LSU Prepping For Thurs. Home SEC Tilt Vs. Vandy

Tiger Freshman Kieran Hayward
Tiger Freshman Kieran Hayward
Bridgette Hogan
Kent Lowe (@LSUkent)
Kent Lowe (@LSUkent)
Communications Sr. Associate

BATON ROUGE – The LSU men’s basketball team returned to practice Monday night in preparation for Thursday’s Southeastern Conference open at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center against Vanderbilt.

The game tips at 8 p.m. and will be broadcast on the LSU Sports Radio Network and televised by ESPN. Tickets are available at LSUtix.net and from 1-5 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday at the LSU Athletics Ticket office. LSU students will be admitted free with a valid student ID.

It is the annual “Gold Game” and fans are invited to wear gold. Rally towels will be available for fans entering the Maravich Center on game night.

Coach Johnny Jones met with the media prior to Tuesday afternoon’s LSU practice and here are some of his comments:

Head Coach Johnny Jones

Opening statement…
“We’re looking forward to what we like to call our second season with getting into conference play here on Thursday against Vanderbilt. We’re excited about the opportunity to start conference play at home unlike on the road a year ago at Vanderbilt. It will be a certain challenge for us. They’re an excellent three-point shooting team. They’re one of the top teams in the nation, shooting nearly 40 percent from the 3-point line. That's an area where we have to continue to improve. One thing we do know is that they have known shooters that we have to make sure we do a great job of doing a scouting report on. I think unfortunately as far as our setback against Wake Forest, that was an area where we not only not guard the line well, but they shot the ball extremely well, hitting 16 three-pointers. One individual went 8-for-11 and had been shooting 20-something percent from the three-point line. So any given night people can make plays. (Vanderbilt) has an individual shooting 60 percent from the three-point line and he is one of the players that they certainly depend on. They have good balance and we know in conference play things certainly change in terms of pace of play and the intensity level during conference. We’ve got some young guys who it will be their first experience with getting a chance to play in a conference game of that magnitude. We have other guys who are returning that understand conference games and the weight that they carry. We’ve got to make sure we do a good job of focusing on one game at a time as we move forward.”

On defending better…
“I think you have to credit Wake Forest in the way that they played and the way they shot the ball from three. I thought some of the shots were challenged. Antonio Blakeney I thought had tight coverage on a guy and the guy fumbles the ball, and just recovers it and pulls up and shoots a three and knocks it down. Other areas we try to get there to rotate and get hands up. Where (WF) has been effective at, which is inside and utilizing their big guys, they did not have to go there as much and they hit big threes. They hit 16 threes. They did a good job of spreading the ball around and moving it extremely quick. We have to force them to start the offense out a little higher. We can to do various things like switching and changing up the defense a little bit in terms of coverage. All those things have a tendency of helping. (Aaron) Epps could’ve helped us a little bit more the other night with his 6-foot-10 frame and length that he has. Staying home more on a shooter that gets hot like that and paying attention to detail are some of the things we have to make sure we do especially in this game Thursday.”

On if the team loses confidence when the other team gets hot…
“I don't know as much as losing confidence but the other team gaining confidence. They got into a zone the other night where they were just feeling it. When you get on a roll like that the basket looks big to you and that's the way they played. In the first half they hit some shots but we continued to battle back and cut into the deficit. In the second half we weren’t able to recover after we got punched early. They expanded from a 5-point lead and we were never able to recover from that. They did a good job of executing at a high level and its tough to overcome something like that. You have to be able to score and they did a good job of defending, I think we only shot a little over 40 percent in the game. They shot a blistering number in the second half.”

On players who might help off the bench defensively…
“(Branden) Jenkins once he becomes more comfortable with getting out there and playing will help us. Kieran Hayward came in the game and while the guy made shots on him, he made shots with an extended hand. Other guys I thought unfortunately got broken down defensively. Not only on three point shots but on some drives. We’ve got to do a better job of showing more resistance than we did throughout the game. Sometimes you can look at the foul count and know how aggressive your team is playing. We had some guys that had only one or two fouls in that game who played maximum minutes against some challenging moments out on the floor. We’ve got to get better at showing resistance on the floor and competing at a certain level every second every play.”

On when Branden Jenkins will be a full go…
“He’s a full go. “I’m not sure if he’s 100 percent, but he’s been released to play. He has been for the past couple of games but we haven’t found that opportunity to put him in. But we will hopefully get him going this Thursday. We didn't want to put him in a situation prior to conference play, especially late in the game other night with what the score was. We didn't want to put him in a situation where he could get injured, so we look forward to him hitting the floor Thursday.”

On his frustration with the game last week…
“You’re accurate. I was very upset and frustrated afterwards. I think it’s really big on effort. I think that’s huge and you have to be able to put in energy and effort and those kind of things. I think if you’re playing with it at a high level it makes up for a lot of other things regardless of what’s going on on the floor. I’m not sure if we had that throughout the game. I think the first half we did and that's why we continued to cut back into the deficit. But in the second half I thought we were looking for other people to make plays rather than taking ownership and doing it ourselves.

On intensity when league play starts…
“Any place that I’ve ever been, especially with veteran players, understand that your schedule is broken up into separate seasons, and that's your non-conference, conference, conference tournament, and hopefully post season play. When you get into conference play a lot of times it’s going to dictate what happens to you in the post season. Guys understand. When you have stability in the league there are guys that have played each other and players are used to playing against each other. You’re playing for something. Obviously to have that best possible finish that you can and it means something in this league. We’ve been fortunate to do that over the last couple of years finishing in the top three in the league. I think guys have played at a certain level and competed at a certain level to accomplish that and this year will be no different. Finishing in the top three last year didn't get us an NCAA tournament bid. Guys know you have to be at your best and have to be right there at the top to be able to fulfill the dream of playing in March Madness. All those things are out there and guys know conference slate weighs heavily on whether you get in or not.”

On going into the first conference game at home…
“We’re excited to have the opportunity to start home play at home this year. Last year we started on the road at Vanderbilt and were fortunate to get a win. Then we came back home against a good Kentucky team and got a win and started off 2-0. That was big for us. This year we're hopeful that we can get off to a great start in conference play. I think it gives your team an opportunity to play with a great deal of confidence. We know each game is weighted. You want to do extremely well at home and I think that's important. We were fortunate to go 8-1 last year at home in our conference schedule. The road is always going to be a battle so you want to certainly take care of home.”

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