Basketball Streaks to Final Pre-Conference Tests
Communications Sr. Associate
BATON ROUGE – The LSU men’s basketball team, riding a four-game winning streak, return to action after a short Christmas break, Saturday night at 7 p.m. at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center against McNeese State University.
The game will be regionally televised on Cox Sports TV with Lyn Rollins and Collis Temple III on the broadcast, while the radio call of Jim Hawthorne, Ricky Blanton and host Kevin Ford will be available on the affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network (Eagle 98.1 FM in Baton Rouge, WWL 870 AM in New Orleans).
Tickets are available online at LSUtix.net and will be on sale at the upper concourse ticket windows of the Maravich Center beginning at 5:30 p.m. The first 2,000 fans to enter the Maravich Center on game night will receive an LSU coffee mug that features the new basketball Tiger logo. As always, LSU students are admitted free of charge with a valid LSU ID.
The Tigers in the final portion of their non-conference schedule are 9-2 on the year, having won in this present streaks games against Butler (in the third place game at the Old Spice Classic), ULM, at Texas Tech and UAB. McNeese is 2-9 and in the concluding stretches of a nine-game set away from Lake Charles that finds them playing only one home game in the months of November and December.
LSU continued to show success on the court in its 23-point win over a nine-win UAB team. The Tigers made 10-of-17 three-pointers and show 48 percent overall from the field, turning the ball over just 10 times. Johnny O'Bryant III had 17 points, Andre Stringer 13 and freshmen Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey each had 12. Also impressive was freshman point guard Tim Quarterman who came off the bench and had 9 points and 9 assists.
LSU has made 19 treys in the last two games and over the seven games overall is shooting 50 percent from the field. Although LSU was out rebounded in both games last week, LSU was able to win both games and in fact, has won all three games in which the team was out rebounded.
The Tigers are expected to stay with the lineup that they have used six times this year with a 5-1 record – O’Bryant III, Mickey and Martin at forwards with Stringer and Anthony Hickey at the guards. O’Bryant III is averaging 15.0 points and 8.2 rebounds, while Mickey is at 13.5 points, 8.2 rebounds and 3.6 blocks. Martin, continuing to improve and get back in shape after opening game ankle sprain, is at 7.3 points and 2.9 rebounds. Guards Stringer and Hickey also have good numbers with Stringer averaging 13.0 points per game and 3.0 assists while Hickey posted at 10.0 a game with a 37-11 assist to turnover ratio.
McNeese has three players in double figures led by Ledrick Eackles at 14.3 points per game and 5.1 rebounds, Kevin Hardy at 11.2 points and 7 boards, while Desharick Guidry is a recent addition to the Cowboy team and in three games has averaged 10 points and 7.3 rebounds.
Coach Johnny Jones met with the media on Friday after practice and here are some of his comments:
“We had a good return from the break for our guys – getting back into practice and game mode for us. I thought our guys did a tremendous job of getting off to a great start Thursday, especially in terms of the energy level that they brought to practice. They had really more of the same (Friday). Certainly, we are not executing at the level that we would like to. That’s to be expected. Because of the energy level I thought the guys played with and the attention to detail that I thought they were trying to put into practice I think goes a long way for us. I’m excited about our game tomorrow with McNeese to get back really into game mode – getting these next two games behind us and getting really into conference play which we understand and know that it’s a whole different level at that time as well.”
On playing against a close friend in McNeese Head Coach Dave Simmons…
“No, I don’t like playing against friends and guys that I’m extremely close to. Coach Simmons is certainly one of those guys. I grew up practically with him and have known him all of my life. I actually wore jersey number 12 because of him, and we go back a long way. We have a great relationship. It’s one of those things that is extremely tough. It’s hard coming into it, and you’re glad when it’s over.”
On getting ready for SEC play…
“It’s just that much closer to conference play. We start (conference play) Jan. 7 is our first conference game. Our last non-conference game is on Jan. 4. We realize how important the non-conference role plays in terms of preparation for conference play. Getting back from Christmas with those two games, we will know in those two games how we’re playing at that time. The anticipation of how much you’ve done, and how well the guys have done as a team coming back off of that break. Generally, you get that two or three day break. You get that type of layoff, and it’s hard to get them back focused. In two games we will know exactly where we are, and we have a week in between each one which is really going to help us in terms of our preparation.”
On the approach for this game (Saturday)…
“We try to make sure that we approach our games, and it’s about us. Not so much about our opponent. We’ve got to really be at our best all the time, and we have to make sure that we set goals as a team in terms of where we want to be. Less turnovers, field goal percentage, defensive field goal percentage – those kinds of things and the markers that you set for yourself. That’s where you’re competing regardless of who you’re playing. I think if you’re able to reach some of those goals, a lot of times it’s going to be a good night. You’re going to come out on the positive side of the event.”
On where he would like to see the offense progress to…
“We’re certainly a work in progress. The numbers are good for us in terms of the points that we can score per game. It’s a matter of how you’re getting them. I think we’ve done a good job of shooting a good field goal percentage. The way that we’re going to get that it’s going to have to balance between our set plays – making sure that we are getting high percentage shots meaning that we’re setting good screens, we’re making good cuts and we’re getting the open looks that we want. On the other side, we have to score off of turnovers. If we can create turnovers on the defensive end or rebounding the basketball getting out and taking advantage of fast-break opportunities and then taking the high-percentage shots off of those. If we can get those numbers balanced out then we feel comfortable. We know that certainly have a ways to go in terms of executing and hitting on all cylinders. But that’s going to be growth for our team. We’re hopeful that in January and the closer we get to February that we are fine-tuning and then hitting on all cylinders like we need to be.”
On using long breaks between games to his team’s advantage…
“It allows you to implement a little bit more offensively and defensively. You can work on some things and really put them in. We feel like we have the base of our offense in. What we’re doing is we’re pretty based on what we’re doing defensively, but it gives you an opportunity to tweak. It gives guys an understanding. They can look at a little bit more at tape, and we can break down a few more things with them especially with the players being out of school right now. We have more of their attention. It helps, and we’re hopeful that we’ll have most of our package in by conference play. You may be tweaking something at times but not changing much. Guys have a chance to really grasp it. We don’t really change a whole lot.”
On what he hopes the biggest improvement will be going into conference play…
“Execution, I think is the main thing and executing our offense. We’ve got to be a great screening team, and we’ve got to be a great offensive cutting team making sure we’re setting those guys up for screens. I think our guys understand where our shots should come from or from where their particular shots should come from. We’ve got to continue to grow defensively. We’ve had some games where we’ve fouled a little bit more than others. Other games we’ve turned the ball over a little bit more. If we can show that we can take care of the basketball with less fouling, making sure we are in the right defensive position and continuing to execute offensively, some great things can happen for us. We’ve roller coastered a little bit unfortunately on the rebounding. We’re a very good and strong rebounding team, but we’ve got to stop anticipating or waiting on somebody else to get it done and be more aggressive in terms of our rebounding. We were not there against a good UAB team.”