KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Johnny O'Bryant III turned in another solid performance with 24 points to go along with eight rebounds, but the LSU men's basketball dropped an 82-72 to Tennessee Tuesday at Thompson-Boling Arena.
For O'Bryant III, he knocked down 9-of-16 from the floor and eclipsed the 20-point plateau for the third time in his last four outings. He tallied 13 of his team-leading 24 points during the second half.
Anthony Hickey collected 14 points, four assists and two steals over his 38 minutes of action, while Malik Morgan chipped in a career-best 12 points. Morgan's previous career mark came in an 11-point effort at Georgia on January 19.
The Tigers (15-9, 6-7 SEC), playing their third game over the last six days, have lost only three times since January 23. As a team, LSU registered a 45.6 shooting effort (26-of-57) and hit only 33.3 percent of its treys (6-of-18).
Tennessee (15-10, 7-6 SEC) won its fourth straight game and fifth consecutive decision over the Tigers dating back to the 2008-09 season. The Volunteers connected for a crisp 57.4 shooting clip (27-of-27) sparked by a 66.7 ratio (10-of-15) from three-point territory.
Tennessee was sparked by Trae Golden, Jordan McRae and Jarnell Stokes. The trio accounted for 67 of the team's 82 points and nailed 20 of the squad's 27 field goals.
McRae exploded for a career-best 34 points aided by a perfect 6-for-6 on three-pointers. Golden totaled 20 points and dished out a game-leading eight assists. Stokes cleared 13 points and 11 rebounds to claim his 11th double-double of the season, tying him with O'Bryant III for the SEC lead.
LSU grabbed a 9-6 edge during the game's opening minutes on a Malik Morgan triple from the top of the key with 15:51 remaining.
Over the next seven minutes off the clock, Tennessee seized the momentum and ripped off 19 of the next 25 points to grab a 25-15 advantage. McRae ignited the run with a jumper and fired off 12 points in all during the spurt.
LSU charged back to within 29-25 on a Hickey trey at the 4:07 mark. However, the Volunteers countered with another flurry, 11 of the final 16 points of the stanza. Golden provided five of those points as Tennessee took a 40-30 advantage into the locker room.
After the Volunteers canned a trio of three-pointers to start the second half, LSU cut the margin down to 51-45 on an O'Bryant III lay-up off a beautiful from Stringer with 13:06 to go.
McRae responded with another three-ball and a dunk to put Tennessee back up by nine, 56-47, with 10:43 left.
The Tigers would pull back to six points on two more occasions, 66-60 after a Hickey steal and lay-up at the 5:46 mark and 71-65 following a Hickey trey with 4:11 on the clock. Each time, McRae answered with critical baskets on Tennessee's next possession.
LSU square off with Alabama for the second time in a 14-day span Saturday at the Maravich Center. Tip time is set for 12:30 p.m., and the game will be televised by the SEC Network. An online version of the telecast is available at www.ESPN3.com and the Watch ESPN app.
Tickets for Saturday's contest, which includes a halftime recognition of the 1978 team which defeated No. 1 Kentucky with all five starters fouled out of the game, are available at LSUtix.net.
The LSU Sports Radio Network also will broadcast the game on Eagle 98.1 FM in the Baton Rouge area and inside the Geaux Zone at LSUsports.net/live. Jim Hawthorne, Ricky Blanton and Kevin Ford will call the action.
For all of the latest news and information on Tiger basketball, visit www.lsusports.net/basketball. Fans can also follow the program on its social media outlets at www.Facebook.com/lsubasketball along with @lsubasketball on Twitter.
LSU Head Coach Johnny Jones
Opening Statement ...
"I thought we played extremely hard tonight. I'm proud of our guys because of the effort, intense tonight. Unfortunately for us, I thought Golden and McRae had a tremendous offensive basketball game tonight. In changing defense and personnel, I thought both did extremely well. They go 8-11 from the three point line between the two, and McRae going 6-6, they had a really balanced scoring attack. I think they both had 14 in the first half and ended up getting 54 points between the two. I thought they had a great job as far as the balance of their scoring. I thought we had great effort and they are probably playing as well as anyone in the league right now and they showed that again tonight."
On the LSU defensive effort ...
