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Head coach Trent Johnson during a recent visit to children in the hospital.
Photo by:Steve Franz, LSU Athletics Staff Photographer
Nicholls Next on Basketball Holiday Schedule
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Published: December 16, 2009, 12:00 AM (CT)
Updated: December 16, 2009, 04:17 PM (CT)
by Kent Lowe (@LSUkent), Sr. Associate SID

BATON ROUGE The LSU men’s basketball team looks to sustain the momentum of a strong second half Monday night against Southeastern Louisiana when they host the Nicholls State University Colonels Thursday night at 7 p.m. at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

The game will be regionally televised by Cox Sports TV (Ch. 37 in Baton Rouge) and broadcast on the affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network (New Country 100.7 FM The Tiger in Baton Rouge).  The broadcast is also available in the GeauxZone at LSUsports.net. Tickets are available online at LSUsports.net and at the upper concourse ticket windows of the Maravich Center beginning at 5:30 p.m.

An energized Tiger team ran its record to 6-2 Monday night with a 77-60 decision over Southeastern in which LSU pulled away from the Lions in the second half. Tasmin Mitchell had an outstanding night scoring 24 points and pulling down 18 rebounds, while Storm Warren had his sixth consecutive home game double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Bo Spencer returned to the starting lineup for the first time since spraining his ankle against Connecticut on Nov. 25 and scored 21 points.

Nicholls enters with a 3-8 record but the Colonels, who won 20 games a year ago, are 3-0 in their last three games, all back home at Stopher Gymnasium in Thibodaux.  Nicholls has wins over Loyola-New Orleans, Southern-New Orleans and a Monday night win against Mobile.

The Colonels will be led by junior guard/forward Anatoly Bose who is averaging 18.5 points per game while sophomore guard Fred Hunter (13.6) and junior forward Maurice Foster (10.5) each own double figure scoring averages. Bose scored his 1,000 career point in Monday’s win over Mobile.

“I have watched a lot of tape (on Nicholls) but you need to start by just watching them play Washington State,” said Johnson. “Washington State is obviously a good basketball team in the top tier of the Pac 10 and that was a game that was back and forth. (Nicholls) really test your defensive discipline. They really run their stuff at a very crisp pace and if you break down at any point in time they are going to take advantage of you. But what is different from this team as opposed to last year’s team which we really struggled with is they have got five guys that can pass, catch and shoot it.

“We are going to have to build off of our second half versus Southeastern Louisiana and play well and play with the same amount of energy. As much as this sounds like a broken record but with this team it is we have to continue to get better and can’t take a possession off. We just aren’t afforded that luxury for the remainder of the year.”

More than likely, LSU will go with its three guard lineup again with Chris Bass, Aaron Dotson and Spencer at guards and Mitchell and Warren at the forward positions. Mitchell is averaging 16.9 points per game, while Warren is right behind in average at 16.5. Warren leads the league in rebound average at over 11 boards a game.

LSU concludes its four-games in eight-day home stand with a 1 p.m. Saturday contest against Rice. The Tigers then go to Seattle on Sunday to prepare for the Cougar Hardwood Classic at Key Arena against Washington State.

Basketball Press Conference
December 16, 2009

LSU HEAD COACH TRENT JOHNSON

Opening Statement ...
“I have watched a lot of tape (on Nicholls) but you need to start by just watching them play Washington State. Washington State is obviously a good basketball team in the top tier of the Pac 10 and that was a game that was back and forth. They really test your defensive discipline. They really run their stuff at a very crisp pace and if you break down at any point in time they are going to take advantage of you. But what is different from this team as opposed to last year’s team which we really struggled with is they have got five guys that can pass, catch and shoot it. We are going to have to build off of our second half versus Southeastern Louisiana and play well and play with the same amount of energy. As much as this sounds like a broken record but with this team it is we have to continue to get better and can’t take a possession off. We just aren’t afforded that luxury for the remainder of the year.

On how Tasmin Mitchell and Bo Spencer have done in their new leadership roles ...
“It has been up and down. Looking back at Tasmin’s career, when he was a freshman there were three or four guys around him that were pros. Last year’s basketball team we had Marcus Thornton, who could go get a basket off of the dribble or just shoot it, and we had Garrett Temple who was the ultimate leader. Now you come in and you fast-forward and there are a bunch of inexperienced players and some injuries. So until they have been facing those situations where they are struggling, there is that point where they may start to second guess themselves. But for me, I just reinforce to them that they have to stay the course. It has been up and down, but it is not a two man situation or three man situation. We have to get everybody to contribute by rebounding or defending, and we have to stay aggressive. Those are the things we have to do.”

