COLLEGE STATION, Texas – LSU traveled here Tuesday afternoon hoping to continue the trend of road wins in the Southeastern Conference when they face the Texas A&M Aggies in a 7:30 p.m. Wednesday night men’s hoops tilt at the Reed Arena.
The Tigers and Aggies contest will be broadcast on the affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network (Eagle 98.1 FM in Baton Rouge) and broadcast on the SEC Network as the second game of their Wednesday doubleheader. Tom Hart and Daymeon Fishback will have the call.
In the first 19 games of league play entering Tuesday’s four-game slate only six of 14 teams have won on their home court (Kentucky and Florida twice). Eleven of the 14 teams have won one road game. Road teams are 11-8 entering the fourth playing date of the league.
LSU is 1-2 with losses at home to Vanderbilt and Mississippi State while Texas A&M is 0-3 in the league after an opening home loss to Tennessee and road losses at Kentucky and South Carolina. The Tigers are 9-5 overall and A&M is 8-4.
LSU is coming in off a 95-78 setback to Mississippi State. The Tigers were led by Duop Reath, who had his third double double with 19 points and 13 rebounds, while Antonio Blakeney had 17 points. Skylar Mays and Jalyn Patterson combined for 11 assists and Patterson has gone three games in the league without a turnover.
Although no specific details were given out postgame or in Monday’s media session, there was speculation that LSU could make some lineup changes either in the starters or combinations that come in looking for the groupings that make the Tigers better for longer defensively.
Based on the games since Craig Victor II’s dismissal, Reath (14.1 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 2.1 bpg) and Aaron Epps (6.1 ppg, 4.3 rpg) have started at the forwards with Blakeney (17.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg), Brandon Sampson (11.5 ppg, 3.2 rpg) and Skylar Mays (5.9 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 4.0 apg) at the guards. Patterson, who is averaging 3.4 assists per game (5.0 in the league), will see some time at both the one and the two.
Four Aggies average in double figures with Tyler Davis at 13.9 points per game for Louisiana native and A&M head coach Billy Kennedy. DJ Hogg is at 13.4 points, Admon Gilder 12.1 and Robert Williams 10.4. A&M averages 73.1 points a game and gives up 68.1. Overall they are shooting 47.2 percent from the field, while holding opponents to 39.6 percent.
Follow updates throughout the game Wednesday on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/LSUBasketball and @LSUBasketball on Twitter.
Coach Johnny Jones met with the media before the team departed for College Station and here are some of his comments:
HEAD COACH JOHNNY JONES
“We’re looking forward to another challenging week after a setback on Saturday. There are some areas of concern that aren’t new to us, but defensively there are areas where we have to continue to grow, get better, and be more consistent. It’s a must for us and it’s an area that we have to continue to work on. This week we will be challenged the same way. We’re playing two teams who are very capable. Texas A&M has an ability to score from the post area with one of the most productive post guys in the league. Tyler Davis does a great job. On the perimeter they’re very effective in shooting the ball from the three-point line. They have a good balance of size and strength in the way that they play. So they certainly present a great challenge for us. Although they are 0-3 in the league they have played some very competitive games outside of Kentucky at Rupp Arena. They've been challenged. At 0-3 I know they will have an edge about them and we have to make sure we have the same. We look forward to going and taking some positive steps, which are much needed for our team, on Wednesday.”
On a win being needed by both teams…
“Well I think at the beginning of the season we have 18 conference games. First game of the season there is a sense of urgency. You want to get off to a great start. In the second game, regardless of if you win or lose it, you’re looking for separation from the first one or you’re looking to bounce back from the first one. All games have an importance to it as you go throughout the season. We’re sitting at 1-2 and they’re at 0-3. Both of us know that it's a great opportunity for both teams. Both teams need to get back on track because we both had setbacks on Saturday. We’re hopeful that we can put ourselves in a position to put some space between us and other teams that are looking for a win. I think all of the games in conference are extremely important and that's the approach everyone takes in conference.”
On watching the tape from Vanderbilt…
“We just have to get better. Being in space you have to force people to be more uncomfortable when they’re playing. We don't do a great job of getting to the next play. We’ll come down and play a couple of passes and be in position, but you have to get on to the next play. When somebody is driving the ball it may not be your man but you need to be there in the right position and forcing them to make a play and when they do, defensively you have to be willing to make the next play and we don't do that consistent enough on the defensive end of the floor. That's an area that we have to continue to improve as a team and … individually. It’s important and we’ll get there. With this team and the youthfulness of it, we aren’t there yet. We’re expecting and asking some guys to do some things and they have to get on a fast track of learning, and not just learning but doing it, and being able to provide it during games. You've got to make sure you’re willing to play out however much time you have in that game. You have to exhaust yourself. That's the difference between winning and losing. You have to exhaust yourself on both ends of the floor to be able to do that.”
On the difference between this year’s defense and last year’s team …
“I would say because (last year) we had length and we had strength. We had guys who had been through it. We had Quarterman and Hornsby and those guys, and the strength they had and played with and the edge that they played with. I thought the fact that they were in a system for a couple of years was different, and they were able to provide other things. I thought Ben’s height and strength could pose problems for other teams in the post. You could do different things with him because of his foot-speed and what he was capable of doing. Those things would help but we would have some deficiencies even with last year’s team. Even inside we were a little stronger inside because of players we had available to us at the time. We were different last year and I thought that helped. There were areas I thought we could play for longer stretches because of what was provided to us at times.”
On things he will address in practice…
“We’ve looked at it and really addressed some things that we really probably need to address in practice. We did not practice (Sunday). We’ll get engaged with any changes we need to make lineup wise (Monday) and see how it fits. Obviously chemistry is going to be a little bit different. We’re hopeful to get off to better starts in games than we have and hopefully with a lineup change we’ll be able to do that.”
On if lineup changes would be for offense of defense…
“On the defensive end; on the offensive end we’re one of the top scoring teams in the league. We’re shooting in the top two or three in field goal percentage. We’re not concerned with offense as much because we have guys who are capable of taking care of the ball. In conference play it's a little bit different but that's something you get used to. Defensively is something that I think has to be a main stay where you get better. It requires a lot more discipline and a lot more want to. A lot of times you don’t get your name in the paper because of what you do, but your team will because it's the difference between winning and losing and that's the separation we’ve got to get. So it’s more so on the defensive end of the floor. We think all of our guys are capable scorers, but we have to get guys who are tone setters on the defensive end of the floor and that's important for us and as coaches I have to do a better job of teaching and communicating that to them.”
On communication as a team…
“It’s one where some people haven’t and some guys aren’t very vocal and don't talk a lot. Sometimes they can be your hardest workers. For us to get better, guys have to become comfortable talking. When you get in between those lines there are some things that are going to be uncomfortable doing. But if it’s something that's going to be able to generate some positive things for your team that's what we’ve got to ask of you. We’ve got to be able to do it. Talking and pointing is a big thing and we don't get enough of that. I think when you get better at that your team becomes better. That's an area where we have to get better. Some guys aren’t comfortable with it; it’s not who they are and it’s not a part of their makeup, but we have to get some of that to change.”
On Kieran Hayward increased playing time …
“I think you’re accurate. I think Kieran Hayward has done an excellent job from his first day on campus to now of improving in a lot of ways, including the defensive end of the floor. He’s a guy who I think expends the energy and puts forth the effort that's needed for us. He’s obviously got a ways to go but it's a great start. All of our guys are extremely capable but it’s just a matter of getting it done now in terms of being able to improve. It’s not a cure-all, but it's certainly a great start for us.”