Jones Previews SEC Basketball Tournament

LSU head coach Johnny Jones
LSU head coach Johnny Jones
Chris Parent (@chrisparent)
Kent Lowe (@LSUkent)
Kent Lowe (@LSUkent)
Communications Sr. Associate

BATON ROUGE - The LSU men's basketball team began preparations for the 2013 Southeastern Conference Tournament with their next-to-last practice at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center practice facility before leaving on Tuesday night for Nashville, Tenn.

The Tigers have a first-round bye on Wednesday night before opening play in the first game of the second round on Thursday at noon CST against the University of Georgia. LSU is the No. 9 seed, while Georgia is the 8th seed after both tied for eighth at 9-9 in the SEC.

The game will be televised by the SEC Network (WBXH in Baton Rouge) and the affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network (Eagle 98.1 FM in Baton Rouge and the Geaux Zone at

Georgia won the first meeting of the teams, 68-57, on Jan. 19 in the fourth game of LSU's opening four-game league losing streak. Since then, LSU won 9-of-14 games to get back to even and post just the seventh non-losing league season in the last 20 years.

The Tigers will have the first press conference slot at 11 a.m. on Wednesday at the Bridgestone Arena and then will have 45 minutes of practice time on the court beginning at 11:45 a.m.

Coach Jones met with the media on Monday and here are some of the comments from that session.

Opening statement ...
"We're coming off one of the tougher games that we've had especially here at home. Ole Miss is a team that I thought played exceptionally well on Saturday. We didn't do a great job in terms of responding to their pressure or trying to slow them down offensively. We look forward to a great challenge this week against a really good Georgia team; one that we think has really played extremely well down the stretch. They lost a heartbreaker on Saturday, a last second shot there to Alabama. Prior to that, they had really good wins against Tennessee and Kentucky. Other games when they have lost and been challenged, they've been either one or two point games. So, it's a game we look forward to. They're very talented. (Kentavious) Caldwell-Pope is a great player, a tremendous scorer and we're going to have to do a great job of trying to make sure that we make some adjustments and contain him. We're hopeful that we can compete at a certain level come Thursday afternoon."

On Charles Carmouche giving Georgia's Kentavious Caldwell-Pope a different look (Carmouche missed the first meeting) ...
"I think it helps us. I think we can have an opportunity to show him (Kentavious Caldwell-Pope) some different looks that we weren't able to the first initial time that we played them. They're more improved and a better basketball team. Other guys have given them some really quality time since that game, but I think also we're a much-improved team since we played them the first time. I think with the addition of (Charles) Carmouche and the way that he's played, he gives us some other dimensions I think not only defensively but offensively, that will really help us as well."

On guarding Georgia's Kentavious Caldwell-Pope ...
"Well, we just really have to make some adjustments to him and try to keep him out of his comfort zone. He's really good, he's talented and he's crafty. He's excellent with the basketball in terms of his ball-handling skills. He's a good passer as well, and I just think he's a really tough match-up. We will have to make certain adjustments. Doubling and everything else is not out of the question for a player of that caliber, but he has other guys on the team that are very capable of delivering. With his ability to be savvy, he's capable of beating the double teams or making the right passes out of it that can hurt you as well."

On the approach of the team going into the conference tournament ...
"I think it's just a build up from our season in terms of our approach, and what we're doing. There's not a whole lot of adjustment, but guys have a good understanding of what we're trying to do. It's the next game for us. With the importance of it, we're trying not to weigh it too heavily knowing that everyone's playing with a certain sense of urgency at this time of year and the importance on those games. We try to make sure our guys go into the game with the approach of executing, both offensively and defensively, at a certain level. Everything else really has a tendency of taking care of itself."

On playing better defense ...
"Absolutely, we've got to try to do a much better job of slowing guys down. In the paint area, we have given up a considerable amount of points to the opposing teams. We've had some tough rebounding battles or wars in there. At the same time, I think teams have unfortunately exploited us somewhat. At other times, we've been able to stand up to the challenge and make the adjustments. I think the last few teams that we've played, they've have had some success. Generally when that happens you, you have to make some adjustments. That's something we'll have to do prior to Thursday because it's the same thing with Georgia. They've got good post play along with great guard play. They've got guys with size and strength, and I'm sure they will try to attack us that way."

On Anthony Hickey making adjustments on defense ...
"Yeah, but I think you can go back and see some of our victories too. Sometimes their guards have had some success against us, and I don't think it's so much Anthony (Hickey). A lot of his steals have come from the blind side when he gets a steal from the rotation out of our press defense, or he steals the ball when the opponents have their heads turned - be it he's in the help position. I think he's gotten himself maybe out of position. He does a much better job in containing the basketball, and that's what he'll do these next few games we're hopeful to have. We're have to do a better job of containing than putting him in position or get out of position going for a steal. Good teams will make you pay for that."

