched up there (in the standings) be it Ole Miss, Georgia or Tennessee, who is certainly in that conversation right now. There is a list of teams including ourselves who could be a part of that. As the season continues to play, I think about the last week of the season you will see teams playing their way in or out (of the NCAA tournament). Then, you have the conference tournament that if you have a team that’s really close if they can go in there and get hot at the right time regardless of what their final record is – get to the semifinal or final game it could change an opinion. I’ve always have heard that if you’re playing well at the right time – who’s hot and those things happen. That’s the good thing about the conference tournament and the beauty about a great league like that.”




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