Basketball Heads to Arkansas Saturday
Communications Sr. Associate
FAYETTEVILLE, Arkansas – The LSU Tigers, getting closer to pushing through for the type of game that will get them another SEC win, will travel here on Saturday at meet the Arkansas Razorbacks.
Tip time Saturday in the final game of the league’s weekend schedule is set for 7:30 p.m. and will be broadcast on the LSU Sports Radio Network affiliates (Eagle 98.1 FM and LSUsports.net) with the “Voice of the Tigers” Chris Blair on the call and televised by the SEC Network with Richard Cross and Jarvis Hayes on hand for the telecast.
LSU played a good 35 minutes against Alabama a week ago and had the game tied with 5:06 to play before falling; and, in Wednesday night’s game at Auburn, the LSU Tigers were 15 down with 12 minutes to play and four times was able to cut the margin to two points before losing, 88-84.
Now LSU (9-8, 1-5) needs to find the breakthrough moment that will push them through against the Razorbacks (14-4, 3-3 in the SEC). Arkansas is coming off wins over Mizzou and a road win at Texas A&M (62-60) on Tuesday. The Razorbacks are 1-2 in the league at Bud Walton Arena, losing to Florida and Mississippi State before defeating Missouri.
Arkansas is one of eight high-major teams in the country to score 70-plus points in 17 games this season. LSU has topped 70 on 13 occasions this year. Daryl Mason leads the team scoring at a 14.0 points per game clip. Dusty Hannahs is at 13.9 and Moses Kingsley is at 11.7 points per game.
The Tigers hope to have a similar night from junior Aaron Epps who had his second career double double of 15 points and 13 rebounds in the Auburn loss. Elbert Robinson III came off the bench and gave a strong eight minutes making 4-of-5 field goals and finishing with eight points. Antonio Blakeney played 31 minutes off the bench at Auburn after an ankle injury late in the Alabama game and is probable for the Arkansas game as he will attempt to extend his double figure scoring streak to eight straight games.
Blakeney averages 16.8 points per game and 5.1 rebounds while forward Duop Reath is averaging 13.6 points per game and 6.2 rebounds. Epps, after his big game is averaging 6.7 points per game and 5.1 rebounds per game.
Two numbers that LSU was able to swing in the Auburn game were points off turnovers and second chance points. LSU had an 18-13 advantage in points off turnovers, up from LSU’s SEC average of 13.4 points off turnovers and opponents had been averaging over 23 points a game off LSU miscues. LSU had 22 offensive rebounds against Auburn and posted a big 29-8 advantage against the home Tigers in second chance points.
The Tigers will return home on Wednesday to face Florida in an 8 p.m. game in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center while the SEC schools are one week away from the SEC-Big 12 Challenge set of games. LSU will go to Lubbock to take on Texas Tech on Jan. 28.
Follow updates of the LSU basketball team at www.Facebook.com/LSUBasketball and @LSUBasketball.
Coach Jones met with the media prior to the team’s departure and here are some of his comments:
HEAD COACH JOHNNY JONES
“Following another setback on the road last night against a talented team that I thought played well down the stretch. They’ve (Auburn) been in several games this year and they did a good job of finishing the game last night. I thought we gave ourselves an opportunity to continue to battle in the first half. Even late in the second half we cut back into their deficit. We made some good plays down the stretch, both offensively and defensively. Unfortunately it wasn't enough to get over the hump. I thought there were a few bright signs were shown in the game last night. I thought Aaron Epps and Elbert Robinson both gave us some positive minutes last night. At guard I thought a couple of our guys continued to be extremely aggressive. I thought Jalyn Patterson gave us some really positive minutes. (Patterson) and Skylar Mays battle against a really good guard core of guys last night. We have to quickly turn our attention to a really good Arkansas team who is extremely talented. They've really gotten off to a good start, and have gone on the road and won some big games, including at Texas A&M in a really closely contested game the other night. We look forward to getting back out on the road and hopefully continuing to play better. Hopefully be able to finish a game out in the fashion that we need to come away with a victory.”
