Men's Basketball Looks for Four-in-a-Row at Alabama

2012-13 LSU Men's Basketball
2012-13 LSU Men's Basketball
Steve Franz
Kent Lowe (@LSUkent)
Kent Lowe (@LSUkent)
Communications Sr. Associate

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - The LSU Tigers men's basketball team, on a three-game winning streak that includes back-to-back one-point victories for the first time since 1982 will try to win for the fourth-straight time when they travel here Saturday to Coleman Coliseum to take on the Crimson Tide of Alabama.

Game time is set for 7:05 p.m. CST and will be televised nationally on ESPN2 with Mark Jones and Jimmy Dykes on the call. The game will be broadcast on the affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network (Eagle 98.1 FM in Baton Rouge and in the Geaux Zone at

The Tigers have won four-of-their-last five contests by margins of four, three and twice by one point to up their overall mark to 13-7 and 4-5 in the league in eighth place. Alabama is 14-8 and 6-3 and is in fourth place going into the weekend.

The Tigers, following their dramatic last-second win at Mississippi State on Saturday, needed two late Johnny O'Bryant III free throws that were the difference in the 57-56 win versus Vanderbilt.

Alabama had a 10-point halftime lead in its game Wednesday night at Auburn only to lose the contest, 49-37.  Coach Anthony Grant's Tide does have a home victory over Kentucky earlier in the season and Coleman Coliseum has been one of the toughest venues in the league for the Tigers to win on a regular basis.

The lineup for the last two games should remain the same for LSU with Anthony Hickey (12.5 ppg, 3.7 apg), Andre Stringer (10.9 ppg, 1.9 apg) and Malik Morgan (5.6 ppg, 3.3 rpg) at the guards with O'Bryant III (11.8 ppg, 8.3 rpg) and Shavon Coleman (11.4 ppg, 7.2 rpg) at the forwards.

Hickey, who hit the runner that won the Mississippi State game, tied her career high with four treys and equaled her LSU rebound high with seven. Stringer, in the contest had two assists and that made him the 29th player in LSU history to have 200 career assists. He earlier cracked the top 10 in career threes made with 142.

O'Bryant III had his double double streak stopped at five but made it six straight games scoring in double figures against Vandy.

Alabama leads the overall series, 101-67, with LSU's win late last season stopping a five-game Tide win streak. Alabama leads, 65-17, in games at Tuscaloosa.

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Coach Johnny Jones met with the media prior to the team's leaving Baton Rouge. Here were some of his comments:

Opening statement ...
"I'm really excited about the win (Wednesday). I thought our guys did an excellent job of coming out, playing extremely hard and really making some plays early in the game. Unfortunately, there in the middle of the (first) half we probably didn't execute on the offensive end. Defensively, I thought we were really still good, and we played extremely hard on that end. We forced them to only 19 percent shooting from the field in the first half. I thought about the last three or four minutes, we made a great run there. Anthony Hickey made some plays. Our pressure from our press was good. I thought Andrew Del Piero made some huge plays, rebounds, put backs, got a nice dunk in there and knocked down two free throws. I thought during that run he really helped us as well. We look forward to the challenge on Saturday, an Alabama team that probably didn't play their best yesterday at Auburn. They are a very capable and a very talented basketball team. We look forward to those challenges on Saturday evening."

On being a team that likes to press and handling the press by the opposition at the same time ...
"At times, I think some teams that press a lot don't like being pressed. I think Florida has the ability to press, and they pressured us. I thought we were able to handle their pressure somewhat. Other teams that have pressed us this year, I think we have the ability sometimes to get out in the open floor and make some plays. Therefore, sometimes teams will back their press off because of our quickness. Once we get through that first wave, our guys have been able to make good decisions on the back side of it. So, that's how Alabama plays. I don't think they would do anything differently. We must handle their pressure if we're going to play well against them. Our big deal is just being poised under pressure and making sure that we make the right reads and the right plays. I think if we do that, some great things can happen for us."

