Tigers Host Carolina Wed. At 8 At Maravich Center
Communications Sr. Associate
BATON ROUGE – The LSU men’s basketball team opens February with a tough assignment as the nationally-ranked South Carolina Gamecocks drop by the Pete Maravich Assembly Center for a Wednesday 8 p.m. contest.
The game will be broadcast on the LSU Sports Radio Network with Chris Blair on the play-by-play (Eagle 98.1 FM in Baton Rouge and live on LSUsports.net/live) with the telecast on the SEC Network with Tom Hart and Daymeon Fishback.
Tickets for the game are available at LSUtix.net and all day Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the LSU Athletics Ticket Office. Tickets at the Maravich Center will be available beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the upper concourse ticket windows. LSU students are admitted with their student ID and it is student point night.
South Carolina comes into the game off a conference win at Mizzou and stands at 17-4 overall and 7-1 in the SEC, tied with Kentucky for the league lead going into Kentucky’s Tuesday night game with Georgia. LSU is 9-11 after a 77-64 loss at Texas Tech and is 1-7 in the conference.
The Tigers are still looking for their first win at home in SEC play, while South Carolina is 3-1 away from home in the SEC.
The series is tight with South Carolina leading, 16-15, off a 94-83 win in Columbia last February. LSU has won three-of-the-last-five games.
LSU will be looking to get offensive punch from Antonio Blakeney, who comes in averaging 16.4 points a game and is coming off a 23-point performance at Texas Tech. Duop Reath, averaging 13.8 points a game, posted his fourth double double of the season in Lubbock, while Wayne Sims off the bench contributed 10 points.
South Carolina, under fifth-year head coach Frank Martin, is led by Sindarius Thornwell (19.3 points per game, 7.2 rebounds per game) with PJ Dozier averaging 13.6 a contest.
The Gamecocks rank first nationally in three-point field goal percentage defense (25.4%). Over the last five games, opponents are averaging just 18.5 percent from the arc.
LSU on the other hand is shooting 50.9 percent from inside the arc and is averaging the tenth best points average in the country from there, 44.1 points. According to TEAMRANKINGS.com, LSU is getting 58.6 percent of its points inside the arc and that is ranked No. 11 in Division I.
This is the first of two games at home this week for the Tigers as LSU and Texas A&M meet Saturday night, also at 8 p.m.
Follow updates on LSU Basketball at www.Facebook.com/LSUBasketball and @LSUBasketball on Twitter.
Coach Johnny Jones met with the media prior to the game and here are some of his comments:
HEAD COACH JOHNNY JONES
“Obviously we’re looking forward to another challenging week. On Wednesday, we’re playing one of the top tier teams in the conference. I thought South Carolina last year was very deserving to be in the NCAA tournament. They were a team that finished in the top three in our league. I thought they were a top-25 team for most of the season. Unfortunately they didn't have the opportunity to go participate in the (NCAA) field last year. They’re returning almost every player from a team a year ago that was very impactful. They’ve gotten off to a tremendous start like they did a year ago, not only in the regular season, but also in conference play. The only setback they had was at Kentucky playing in Lexington. That was a game I thought they played extremely well for the better part of the first half and most of the second half. I thought Kentucky was able to get away from them there at the end. I thought they certainly battled. They're probably one of the more experienced teams in our league. Defensively they’re second to none and they certainly present a great challenge for us.”
On defending the three point line…
“You look at that the game the other day on Saturday. You’re defending a team and they hit 12 shots in the first half and 10 were threes. How often can that happen and put you in the deficit we were in? They only hit two there in the second half. We didn't make a huge adjustment in the second half; the shots just didn't go down for them. The guys were very capable. We took away gaps and forced them to take shots instead of having plays at the rim. They’re a really good midrange team, which plays well toward the rim. We’ve just got to do a good time of continuing staying to our principles and stop drivers, which teams do a great job of especially with the new rules they have in. You can’t play with your hands and you've got to do certain things. When guys get open shots they've been good. Teams have been efficient against us. We just have to keep playing as hard as we can to defend that area as well as take away driving lanes.”
On keeping the team motivated…
“I think it’s from game to game, regardless of if you've gone on an eight game winning streak and have a couple of setbacks as some teams have, you have to figure out ways to bounce back. Each game is a new challenge for us in the teams we’ve played. We’ve got to keep preparing and getting ready for each one. Hopefully those guys will remain focused and come ready to practice to prepare for the next opponent that we have in the fashion that we need to. I think they've for the most part been able to do that. It’s obviously tough, and you certainly want to get a win under your belt. It’s not easy and not something I’m a master at because I’m not familiar with the territory as much. I think due to circumstances this group has done a pretty good job.
On the effort against Texas Tech…
“I think what happens with this team is they’re extremely young and inexperienced and they don't have a true floor leader who has been through it and that knows what it takes to be as competitive as you need to be on this level. I think this team has continued to have to grow through some tough trials that we’ve certainly been through. It’s on a continuous basis for us. Unfortunately we’ve had setbacks and it’s not one of those things you’ve been able to teach after having success … After having losses it’s difficult but I think these guys have done a decent enough job. I think they've shown signs of being more competitive through longer stretches and I think that's a decent sign too in terms of growth and it’s got to start somewhere.”
On changing the team’s momentum…
“We just have to really prepare and keep preparing extremely hard each day. We have to make sure our guys understand the urgency that they need to continue to play with and try to point out the areas where we have to continue to improve and also areas where we have done good things. Something that they have a chance to hang their hat on a little bit and be excited about. You take the game the other night; I thought they did a good job in the second half of sharing the basketball and making extra passes. They took a team that had hit us with a barrage of three-pointers in the first half and defending them better in that area because they did a better job of flying to the ball. They made some extra plays and some extra efforts on some things. I think being able to point to those things gives them reason to believe and give hope in what they’re doing. It’s no big reason to be excited but you go from a half like we had in the first half to the second half and the way that it played out cutting it to a two-point ball game. If we can do that in the first half then we can learn from those experiences.”
On looking for a solid team scoring performance…
“I think if you look at the makeup of the team last year, you could look at a Hornsby and say ‘oh he can go for 35 or so and have a huge night.’ You had a Ben Simmons who goes for 40-something against North Florida. There are occasions where as a team you had a guy who could step up and do certain things and as a group if you had other guys behind him dong certain things you could possibly get through the game. This particular basketball team because of the turnover and the amount of experience we have, it’s not one guy, and it is going to take a great team effort to win games. That’s with most of your guys hitting on all cylinders and making good plays on the offensive end as well as the defensive end. That's not a bad thing, but it’s going to take a total team effort …”
On Wayde Sims improvement…
“It’s one of those things where starting is fine and great, obviously for kids to stay that they’re starting. I think Wayde has really impacted us coming off the bench and had some positive minutes for us. He’s a guy who can play inside and out; he can play the three and four for us. He’s playing a lot of minutes. I can say this, I think what he’s been able to do has earned more trust from the team and the staff. I think the minutes will be there. Whether or not he goes into the starting lineup will be game to game. I think he’s done a tremendous job of putting himself in a position to play a lot of valuable minutes for us and to be trusted in doing that.”
On South Carolina’s defense …
“I think they’re one of the best in the country in terms of what they do and how they do it. They’re strong and effective, and they hang their hat on it. They’re really aggressive in the manner in which they do it and not just something that you just start doing. They played that way last year and it’s just an older and more experienced group that's doing it now.”