BATON ROUGE – Coach Johnny Jones spoke about his team at the Old Spice Classic and looked ahead to the rest of the non-conference schedule as he spoke to fans of the program at Tuesday’s December edition of the “Tipoff Club Luncheon presented by Hub International” at L’Auberge Resort.
The Tigers went 2-1 with wins over Saint Joseph’s and Butler in the OSC and to go to 5-2 for the year. The team is now into its concentrated study period/final exam week break before resuming the final five games of the non-conference schedule on Dec. 14 at the Maravich Center against ULM. Tickets for all the remaining non-conference games are available online at LSUtix.net.
Here are some of Coach Jones’ comments from today’s luncheon:
“We were excited about the opportunity to go and play in a tournament in Orlando, especially with the makeup of teams that we were going to have or have the opportunity to challenge. They had two teams that had a promising start to the season. We faced a top-15 Memphis team and Oklahoma State, another team that has been to two final fours back-to-back. We played Butler in the third place game and Saint Joe’s, a team that’s gone 30-0 in the regular season and a very good, talented basketball team. They have a coach there that has been there for about 19 years, and they’ve had several pros to have gone out of his program.
“The big thing – the one thing that I’d like people to know about Saint Joe’s and Butler – is that those are two programs that don’t make a whole lot of mistakes. When I talk about mistakes, I mean they are very traditional programs that have had pinnacles of success. They don’t make mistakes on the floor. If you don’t beat those teams, you’ve got to out execute them. You’ve got to make them make mistakes on the floor, and you have to be on it. We were very fortunate for two days in that tournament to be able to play our best and our best was needed. We played a very good, balanced team in Memphis. I thought we had some opportunities in that basketball game leading late in the second half. We just need to make sure that we’re at our best, and unfortunately we made some mistakes in that game. We didn’t make some good decisions down the stretch.
“At the end of the day, I thought our kids would be a more confident team because they can look back and understand the fact that we had that number of mistakes, played the way that we played and have more focus at the end of that basketball game. We possibly could’ve been in the finals playing for the championship on Sunday evening. I thought when we got on the airplane to leave (for Orlando) that it was going to be a great test for us. It was going to be a great opportunity for us to see exactly where we are in the early part of the season. We are going to play against some stiff competition, some well-coached basketball teams. It’s going to be a quick turnaround for a young, interesting team in that respect of what we were going there with. I thought our guys actually passed the test with flying colors. I told the scouts I felt we had a good turnaround from Thursday night to Friday’s game. They did an excellent job of being able to pick things up in time to carry opportunities, understand where we’re at in the Memphis game. Then, we had a day off before playing a very talented, well-coached team in Butler. We knew that it was going to be a challenge for us. I thought our guys went about and conducted themselves in the right way in that basketball game. Being down late, understanding they were playing a team that was going to execute at the highest level, we created some turnovers and had some easy scoring opportunities. We executed down the stretch offensively, and I think that will have an opportunity to carry us a long way.
“We have about a 14-day layoff right now. We won’t play again until we play Louisiana-Monroe on the 14th, and we’re looking forward to that game. Their coach, a former coach here (Keith Richard), has done a great job. (His team) has played really well against Kansas for the first half of basketball and got off to a good start in the second half. (ULM) is sitting at 2-1 this season. They are a really good and talented basketball team, so we look forward to those challenges. I thought our freshman grew up over these last few days. I’m hoping that these next few days they will be getting mentally prepared for their finals. We’ll continue to get better on the basketball court in these 14 days -- we have to really prepare and get them ready to make those types of strides that we really need.”
“I told them prior to the bus getting back from New Orleans that I was fine with the way that they played (and) the energy level that they gave night in and night out. I was more proud of the comments that we had from people in Orlando – working in hotels, around the arena, in the airport, wherever. They talked about the way our kids were conducting themselves at the highest level, how approachable they were, and they were taking pictures with the kids at the hotel. The maid services (and) people that were there when we checked in to the hotel were complementary of our kids. That means a lot. I told our kids that will go a long way. Because when you’re visible in a lot of areas like that, great things will have an opportunity to happen to you. I think some people in Orlando had the opportunity to pick up on a lot of the things our fan base in Baton Rouge already knows.”
“We’re excited about the future. We have UAB on our schedule, and we’re lucky to have them at home. (UAB) beat North Carolina the other night, which was a huge game for them. To have UAB coming in here and getting off to a tremendous start this year, we look forward to that challenge. All of these games are really going to prepare us for a very challenging and tough conference schedule. We look forward to that as well. We’ll build in stepping stones. Our crowd as well has been really excited about that. We have guys coming out of the tunnel, seeing the difference and after the games have an opportunity to experience that, share that and talk about it. The crowds are going to continue to grow and those guys are promising because they certainly want to do their part. I’m certain of that because they will play as hard as they possibly can for a crowd that we want to see continue to grow.”