Jones Meets with Media; Morgan Out for Season

LSU's Malik Morgan
LSU's Malik Morgan
Reinhold Matay
Kent Lowe (@LSUkent)
Kent Lowe (@LSUkent)
Communications Sr. Associate

BATON ROUGE – The LSU men’s basketball team began final preparations on Monday for its Wednesday game in College Station, Texas against the Texas A&M Aggies.

The game is set for 8 p.m. Wednesday at Reed Arena and will be broadcast regionally on CSS and CST. The radio broadcast will be available on the affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network.

LSU Coach Johnny Jones announced that sophomore Malik Morgan, who injured his right leg against Auburn on Saturday, had season ending surgery late on Monday.

LSU is 15-7 overall and 6-4 in the league, while A&M comes into the game at 13-10 and 4-6 in the league. While LSU was defeating Auburn, 87-80, on Saturday at the Maravich Center, A&M was falling 62-50 at Georgia.

Here are some of Coach Jones’ comments from today’s media session:

Opening Statement…
“I thought our guys did an excellent job of coming back out in the second half against an Auburn team that was on a three-game win streak, really settling in and making plays. Going back to a man-to-man defense and offensively focusing, concentrating and being able to execute on the offensive end of the floor and finishing at the free-throw line. We have two tough games this week, starting off on the road at (Texas) A&M on Wednesday and then at Arkansas, a team that’s on a two-game winning streak after winning at Vanderbilt. It will certainly be great challenges for us. The A&M team has knocked off Tennessee at Tennessee, winning a big game there on the road earlier in the year. They’ve certainly had some close games and some wins as well. We know we are going to have to go in there and play well against a team that’s hopefully getting back to their winning ways as well.”

On a Malik Morgan update…
“The latest update I have is that he’ll go into surgery around 5:30 today. From all indications, he will not be back with us this season, and it’s certainly a blow to us because he is someone who was in the regular rotation, depended on and had several starts this year. That’s an area we are certainly going to have to look at and find out exactly how we will dispatch those minutes. Someone else will certainly have to step up and play a very valuable, important role to help us move forward without Malik. (Morgan) had a lot of experience from last year, starting nine conference games for us and playing valuable minutes. I thought it was because of the experience he gained last year that he was able to give us the positive minutes this year, including the minutes he played in the second half prior to getting hurt. He played a long stretch in the second half because we didn’t feel like we were getting a lot out of that spot. Unfortunately, he went down.”

On Shane Hammink
“Shane has the size and strength to play that spot. The area that we are most concerned about is defending from that spot in conference because of the caliber of players. Some of the most explosive players are in that position in our league, and we want to be able to execute our offense on the other end. Meaning that we are taking care of the basketball as well and having the ability to score and rebound. Malik would get his hands on a lot of offensive rebounding opportunities or tip-ins in some crucial situations. I think Shane possesses the ability to do that, but trying to work someone in to play valuable minutes this late, we’re hopeful that he’s ready, prepared and waiting for an opportunity to do that. It’s certainly going to have to be by committee. I think Tim Quarterman is another one who will be able to probably add some additional minutes. We had him right there at the point because of his length. His defensive ability may be able to let him see some time at the “two” (guard) and the “three” (forward) as well.”

On Malik’s attitude toward a season-ending injury…
“It’s tough for him. Realizing all the time and energy that you put in at this point in the season, realizing how many games you are going to miss and then you’re talking about possibly going into next year. That’s not something you plan on doing. Then, the unknown factors in ... How do I come back and have a positive outlook on that? That’s tough if you’ve never been in that spot before. A good thing for him is that his mom, who was a great athlete here, had a real serious surgery on her shoulder. I think her message to him was about focusing on the rehab and those types of things. That can be really uplifting and encouraging to him because she was able to bounce back and be a great player here.”

On how the injury occurred…
“According to the tape, it looks more like he just overextended when he planted to go up and then it buckled on him. I thought initially he was taken out by the defender, but I think it was just a freak situation to where he planted and unfortunately didn’t come up right. It really buckled on him. We slowed it down and looked at it from a lot of different ways. It was one of those unfortunate things that happened to him.”

On playing well on the road to have just one more point…
“I know we need to have one more point Wednesday. That’s the important thing for us. We want to make sure that we play well in the process. It’s not just the score. We really have to play the game. This time of year, you really want to be improving as a team and looking the part. Whatever that score may be, you are going to play opponents and they are doing the same thing. You are not sneaking up on anybody. You are going to get their best shot. It’s like you’ve arrived and it’s not an easy scouting report. People know who you are; they know who you’re bringing in; they know your team; they know your players, and they know that they have to play at a certain level to win. We’ve run up against that against certain teams, and we’ve caught team’s best efforts on certain nights.”