On Georgia's offensive approach ...
"I think they really have a good balance in terms of what they can do. One of their post guys can step out and knock down threes which really stretches your defense. You can't just run down there and double with the other post guy. They're effective inside when they get it in there and have the ability to score. (Kentavious) Caldwell-Pope coming off of screens or being isolated can really make plays. Those other guards, if you help off of them, they are very capable of finishing and making shots. So, they've got a really good balance in terms of what they're doing. They were down 17 or 20 points Saturday against Alabama and did a great job of battling back and getting back in the game. (Trevor) Releford hit a heroic shot right there at the end to beat them. So, they were good and balanced. That was happening on the road."

On Georgia Head Coach Mark Fox ...
"I think he's done a tremendous job with the guys especially where they started, and the area that they were picked. His team has continued to get better throughout the year and has really made progress. I'd like to think our team has made progress from day one when we started the season especially after conference play and how we started. Being able to go on the road, get some wins and balance our schedule out, we finished 9-9. We lost some home games. To be able to go on the road in this conference and win some games on someone else's floor, I think says a lot about the growth of the team. So, you have to really look at what Coach Fox has done, and I think that he's done a tremendous job with his group."

On heading into the SEC Tournament ...
"Well, I think you can put some examples out there of what has happened in the past. This is where we are this time of the season. You sit there and talk about throwing the records out of the window and everything else. This is what we're playing for, and this is what we have to accomplish to get to where we're trying to go in the next few days. This generally has to be our approach, and everybody will be playing with a sense of urgency at this time of year. We can't be any different, but we have to make sure that we take it one game at a time. We can't look ahead and know that the other team in the other uniform is shooting for the same thing that we are. Generally, who's going to play the hardest and be the most effective through these next 40 minutes, or however long it takes, is going to have an opportunity to put their uniform on the next day."

On whether he likes conference tournaments ...
"Absolutely, I think it's a great time of the year when you get to this point in the season. If you're sitting there as a team with a high seed like Florida or someone, it may be somewhat of a deterrent for you because of the NCAA Tournament and anything can happen during the your conference play. I think if you're a team sitting in our position, this is a great opportunity for us. If we can go in and have some success at the end of the day, something can happen special for you on Sunday."

On the SEC as a whole heading into March ...
"I'd like to think that the body of work that we've done throughout our conference is very challenging. I think that it's been unfairly criticized throughout the year about how good our talent level is, or the teams. I think you can look at Missouri, Kentucky, Florida who's done a tremendous job or Ole Miss, and just go down the line. There are some teams out there that are extremely powerful teams. I'm hopeful that several of those teams will get into the NCAA Tournament. If for some reason we don't make that field, I think for postseason play and the NIT that there are numerous teams in our conference that should have an invite as well. We should be represented because of the fact that the other teams that are in our league that are available and should qualify for it would be very competitive in our field."

On reviewing his first season at LSU ...
"I have really credit the young men on our basketball team and in the program. I think it says a lot about them. I had an opportunity to take over back in April meeting with them at that point and had an opportunity to do individual skill work. To see them come back in August and then starting practice in October, it really just set the tone of where we needed to be academically, and where we're going to be in the community. The impact in those areas that we're going to have to do to make sure that we put ourselves in position to put the right product on the floor that our fans will have an opportunity to embrace. I think our young men have done a tremendous job of working extremely hard, not only on the basketball floor but doing the little things in the classroom and study hall trying to make sure that they take care of their business to be productive so that would carry over on the floor. So, I think our guys have done that. With that, I think winning has come. We've had some success on the floor. We've had setbacks, and I think our guys have done a tremendous job of dealing with the setbacks that we've had and putting themselves in the position to be successful in our next game. I think it's been a learning experience for them. With that, I think it's been somewhat of a success because of the way that they've handled themselves on and off the floor, and what we've been able to do in our games as well in showing improvement each night."

On this team making more three pointers than any team in school history (offense or the players) ...
"I think most of it is the players. You can draw up any kind of plays you want to, but if you don't have capable shooters our there it makes it extremely difficult. So, I think we've done a good job of putting them in position to be successful with what we've run offensively. When you have guys like (Anthony) Hickey, (Andre) Stringer, (Charles) Carmouche and those guys that are very capable, Malik Morgan, I think it speaks to the ability to really shoot it. I have to say that we have to credit the offense, our fast break and the system that we run to allow them to do that. They could be great shooters, but if we played slower we wouldn't get up as many attempts. I think our style of play has really helped us."

On Geert Hammink being honored as the LSU representative for the SEC Legends ...
"That's great. I've known a lot of times when I was away and had an opportunity to be coaching, I'd always read or keep up with what was going on. When someone was being honored especially someone that I've had some connection with here, I'd always miss having an opportunity to possibly be at those tournaments to see that. Having an opportunity to be back here and seeing someone that I had an opportunity to coach and watch play, was drafted here, has a legacy here and has a son here on board, I think it will have a really special meaning. We look forward to that evening with Geert Hammink."




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