On Alabama's style of play ...
"Well, I think the good thing what they do defensively is that they're a very aggressive style basketball team. They get after you defensively. A lot of times what they do is create their offense from their defense which gives themselves some easy scoring opportunities. I think that's something that they really rely on, that defensive pressure to create easy scoring opportunities for them."

On winning tight games being a sign of progress thus far ...
"I think, and I told the guys this last night, that we have made some improvements. We're a lot further along than we were a few weeks back. I think the sign of an improved team, or a good team is when you don't play your best and you still have an opportunity to succeed or win. We were able to win last night without executing at a high level on the offensive end. I think you're able to find ways to win. As Coach (Dale) Brown used to say, I guess we were able to manufacture a win last night. Those kinds of things will happen if you continue to put yourself in certain positions, but I think that's a sign of an improved team. A good team is able to win when you don't play at your best, and you're still able to get a victory against a quality opponent which Vanderbilt is."

On the progress of the team ...
"I thought early in the season we've had some close calls. I thought we'd done well. We had got into conference play and had a couple setbacks early on. The South Carolina game, getting it into overtime. They actually came back and had some success in the overtime against us. I thought at Georgia, another close basketball game, we had chances there. I think over the last week some good things have happened for us. I know our guys were extremely confident during that time. Even in the South Carolina game, we were confident. I thought we would win the game there at the end, but it didn't happen. I think it helps your confidence when you're on this side of it, and you've had that success. If something should happen in the future, we can always look back to executing at a high level when we needed to in crunch time. The game is generally going to come down to the last couple of minutes anyway. It's about executing offensively, getting the stops on the defensive end and making sure that you're knocking down free throws. If you're able to do that at a high level, you have a good chance of having a good success ratio."

On Anthony Hickey ...
"I think he's made some great strides. I think his focus is primarily now on basketball. I think he understands that he probably let his teammates down, and our fans, when he wasn't available in that early period. I think that's something that bothered him, not being there for his teammates. I think that's a good thing. So, I think now he tries to avoid and make sure there's nothing there, or any hurdles in his way to prevent him from being out there. I think he thinks prior to making some of the decisions he was making early on."

On Anthony Hickey success in the clutch ...
"Well, I think it's just the relationship and plays we run. I think he understands which sets we're in. If we're running certain plays, he knows when it's time for him to probably be more aggressive. There are times for him to continue to create opportunities for his teammates to keep them involved. I think he's getting it, and I think it's coming to him as he continues to play. When the times during the game come when he needs to step up and be more aggressive offensively, he's done it."

On Anthony Hickey's blocked shot last night (of a Vandy breakaway layup attempt)...
"Yeah, I knew something was about to happen because I saw him getting his steps together. So, I knew it was going to be good. I knew something was about to happen, he was going to be aggressive and he went in. I saw a clip in the paper today that really showed the extension that he had on it where his hand was. I thought it was a great block last night. It's really a momentum changer there because they go in there and score those two points. Instead, they wind up having to take the ball out of bounds against a set defense. That was a big turnover. The guy was out in front, and Hickey didn't quit on the play. So, I thought that was really a great defensive hustle play for us."

On being a versatile team ...
"Well, I think the good part about our team is that I think we've shown we can play a couple of different ways. We're not just one dimensional. I think we can push it, and we can play fast if need be. Then, we play a team like Vanderbilt who tries to control the tempo, or Texas A&M, when they try to control the tempo they can. We can sit there, get into the clock, execute as well and make plays. So, I think it's really a good sign to have a team that's capable of doing that because sometimes people are one dimensional. If you take them out of their rhythm, it's extremely tough for them to deal with it."