On the challenges of playing on the road…
“I think it’s any team. You can look in any conference and any team. I know when I was at North Texas, we used to look at situations, and I think 70 percent of the time, it’s generally the home team that is successful. I think that’s why they call it home court advantage. When you go out on the road, you’re playing in another team’s environment and in their gym where they have a certain comfort zone. That’s something you have to overcome and play well in. It’s no different. The good thing is the better that your team is and the maturity they are able to show is when you possibly have more success. There are teams out there that constantly have the ability to do that. That’s what we strive for. We feel like we’ve been really close in some other venues and played well. Unfortunately, at the end of the day, the score wasn’t an indicator on our side that we won. We have been really close. A shot here, a shot there and our records certainly different, and we’re not having this conversation. Two instances would be at Alabama and Ole Miss. We played them close and had the ball on the last possession to win or tie a game.”

On the issues to stay away from to keep the game close early…
“Johnny O’Bryant III going to the bench early (in foul trouble), and they called 33 fouls on us for 46 foul shots. Those are big numbers in any game. We feel like we are a better defensive team than getting that amount of fouls called on us. You have to have the ability as a team to be able to make that type of adjustment in terms of how the game is going to be called. If it’s being called a certain way that night and you’ve been around it awhile, you can make an adjustment. Those are things that you have to grow up to be a part of and be better at it. Unfortunately for us, in that particular game, we didn’t. It hurt us. I don’t care how well we are playing. If someone shoots 46 free throws against you, it’s going to be a tough night. We had maybe 15 to 20 more shot attempts than they did because of the steals and offensive rebounds, but that’s a big number to overcome.”

On the Oklahoma State situation…
“We talked about that at the beginning of the year. Our guys have done a pretty good job. We talk about playing “between the lines” and focusing, not allowing when you’re on the road for the fans, who are there to enjoy the game. There are a segment (of fans) that may try to distract you if they can to give their team a home court advantage. As a team and as a player, if you’re focused and you understand, you don’t entertain it. You don’t look. You don’t say anything back. You don’t entertain it. At some point, they will either go away or continue and realize they are not affecting you in any way. Good teams are able to do that and not respond. It’s tough. I remember when I played, we had front row lunatics. They used to give people the “boo’s” when they would come out to warm up or during the games, but it was in between the lines. That’s the responsibility of the fans and the players to react in a responsible way.”

As a former player himself getting heckled…
“Not more so as a player. Even now, coaching, you hear the buzz going on, but not directly people saying stuff to you. You don’t respond in any way to let them know that you’ve even heard them. More so as a coach, when we had Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf or Chris Jackson, some of the things would be said about him because of his Sports Illustrated article that came out speaking about his life growing up. I thought he was one of the best to handle it and not acknowledge it. He just played on and really spoke with his game more so than anything else wherever we were. (He would) have big numbers and then walk off of the floor. He would entertain them with his play, but not in a negative way.”

On his confidence in Jarell Martin
“Over a year ago when he told me he was coming, I watched him for so long and the impact that I watched him make. I knew that he would be a special player, and I know what he’s capable of doing. It’s just a matter of getting the reps in the position that he needs and being comfortable on the floor. It has happened throughout the course of the season. I think each night you see him out there, he’s giving you something a little bit different in terms of his growth as a player, be it inside or outside, finishing at the rim, shooting the three, the way he handles himself against the press or the decisions he makes on the floor. You’re very comfortable with him. He’s just a freshman, but he gets to the free-throw line in crucial situations and knocks them down.”

On how Texas A&M is different defensively…
“You have to prepare on both ends of the floor. They’re not a quick shooting team. They want to be more methodical in terms of what they do offensively. They pass it and get into the shot clock. They want you focusing, concentrating and hoping that you will break down defensively, and they can take advantage of it. You have to have the mindset that you are going to guard throughout that possession, and you have to make sure that you finish with the rebound. On the offensive end of the floor, you have to execute and grind. In anything you do, you want to make sure that your offense dominates the opposing team’s defense. At the same time, you want your defense to dominate their offense where you’re trying to take them out of their comfort zone in terms of what they’re running. That’s for any team. If you’re able to do that, a lot of time you will be successful.”

On the importance of bench play, especially on the road…
“It always helps. Say with Malik Morgan, you always know what you’re going to get. With Shavon Coleman, you know what you are going to get. With Johnny O’Bryant (III) and those steady guys, but those guys that come off the bench, those are the guys you will have to hang your hat on. You go to the bench and those guys come in. Andre Stringer comes in and has those types of nights and the minutes that he’s getting. Are they going to maximize the time that they have on the floor? That’s a big help for you.”

On Anthony Hickey’s growth…
“I think the good thing was getting him to understand the system and what you’re asking of him. I think anytime you’re asking someone to be a quarterback, you have to make sure that they understand the philosophy of what you’re looking for in your team. I think he’s been able to do that. I think what we’ve asked him to do fits him well. We’re an up-tempo type team. We want to push it. He’s very good in the open floor, a good passer, has a good assist-to-turnover ratio, is a very capable scorer, can shoot it and can finish at the rim. He’s at some big nights doing that. He’s great in terms of stealing the ball out of our press. We constantly have to work and get better on our man-to-man defensive skills and responsibilities and that is as a team as well. When he goes and is playing well, it certainly helps us.”





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