BATON ROUGE – The LSU Tigers, fresh off a road win on Wednesday against Texas Tech, will face a team playing some of its basketball of the season on Saturday when the UAB Blazers come to the Pete Maravich Assembly Center for a 4 p.m. non-conference tilt.
Tickets are available online at LSUtix.net and those bringing a toy to the upper concourse ticket windows that can be donated as part of the “Toys For Tots” campaign. Santa Mike (The Tiger) will also be at the game and ready to take pictures with the crowd. The upper concourse ticket windows at the Maravich Center will open at 2:30 p.m.
The game will be regionally televised on Cox Sports TV and outside the CST viewing area on ESPN3 and the Watch ESPN app with Lyn Rollins and Collis Temple III. Jim Hawthorne and Ricky Blanton with host Kevin Ford will have the game on the affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network (Eagle98.1 FM in Baton Rouge and WWL 870 AM in New Orleans). The game will also be available in the Geaux Zone at LSUsports.net.
LSU is 7-2 on the year and UAB comes in with its longest win streak since the 2009-10 season – 5 games – and a 9-2 overall record. The Blazers have a win at home over nationally-ranked North Carolina and lost to nationally-ranked New Mexico in double overtime in the Charleston Classic. UAB also leads the NCAA in rebound average at 48.2 boards a game, out rebounding their 11 opponents by 13.2 a game.
It was a subject that Coach Johnny Jones was asked about earlier in his media session:
“They’re tenacious,” he said of UAB’s rebounding abilities. “I think when shots go up, they’re coming. They’re trying to get the ball, and they try to keep balls alive. They’re committed to doing that as a team, and they’ve been able to do it against every opponent that they’ve played this year. They’ve got good size and strength inside as well. They have good post guys that are a really good four (power forward) and five (center). Then their three (small forward) gets to the boards and keeps balls live. They’re a big basketball team. They run lanes. You open up lanes, and they will get to the basket or tip it, keep it alive and go get it.”
LSU hasn’t been shabby on the boards either, pulling down at a 42.4 rebounds a game clip, with a plus 7.9 rebounding edge. LSU has been out rebounded twice in nine games – versus Butler and at Texas Tech – but in both games LSU was able to come away with a two-point victory.
LSU averages 77.9 points a game, while UAB averages 77.8 a contest. The Tigers give up 68.7 on average, compared to 70.4 for the Blazers.
Against Texas Tech, Anthony Hickey hit all four of his three-point attempts in the 71-69 victory and scored 16 points to lead the way. Johnny O’Bryant III added 14, Shavon Coleman off the bench posted 13 points and Andre Stringer 12.
LSU will also have talented freshmen Jordan Mickey (13.7 ppg, 8.4 rpg) and Jarell Martin (5.4 ppg) in the starting lineup at forwards along with O’Bryant III (14.8 ppg, 8.6 rpg) along with Stringer (13.0 ppg) and Hickey (10.2 ppg, 4.0 apg) at guards.
The leading scorers for UAB are Chad Frazier (18.8 ppg), CJ Washington (14.1 ppg) and Rod Rucker (12.0 ppg). Washington did not play in the win against Chattanooga (67-52) on Wednesday with what media reports are calling a “knee issue” and he may be a game-time decision Saturday.
Against LSU Wednesday, the Red Raiders went to the free throw line 39 times, making 31, compared to the 12-of-18 for LSU. LSU is averaging 12.7 free throws make per game, compared to 18.0 a contest for UAB.
After this game, the team will take off for Christmas before returning to practice on the night of Dec. 26 in preparation for LSU’s next contest on Dec. 28 at home against McNeese State.
