Basketball on Road Wednesday at Mizzou

Skylar Mays 9th In SEC At 4.0 Assists Per Game
Skylar Mays 9th In SEC At 4.0 Assists Per Game
Steve Franz
Kent Lowe (@LSUkent)
Kent Lowe (@LSUkent)
Communications Sr. Associate

COLUMBIA, Mo. – The LSU Tigers hope the road is as kind to them as it was for road teams on the league’s opening night.

The Tigers travel here Wednesday night to Mizzou Arena to take on Missouri in an 8 p.m. contest broadcast on the LSU Sports Radio Network and televised on the SEC Network as the second game of their Wednesday doubleheader of league games.

All five road teams won last Thursday night in opening league play and LSU was one of the victims, 96-89, to Vanderbilt. The Tigers are 8-4 and 0-1 in the league. Mizzou, on a four-game skid, fell in a non-conference game on Thursday, falling to Lipscomb. Mizzou is 5-7 overall.

The Tigers set a school Maravich Center record and tied the overall school mark for three-pointers with 17 in the game against Vandy, matching a mark set in the 2003 season. But Vandy hit 16 threes and was able to get double points on LSU’s 15 turnovers, going 30-18 in points off turnovers.

Antonio Blakeney for the third time this season will be looking to try to string three 20-plus point games together as he had 24 points in the game against Vanderbilt. Brandon Sampson hit four treys in scoring 12 points while Skylar Mays and Jalyn Patterson had 11 points each. Wayde Sims came into the game in the second half with the Tigers down 20 and scored four three-point baskets and had 14 points.

Mays, Patterson and Branden Jenkins, who made his debut after preseason knee surgery combined for 27 points, 12 assists and no turnovers in their minutes of play which includes time when Patterson moved in with Mays or Jenkins at the two guard.

Expect the same lineup that LSU has used with Craig Victor II no longer playing for LSU with Duop Reath (14.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.9 bpg) and Aaron Epps (6.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg) at the forwards with Mays (5.4 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 4.0 apg), Sampson (12.1 ppg, 3.1 rpg) and Blakeney (17.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg) at the guards.

Epps should be closer to 100 percent after playing just three minutes against Charleston (12/19) and missing the Wake Forest game with an injured ankle (12/22). Epps moved back into the starting lineup after the pregame announcement concerning Victor.

Missouri has two players in double figures with Kevin Puryear at 12.5 points per game and 6.6 rebounds a contest and Frankie Hughes at 11.8 points. Hughes missed the last game for Mizzou but Coach Kim Anderson said that he will be available on Wednesday night.

LSU returns home for a 2:30 p.m. CT game against Mississippi State on Saturday. Tickets are available at LSUtix.net.

Follow updates on Wednesday’s game at www.Facebook.com/LSUbasketball and @LSUBasketball on Twitter.

Coach Johnny Jones met with the media prior to the team’s departure and here are some of his comments:


HEAD COACH JOHNNY JONES

Opening statement…
“First off Happy New Year. I hope all of you had an opportunity to bring in the new year the right way and are excited about 2017. As a team we look forward to the challenges that’s in front of us in 2017 especially with the opportunity to get right back in to conference play heading to Missouri for a tipoff on Wednesday night. We know it’ll certainly be a challenge just like everything else. Getting into conference play is a little bit different. I think you can throw records out of the window in terms of preseason and pre-conference play, including Missouri. They've had some challenges, I thought they've played extremely hard and well in some games. We certainly know that it’ll certainly be different as conference play rolls around like it will for all other teams.

“For us, I thought our team did a good job of battling back from deficits the other night, but unfortunately we couldn't finish off the basketball game the other night. Unfortunately we gave up some threes to a really good three-point shooting team. At the same time we know at the beginning of the conference year, it's a race with how it can play out and with the number of games we have to play. We got off to a great start last year, won at Vanderbilt and came home and beat Kentucky, two teams who were picked one and two in the league. We know at the end of the day that there are challenges out there and it's a long season in front of us. We have to make sure we bounce back from setbacks. I think a sign of our team is how they react to setbacks and understanding that we have to bounce back against a very tough team on Wednesday.”

On his message after the game…
“I thought we didn't get off to the start we needed and I thought (Vandy) did. I thought in the first half they built a lead and we had to fight back from a deficit. In the second half we allowed them to get off to another good start. They’re a good shooting basketball team. They hit some challenged shots the other night, and ended up hitting 16 threes. Some of those were challenged but others they had some good looks. We ended up hitting 17 of them. We have to make sure that when we have a great shooting night like that if we’re on edge defensively that we’ll give ourselves a chance to win basketball games if we score 89 points like that. You can’t allow teams to get confident like we did the other night and put ourselves in a position that you can come up with a setback when we shoot 60 percent from the field.”

