Johnson Previews Basketball Trip to South Carolina

LSU's Trent Johnson
LSU's Trent Johnson
Hilary Scheinuk
Kent Lowe (@LSUkent)
Kent Lowe (@LSUkent)
Communications Sr. Associate

BATON ROUGE - LSU Coach Trent Johnson met with the media on Thursday afternoon to preview the Tigers Friday trip to Columbia, S.C. for Saturday's contest at the Colonial Life Arena with the South Carolina Gamecocks.

The game is set for a 12:47 CST tip on the SEC Network and the affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network (New Country 100.7 FM The Tiger).

LSU is 15-10 on the season and 5-6 in the Southeastern Conference after a 69-65 overtime victory over Mississippi State on Tuesday night. USC won its second conference game on Wednesday night at home, 57-56, against Georgia.

Here are some of Coach Johnson's comments from earlier today:

Opening Statement ...
"South Carolina is playing with as much purpose as anybody in the league right now.  They've got a really nice, talented young team.  Obviously, [Bruce] Ellington, we all know about, is a special player.  Watching their game tapes, they've had an extremely challenging schedule [playing] Vanderbilt twice, Kentucky twice, so on and so forth, but it speaks volumes to [head coach] Darrin [Horn] in terms of how hard his team's playing and how they haven't lost their focus.  Obviously, I'm well aware of what that's about because I've been there twice.  So, it's a game on the road that we're going to have to play well. There's no question about it ... we need to be ready to go.  We're going to practice long and hard (Thursday). Then, we'll come back in the morning from 6:45 to about 8:15 prior to kids going to class because it's an early start come Saturday. Then we'll travel, obviously, Friday after class."

On preventing players from getting too high after the Mississippi State win ...
"Well, (I'll) do what I've always done. If they know me, immediately after the game one of the comments I made was, 'Anthony, way to bail Ralston and Justin out.'  Obviously, I'm going to talk about it ... before we start watching video tape on South Carolina. I'll bring closure to this game [Mississippi State] because I was gone (Wednesday), didn't see them.  The first half was atrocious. Shame on us if we can't get in on an even keel, come out here, practice hard and do the things that we are capable of doing.  Otherwise, what happened the other day is going to go for naught. That's pretty simple for me and my staff.  But, the leadership on this team, whether it's the seniors or the juniors, as a group is going to have to say 'ok, we need to get back to work.' I fully anticipate us practicing hard, and I fully anticipate during the course of practice me having to address some things.  So, we'll see.  There are a couple of guys that haven't been in this situation. This is for me; I keep going back to this because it's so important in athletics, that's why it's competition.  You treat everybody the same, you compete your tail off regardless of who it is, and where it is.  But, we'll see."

On what a team has to do to put together a winning streak in league play ...
"You've got to defend, you've got to rebound, you've got to take care of the ball with a sense of urgency and you've got to worry about this practice and that possession.  You've got to play to your strengths, and when things get tough, guys have to understand their roles. All of those things.  It's one game at a time.  When you say league play, regardless of what the league is, I'm speaking from experience in three different leagues as a head coach and as an assistant coach, it's never changed.  Those good teams that I was affiliated with at Stanford, we had more success on the road at times because we had a group of guys that really understood. Their approach on the road and their habits on the road was the same as at home.  They could block out all of the distractions, and they could block out what everyone was saying.  They truly were a team that could play for each other. I'm talking about the 1998-99 team.  So, that's all it really is.  Basketball is hard just because other sports you're in helmets and you're in dugouts. Here you're really exposed, and people act like that can reach out and grab you.  Your mental discipline and physical toughness is real important." 

On what has changed with the team since January ...
"When I said wiping the slate clean, I just thought that we played a nucleus of teams that were pretty good, quite frankly, better than us.  We battled and battled, but what's changed is we continued to get better. Pretty much, certain guys have made certain plays.  Ralston's [Turner] starting to attack the basket a little better.  Andre [Stringer] is starting to play a little better.  Guys like Eddie [Ludwig], Malcolm [White] and Storm [Warren] came off the bench and helped, so on and so forth.  You say what's changed, and maybe we made a couple more plays here [in February] that we didn't make [in January].  Maybe we put a body on a guy here where in the previous two or three games we didn't put a body on a guy. It translates to a win here or there.  Quite frankly, again with Mississippi State, we played better there than we did here.  We played better at their place and lost than we did here at home.  We were God awful the first half, you guys saw it."

On Justin Hamilton's impact on the team ...
"His impact has been probably as big and as large, or whatever way you want to use it, as anybody.  He's a joy to coach.  When I say he's very coachable, a lot of guys will tell you 'yes sir, yes sir, yes sir,' if you tell them to work on this or work on that. Then, you see them a week later doing something different and not doing what you told them.  Justin, you tell him something once, and he does it.  He has a good basketball IQ.  He gives us a post presence, and he's a leader on our team in charges.  His value to our basketball team and this program has been immense.  He's a quiet leader.  Nothing that he's done has been surprising to me, with the exception of maybe dropping a couple of balls... He's found ways to play through things, and again, for me what I like the most about him is that he doesn't bring a lot of attention to himself.  He's just a guy that just works.  He's like the old reliable, just gets things done methodically."      

On South Carolina's Bruce Ellington ...
"He's special.  The thing about what Bruce has done is they were still playing football. He was coming off the football field, coming over [to basketball] and playing in non-conference [games].  He's a major league athlete and the position he plays at, it'd be different if he was playing a three, or the four, or five.  We had a guy, Evan Moore, at Stanford, who is now with the Cleveland Browns, he played with [assistant coach] Nick [Robinson].  He was like a tight end and he was a power forward, but to come and handle the ball and do what he's doing, he has a major league battery and skill level.  I just wish he'd concentrate on football full time. That's what I wish he would do, that way he could leave early and go to the NFL."





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