On how true freshmen Eddie Ludwig and Aaron Dotson have played so far ...
“Eddie has been good. I base that off of when he comes into games he does not lack confidence. He has a great grasp of what we are doing. Obviously there are certain situations where physically he is overmatched, but still he plays aggressive and stays through. He is a good basketball player and he has a high basketball IQ so he understands. Aaron has struggled. I think a lot of it is based off of his inability to knock down shots he is accustomed to making. I am trying to get him to understand that he is doing a good job for us defensively and that he is doing a good job. That goes back to the whole group. Don’t let what goes on offensively, if you remain aggressive, dictate how you are going to play the other facets of the game.”

On the play of Dennis Harris and Garrett Green ...
“Dennis is making a lot of progress. Obviously the injury sort of set him back, so I am concerned about him getting back into game condition. He has showed life, and his improvement early in the year was a lot like Storm Warren’s. He is a guy that needs to understand the sense of urgency. Dennis is very pleasant young man, but I tell him no matter how sociable you like to be, on the floor you need to have a little attitude. He is getting better in that regard. Garret it is between the ears. He is as healthy as he has been. If you look at him in the previous two games just dropping the ball in the situation where you should be catching it, that is all just concentration. He is an older guy but he hasn’t player as much basketball as some of the younger guys. But as far as the injuries, those are all behind him.”

On how Dennis Harris is recovering from his back injury ...
“Well today he is going to go full practice. Usually the day before the game we guard our opponent’s stuff full speed and get a lot of shooting, rebound, and transition work, so we will get a good gauge if he can go out and play. Could I have played him the other day? Dennis thinks he could, but a back is a back and those can have lingering effects throughout the year so I am going to err on the side of caution. Our medical said he could have played ten minutes, but I chose to keep him out.”

On Chris Bass’s development as a young player ...
“He is stronger. For us, he is our best athlete in terms of lateral movement and pound-for-pound strength and quickness. He has also been our most durable guy since I have been here and he happens to play the most demanding position. He is getting better. I am on him constantly and sometimes he responds and sometimes he doesn’t, but he listens all the time. When you look at his ability to take care of the ball, as a sophomore it shows great improvement.”

On if Storm Warren’s breakout season rebounding surprised him ...
“No. I expected him to be a double-double guy. But the reason I say I am not shocked is that Storm is very coachable. He is very accountable and he is a very unselfish individual. For me, with guys like him there is no secret. They are going to be as good as they can be because he is never going to rest on him morals. The biggest difference in what he is doing now is last year he was a guy that you would throw it to him and he would have to have an angle to score, but now he can get his shoulder hook over bigger guys. It doesn’t surprise me because he works at it constantly. He put in a lot of time in the offseason and it is going to be interesting to see how high his ceiling is.”

On if the players are more attentive now that final exams are finished ...
“I have never had a problem with that. It is their willingness to understand that they have exams but that this is what they go to school for. You have two hours to concentrate on basketball and then you have to rest of the day to focus on exams. They were very attentive and what we got accomplished at practice was good. I am very sympathetic to the academics, but in this day and age any guy that is a student athlete that thinks they have it hard, well there are a lot of other people that are paying for their education that have to do the same thing working two jobs. That is how I get their attention.”

On when you start preparing the team mentally for conference play ...
“It would be nice if we could just mail these box scores in for these next six games and just start talking about conference. No, I don’t. They know they never hear me talk about it. The nice thing about our schedule is that we play our last game against McNeese State, and then we have four days to prepare for league. Some guys can do it, but for me that is such a lack of respect for competition. That is what it is about, it is about being competitive and doing things right. Shame on anybody if they look at whoever our best team in our conference is and then look at them any differently than who they see as the worst team. I will never get caught up in that. I mentally make sure that our guys understand that this is what we have to do to be successful no matter who we play. The whole game is dictated for us. For us to be effective and for us to win on a consistent basis and beat good teams at a championship caliber, the game is going to evolve on our half court. We ran more last year, but we defended better early on and we had a few more athletes. For me it is always going to be about preparing us to get better within ourselves. Yes, you have to prepare for this team and that team, but we have a good grasp on what we need to do. We know what we have and we know how we are going to have to play.”

The next two weeks of games help you evaluate the team ...
“If there is adversity, then yes. I fully anticipate us to be challenged tomorrow and challenged on Saturday. Then turn around and get on a plane to go play a very good Washington State team and how do we respond to that? Are we going to fall back and start doing the same mistakes? That is what we are going to find out. When you go through adversity, it doesn’t build character it reveals who you really are. For us it is important that they understand that if you do all of those things, and you are right as a group both mentally and physically, and you get beat, well then the other team is just better and you have to live with that.”

 

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