On Antonio Blakeney coming off the bench…
“We initially weren’t sure if he was going to play. I knew the pace of the game and how those guys would come out at home and didn't want to put him in that situation right off the bat. We knew that he would loosen up in warm-ups. We wanted to let the game get started and let those guys get geared up to do what they were doing, then put Antonio in. As the game played itself out we were able to do that. He was able to fit in and I thought he did a pretty good job for us. Leading up until even warm-ups last night we weren’t sure if we were going to let him hit the floor, but he said he felt good and that he could compete and play. His ankle had been in certain situations like that early in the year and he was able to play through it and thought mentally he would be able to get through it.”
On Aaron Epps’ aggression and confidence…
“Aaron has shown us some really good signs over the last couple of years. Last night I thought it was really good for him. He was really competitive. He’s a really good shooter. He’s calm and plays poised a lot of times in games that are really fast. Last night he had a few open shots, and generally he’ll knock down but he connected on enough for us. I thought his ability to compete and run down plays where he got a couple of follow up dunks were hustle plays. He didn't quit on the play or take for granted that somebody was going to make the play. He competed last night which gave him a positive stat line and gave us an opportunity to be where we were late in the game.”
On Elbert Robinson III and his stat line last night…
“What we saw from Elbert last night is what we occasionally get in practice. He’s catches it inside and creates havoc, scoring through traffic and making plays. He looked like practice Elbert last night when he made plays and played through traffic. On the defensively end I thought he made it tough for one of their really good, solid freshman in (Austin) Wiley. He’s a great talent and I thought he defended him well inside. Defensively he was able to come in and play his part and his role in the zone. Even when we went man late I thought he did a good job for us. It was really good to see him have a game like that. Hopefully how he played last night gave him some confidence.”
On the pressure to win…
“I don’t really think about that, I think about our next game with preparation for our players. Years that we’ve had success right off the bat like last year beating Vanderbilt and Kentucky, I didn't come back after starting 2-0 thinking we had hung the moon and that we had arrived or anything of that nature. So each game has its own deal and we have to make sure that we continue to take that approach throughout the season. I don't think it does myself, the team, the staff, or anybody any good to worry about anything farther than that. That's my main focus and concentration. Those are the things I can control. So that's what we’ll continue to do.”
On what the team did better in the Auburn game…
“Well I thought guys continued to compete. When you have a team as young as we have and you have a group like the ones we were able to put on the floor last night … Last year when we went on that floor in Auburn we had the number one pick in the NBA Draft in Ben Simmons, Tim Quarterman, Keith Hornsby, and a number of other guys. Last night we took the floor with a totally different team. It doesn't happen overnight; it’s a process that you have to go through. We felt like from earlier games when guys got down to questioning themselves and wasn’t as confident and sure of themselves, you saw that same group fight back last night. They played with more of an edge and gave us a chance. Anything could have happened. If they don't run in and get a left hand hook with an and-one to get the score where it needed to be, we can knock down the couple of late shots that we had and it could’ve been a different outcome in the game. We would’ve never known that had the kids not played at the level that they did late. That's what you see. I think they will continue to battle that way because they know that there’s a chance. That was one of the positives last night that the game didn't go from a 10-point lead to a 25 or 30-point game. We cut it back to a two-point game with possession to try to tie the score or go ahead.”
On keeping the players motivated to play...
“I think the main thing for these guys is to come to work every day and be prepared. What I like is the fight in them, and that they trust and believe. It’s been tough for everybody, especially those guys. You want to see them win. There’s nothing like walking in the locker room after a victory and being able to look at those guys’ faces. The tough deal is just like after setbacks having to go through that as well. It’s my job and our job to make sure we keep them up and keep them fighting. That's part of the process. When you go through it and if you are in it long enough, unfortunately you have to go through those stretches as well. I think it’s how you deal with it that will dictate how your team performs late. I think our team has shown some good signs that they've continued to battle.”
On the benefits of playing zone…
“It’s been different; it’s not something that we’ve done since I’ve been here or for any long stay, but I think it’s benefitted this team, with the length that we have. I don't think teams have worked a lot in preparation for LSU to be in a 2-3 zone. We caught maybe some by surprise and others knowing we were going to run it did not experienced the length that we have to play it out there. So it’s helped us and has afforded us some opportunities to steal possessions. People haven’t shot the ball extremely well against us. I think Auburn may have had only one three last night and they’re a good three-point-shooting team. They’re a good three-point-shooting team and they didn't shoot it great from there last night.”