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“I thought it was fitting for us last night getting back out on the road and playing on another opponent’s floor in a game that we had talked about that would probably be something similar to conference play. The caliber of competition – size, length and strength of the team. And the environment – I thought it held true. I thought our guys did a tremendous job. One, something that was important for us was to get off to a really good start. Last night, I thought we were able to do that. Unfortunately, we wound up getting in foul trouble early. I think in the first half we had seven guys with two fouls which caused us and forced us to get into a different rotation. I thought our guys who came off the bench did a great job of stepping up, playing well and allowing us to have a lead going into halftime. I thought we came back out in the second half. Again, played well through the stretches. Those guys were well rested. Again and unfortunately, we get down the stretch and foul trouble allowed for other guys to get in. I thought they did an excellent job right there at the end of the game being able to hold on and having to make two big defensive stops to get out of there with a victory. I thought through it all – although there was a big discrepancy in terms of free throws made last night, I was glad that we were able to make enough baskets. I thought our guys knocked down some big threes, and that’s just how it went a different way on the road in a tough environment for us last night. We are excited, and I think this is something that will help and propel us in terms of our confidence moving forward.”
On staying out of foul trouble…
“I think we’ve got to do a better job – one of making sure that we move our feet and maybe force teams to play over us. That’s our game plan, and that’s what we would prefer to do. You look at (Jordan) Mickey – he’s one of the nation’s leaders in terms of his shot-blocking ability. Last night, their guards were allowed to possibly get in, penetrate deep and get into his body which we hadn’t had that problem. Generally, if they come in there and they are challenged and he goes straight up, they usually give us the benefit of the doubt because the new rules allow you to challenge at the rim without fouling. They got a couple of those calls last night and probably put us back on our heels. We were a little bit more hesitant last night. To prevent that, we’ve got to do a better job on the perimeter of keeping guys in front of us and containing the basketball. (Robert) Turner was pretty good and crafty with the basketball last night. He got inside of our defense and created some problems for us.”
On Anthony Hickey’s shot selection…
“I think if you look at the Memphis game, I think he wound up taking 18 or 19 shots and maybe 13 or 14 of those may have been threes. That was probably a bit much for probably how we like to play. I think his balance is terms of coming back – he’s one of those guys that are unselfish. He doesn’t mind sharing the basketball and has done that. We feel that he is a very capable shooter. He’s shown that during his career here that he shoots a decent number from the three-point line. I think he’s roughly around 33 percent now, and he’s very capable. Last night, I thought he got off to a good start. He and (Andre) Stringer shared the ball, got in the gaps and made some plays. When the defense cheated or allowed us to get good looks, I think he knocked down some shots in the first half and a big three there in the second half late for us. He’s a rhythm guy, and he loves it when he gets open. A lot of the times people generally don’t leave him open out there.”
On Andre Stringer’s contributions in the back end of the first half…
“We actually had to move him over to the one (point guard) late there in the first half because of foul trouble. I think Tim (Quarterman) picked a second foul up as well, and we moved Andre to the point (guard). I thought he came in, and Andre is good enough to play the point. I think it was his freshman year here when he last played the point so he is very capable up there. We try not to put that burden on him as much because of the other guys that we have. I thought he hit a huge shot right there going into the half which gave us the momentum going into the half. I thought that was a big basket for us.”
On the offensive scheme late in the game…
“What you want to do is try to shorten the game up because of the lead that we had. We don’t want to give them too many more opportunities. It’s been really a possession game. It’s not one of those situations where we’ve had a bunch of volume shots like we’re used because of rebounding. Our shot count wasn’t up, but we were shooting a great percentage. Their shot percentage was down in the 30s from the field. We felt like if we could manage it and make plays and get the shot clock down plus get into the game – it was going to lessen the number of possessions that they were going to have. The problem is that we didn’t execute plays. You come down and make those baskets late in the shot clock or get an offensive rebound – it’s more beneficial to us. You miss those shots and what happened is what happened last night. They came down and made some tough shots. We didn’t do a great job of getting back on the defensive end of the floor after shots or on turnovers to balance the floor. They had some easy scoring opportunities. I think one was a dunk, and the other one may have been a big three-pointer that they had late. That’s balancing the floor, getting back and making sure that you’re defending which are things that we have to be better at. As we continue to improve and grow as a team – when we’re working it like that being able to close games, you have to execute those plays. You have to make baskets and go from a six-point lead to a 12 or 14-point lead. If we get them on their heels like that, they’ve got to come down and quick shoot it because they know the number of possessions that they need to try to get back in the game. It’s a matter of executing, and we didn’t do a great job of it. We had the ball in the hands of the people that we felt good about.”