"I thought we tried just about everything that we possibly could, we ran at them, tried to double them, tried to run the ball out of their hand, but they did an excellent job up jumping up and hitting threes. We ran the press and forced them to take early shots and they had success knocking those shots down as well. They were just comfortable and got in a rhythm. We went zone and tried to make sure they had to take shots over the top and they hit those shots too. When we made our run they did a great job in terms of settling down and coming back and making big plays."
On Jordan McRae ...
"He made big plays, be it at the rim, at the three-point line, he played extremely well. He looked great and we just didn't have an answer for him."
On Jarnell Stokes ...
"He's a big, physical, strong guy in there and you have to make sure that you at least have an eye on him to help down there defensively. But I thought those guys did a great job tonight of getting the ball to him and hitting some gaps, forcing a little help, then when we were trying to recover out, they were able to knock shots down and offensively they were just hitting on all cylinders."
On his team's effort ...
"We were patient. I thought overall we did a pretty good job of taking care of the basketball and being balanced, but they're long and have great range, they're extremely quick. They do a great job in terms of switching defensively, and they're capable of switching one through four because of their personnel out there on the floor and that allowed them to be really good defensively getting down and staying in front of you."
On if fatigue was a factor after their recent schedule ...
"Absolutely not, I think we were excited about getting in here to play. We knew the emotions were high with them coming off a huge win on Saturday. I thought we did a great job in terms of our practice schedule and getting rest when we could. It was a good little stretch for us, winning two of three of those. Give a great deal of credit to Tennessee coming off an emotional game and being able to bounce back after an emotional win."
Tennessee Coach Martin
On how Trae Golden is helping Jordan McRae ...
"I think it helps him off the ball. It is the same way with Josh Richardson, Armani Moore and those guys because what happens now when you catch the ball you have one, two, three dribbles to the rim. It takes a toll on you when guys pressure you up the court. If I am playing against Jordan McRae, and McRae is above the court one way I would try to defend him is pressure him and get him off balance and get the ball out of his hands and make problems, but now in a half court offense, the way our offense works, before he has the opportunity to score you know where the ball is coming from, you know where he is getting it from and you know when he is receiving the ball, now he knows he has the advantage because you have to make a decision at that point."
On the teams 3-point success ...
"Guys are spending time in practice shooting shots. The offense will dictate when you take shots. You go through Jarnell Stokes, then you have open looks. They might double team him, if not he scores the basket, if they want to double team then you have guys making shots. It is a lot easier to make shots when you know where your shots are coming from. Now in practice you have guys taking five shots from a spot, as opposed to having a hit or miss offense where you do not know where you can go to, and say lets see what works."
On concerns of playing flat after performing well against Kentucky ...
"You have concerns about it. It is human nature. For us we do not spend a lot of time talking about it. You talk about the things that help you win in a basketball game. When I played in college it was the same way, you have to find a way to give yourself the best chance to win this game. It might be ugly but no matter the outcome lets just find a way to win and get out of here. That is what it came down to. We have been doing a good job of scoring the ball and sharing the ball."
On LSU potentially being a trap game ...
"If I had to pick certain teams in this league that were major threats this would be one of them. Even before the game, when you watch them on film, because any time you have a guy with the rock who demands a double team he can score, he can make shots, he can make free throws, and you have perimeter guys who can make plays and shoot the basketball, that is a tough team to go against. They space you out, they pressure you, and their guards make tough shots, big shots, off-balance shots, and keep the pressure on you. I like these kinds of games. I think the fans like the up and down style games. I am not a guy who wants to keep the game at 50 points), I want to score the ball and have some fun with it."
On Stokes and Edwards play against LSU's bigs ...
"I thought it was great for him. I thought he did a good job excepting the challenge. We started Armani Edwards, I thought he did a good job battling. He is a guy who can score the ball and for us you have to give up some to get some. You see how it goes, you try to keep the ball out of his hands. I think we did a poor job of keeping him off the glass, he got some tips and I think that is where we broke down fundamentally. He did a good job with the initial post move and on that second or third tip we did a poor job."
On offensively handling the press ...
"We are always handing the press, taking care of the ball, being aggressive. You can run 50 different schemes against the press but you have to want the ball. Bottom line. You have to go get the ball. I think that solves a lot with the press."
On whether he believes the team is peaking ...
"I think we are just playing good basketball. These guys are a good team. Still have plenty of work to do, there is still progress to be made. We have the tools to be successful. We will see. Our bench was not strong tonight in my opinion. We have to get that corrected. It will change, there will always be something new and something different. Hopefully we continue to score the ball and our players continue to compete."