On defensive issues…
“I’ll tell you this, defensively we have to get better, but I thought Vanderbilt shot the ball extremely well the other night. They hit 16 threes and shot high percentage from the three-point line. We had Duop Reath late in the game when I think it was a three or four point game against one of the guards with his hand outstretched and he hit a very difficult shot at the top of the key. They did the same thing from some wing areas as well. We got in some scramble plays. I’m not sure how many teams we’ll play that will have that many people on the floor that can stretch the floor and shoot the three like they did the other night. Last year we had some deficiencies on the defensive end of the floor and those are areas that we constantly have to clean up. It’s all not deficiencies either, I think sometimes our guys have to understand rotations; the pace that you have to get there and force the guys to be drivers instead of stand-still shooters. I think what happens is you have to continue to work on it so guys can trust and continue building that trust, and that's something that we’re doing and I think we’ll constantly get better at it.”

On defensive balance with Victor gone…
“I think it's a balance that we have to continue to work on. We got hurt the other night more so from the perimeter rather than the inside where Victor is generally more of a force for us. On the perimeter most of the time it’s our guards that have to do their job. Everybody has to be on string. When guys come off of screening action, post guys have to help, but they have to make sure that they recover. Weak side post guys have to make sure they’re taking away rolls. If all of those guys aren’t on the same string things open up and guys have easy scoring opportunities. We still have to build our defense. I thought Craig did a good job, he was one of our vocal guys and that's an area we have to address and move on. We’ve got guys who are capable of filling that void in that position, but they've got to step up and grow up a lot sooner than later.”

On moving on from here…
“ … Obviously we’ve got to adjust to the way that we're going to play. You have to look at it as though the guys getting in foul trouble and getting injuries, those things happen, and you hope that your team is built to sustain those type things. Our team is built that way, and we’ve got to make sure that we move on and other guys will get responsibilities that they'll have to work through.”

On Missouri’s different style of play from what you’ve seen in last two opponents…
“Well I tell you the thing is we played two teams who are very capable shooters from the outside and two teams who shot it extremely well back-to-back against us. Other teams have capable shooters and you have to know where they are. You have to make sure you’re there on the catch and force them to be drivers instead of shooters when you know the teams are playing that way. We’ve got to be able to make that adjustment. We did not do a great job of forcing guys to be drivers and guys got comfortable at times. They hit some difficult shots too. When they’re comfortable difficult shots seem a little bit easier.”

On Duop Reath against Missouri…
“He’s got to be able to move on, he had six turnovers. They scored 30 points off our turnovers the other night. That's an area where we have to get better. He has to make sure that when he catches the ball he moves it quicker. Some teams are going to double down on him. We have to make sure we play out of the double team early on or maybe not try to do too much. We have to catch the ball in our comfort area and make plays from there and when we don't we don't have to try to be as creative. I can tell you a guy like Duop wants to make sure he bounces back and has a much better game and protect the ball much better. We think we see that coming. But that's certainly an area that we have to clean up and address with him for sure.”

On Wayde Sims and Aaron Epps filling Craig Victor’s spot…
“I thought Sims came in and did an excellent job the other night. We had Epps coming off of injury and that was really his first game back for us. In putting him in that situation the other night, I thought he played a bit antsy and he probably wasn't himself and wasn't the player that he’s been for us. We know we’ll get much better production from him moving forward. Those guys were certainly getting to that role and we may have to play some small ball some times and go with four guards out there around the post and play a lot quicker.”

On Branden Jenkins minutes…
“I think as the season progresses we’ll be able to play him more minutes but we certainly have to watch. He came in the other night and gave us some positive minutes and he defended really well ... I thought he was a part of the run late in the game when we were able to cut the deficit. I thought he defended well and I thought the ball moved better when he was in the game late in the second half when we cut the deficit down to four points. I thought he came up with a big steal and they winded out calling a foul on it when we were in the full-court press. I thought it could’ve been a clean look for us. He’s aggressive enough and plays hard enough and we’ve got to make sure we find good minutes for him on the floor until. We have to keep him fresh until he’s in the shape he needs to be in to play long minutes.”

On the attitude of the team…
“These guys understand. They knew going into conference play that the teams get to another level. Some guys don't; some new guys, Duop (Reath) and the freshmen, it’s different. You can talk to them about it but they don't know until they get in to the middle of it. You can throw out non-conference schedules in the level of intensity that the games are going to be played. Those guys were able to experience that against a very experienced team. We played against a team that had four starters back … I say four starters, Roberson started for Kornet while he was out, and now he’s inserted in to their starting lineup. We played a very experienced basketball team the other night and those guys understand what it is to play in conference play and they played like it.”

On playing on the road now…
“Absolutely, we felt so good last year when we were able to go on the road in the first conference game of the year at Vanderbilt, a team that was picked to finish second in the league, and got a win. The team that was picked to win it was Kentucky and we came home and started off the league 2-0. You’re talking about excitement. We felt like we got off to the start we needed. There’s no difference in what happened the other night and we unfortunately had a setback here at home, a place you really want to protect, then go out on the road and win a few. Unfortunately we had a setback here at home early. Last year and were 8-1 in the league here at home. You have to protect your home and go out on the road and steal a few. Now we have to go out and get it balanced out and make sure we can get some wins on the road.”

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