On UAB’s rebounding ability and his team’s key to successful rebounding against them…
“They’re tenacious. I think when shots go up, they’re coming. They’re trying to get the ball, and they try to keep balls alive. They’re committed to doing that as a team, and they’ve been able to do it against every opponent that they’ve played this year. They’ve got good size and strength inside as well. They have good post guys that are a really good four (power forward) and five (center). Then their three (small forward) gets to the boards and keeps balls live. They’re a big basketball team. They run lanes. You open up lanes, and they will get to the basket or tip it, keep it alive and go get it.”
On handling Jarell Martin thus far…
“I think time is not something he should really be pressing about because time will take care of and dictate that for him being his ability to be on the floor. When he’s out there on the floor enough and getting enough reps, those things will come to him. We’re fortunate Tim (Quarterman) and Jordan (Mickey) hadn’t had to go through what Jarell has been through. That’s tough. You are asking him to play because he’s one of those guys because of his talent you’re asking him to do a lot of things. That’s just a part of growth for him, but I’m very comfortable with where he is and what he’s doing and the effort that he’s giving. The last thing you want him to do is to be worried about his performance. I think he makes the impact when he’s out there on the floor. He’s a good passer and can see over the top of the defense. He can defend and a very capable rebounder for us. People have to change up how they talk about defending us or what they’re doing offensively because of the length that he provides on the floor as well.”
On distributing minutes …
“I think you just have to make sure that when we’re starting guys or when guys are out there playing that we are going to get in a rotation either way. We just want our guys to maximize their minutes or the time that they have out there on the floor. Sometimes, you are going to have great performances from guys. Guys come in and play really extremely well. I thought John Odo came in and played really well last night. I don’t think we need to sit there and worry about what he’s going to do with the minutes of Johnny O’Bryant III. We know what Shavon is going to do night in and night out be it from the two (shooting guard), three (small forward) or if we have to slide him over at the four (power forward). He’s going to be productive for us and give us some quality minutes out there. The problem we have now is trying to make sure that we get a guy like Jarell in there to get quality minutes where he eventually gets comfortable because of the reps that he’s gotten and his timing and everything else is down. There’s no way to get it when he’s not out there playing, and you can’t really simulate that really in practice. Practice helps, but games are where you are going to eventually get it. We’ve got to make sure that he’s getting that game time minutes out there as well.”
On the balancing scoring attack by his team…
“I think the great thing for us is that our guys approach is ‘we’ are going to play the opponent, and they don’t have any preconceived ideas of whose night it’s supposed to be that night. They really allow the offense or the opponent’s defense to dictate where our scoring is going to come from. That’s confidence for a coach because we’ve got a guy like Johnny O’Bryant III who’s gotten the accolades, first team all-conference with the year he finished with last year, not out there forcing shots. He’s out there trying to play within the system and creating opportunities and allowing his teammates to play off of him. The team has been able to benefit because of that. I think last night they tried to guard him 1-on-1, and he had some big plays for us. He made some big shots in the paint area – hooks and short-range jumpers as well. He forced them to foul him late. When you have a guy like (Anthony) Hickey that knows he’s not going to take X amount of shots, he’s out there and turns shots down. It’s the same thing with Stringer. Those are the guys that we feel like are the core group of our veterans that they’ve been able to play like. Shavon Coleman doesn’t take a lot of shots, but last night he comes up big. That’s confidence to know that your team is balanced like that and not ego-driven about scoring more so than they’re about winning.”