On Andrew Del Piero ...
"I tell you, we've been really happy. I tell people all the time. I've been doing this for 28, or 29 years, and he's the most improved basketball player that I've ever been around. I told some guys the other day that if he doesn't improve anymore from this day forward from where he came from when I saw him in April to the impact that he's made on our team now - I think it speaks volumes what he does in practice, and what he brings to our basketball team. It's not easy because when I saw him in April, I wasn't sure if he'd even really be a part of what we're doing. The work that he put in - he couldn't finish our workouts and would come up short on things. It was extremely tough for him. For him to get through the summer and come back in August with a renewed commitment and focus on what he really was doing, I know now that he has a passion for what he's doing. It means something to him. For him to make those type of strides in the small amount of time, I think says a lot. It generally takes guys a year to a few years, and we're sitting here trying to figure out thinking early on if we can get another year out of him because of how far he's improved. I think it says a lot about him."

On Andrew Del Piero's dunk ...
"Well, it looked like Shaq had come in. The base of the basket came up from the floor down there, and I think they have it cemented in from when Shaquille (O'Neal) was here, and those guys, because they tried to stop it from moving so they don't have to stop the game. I thought he (Del Piero) went in there with some force last night and pulled that thing down. He went through traffic to get it so I was really happy to see that last night. We know that he's capable of doing it because he's done it in practice a few times. To see him get through traffic like that, and that little drop off pass that Malik (Morgan) threw him. You just don't understand for him to be able to catch that pass, get his steps and finish at the rim what that requires. From when you saw him in April, to him making that play last night, it's something."

On Andrew Del Piero's progress ...
"Our fans appreciate it because they were here. I wasn't here last year. So, they had an opportunity to see him last year. The guys that were on his team last year knew where he was, and the impact that he made on the team or lack thereof. Now the guys that are all here know what we were in April, through the summer and where he was in August, to the point that he is now. They get excited, he makes plays. He got the rebound put back last night and had a nice little jump hook that went in. He threw another little left handed hook in there that didn't go down for him, but I mean he goes with his left or right in there. Then, he gets to the free throw line and knocks down two huge free throws for us right there in the first half with nothing but net. For him to step in there as confident as he has, that says a lot. On the defensive end, I think it goes unnoticed that he's a presence in there. It forces people to play over him. Even when he doesn't block shots, they're altering their shots because of his length and size in there. So, he presents a really good presence in there for us."

On what it means to play for LSU ...
"I tell these guys all the time what's special for me is I've had an opportunity to put that jersey on before. Anytime you put that LSU on, it's something special. You represent a lot of people out there. In telling the group the other day, the 1953 team that played in the first Final Four, when you put that jersey on you represent them. You represent those guys before that. Then, you talk about the Rudy Macklin's and the Shaquille O'Neal's. All of those guys still bleed that Purple and Gold. When you put that uniform on, or when they see those games on TV, there challenges are there. That's what you represent. You've got to make sure that you're representing it the right way, and that you're fighting for the right cause. It has to really mean something when you have it on, that you're out there and whoever is in that other jersey is the enemy. Anytime you put it on, you're playing for bragging rights. I don't care who you're playing. So, when we line up it means something to us because our deal is to make sure that we defend that uniform that we have on."

On the rivalry with Alabama ...
"Well, I think it's obviously a good rivalry. It extends from football to basketball, you name it. I don't care what we're playing in. It's a challenge because I think the number of years that you've been in the conference together. I think for basketball obviously Kentucky is a huge rival as well, but I don't think the Alabama rivalry is any different from those. I think it stands out there and is at the top just as well."

On coming back to coach at LSU as an Alabama assistant coach in 2001...
"I had been away from here for three years at that point. The toughest thing was coming back here to work as an assistant and being on the other sideline. That was different for me, and it was probably a tough week in preparation for that. I was so glad when it was over and got it behind us because it's just tough. I'm sure (former LSU women's basketball assistant coach) Bob Starkey went through the same thing when he had an opportunity to come back in here with Texas A&M the other night. It's different, and it's hard. When I was at North Texas coming back here as the head coach, it was tough. I think those things happen, but it won't be difficult for me to go back to Alabama. I've done that a lot of times and only had to (come to LSU) once when I was at Alabama. We only came in once so that was good."





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