Tigers Host Arkansas Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
Communications Sr. Associate
BATON ROUGE – The LSU men’s basketball team looks to bring the effort and play they showed against Kentucky Tuesday night to the floor of the Pete Maravich Assembly Center Saturday night as the Tigers host Arkansas in a 7:30 p.m. Southeastern Conference tilt.
Tickets for the contest are available at LSUtix.net and will be available at the upper concourse ticket windows of the Maravich Center beginning at 6 p.m. on Saturday. LSU students are admitted free with a valid student ID.
The game will be broadcast on the affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network (Eagle 98.1 FM in Baton Rouge and LSUsports.net/live) with the “Voice of the Tigers” Chris Blair on the call. Richard Cross and Daymeon Fishback will have the television call on the SEC Network as the final game of their tripleheader.
The first 2,000 fans will receive Tiger Toothbrush Holders. Also, the members of the 1991 Southeastern Conference basketball champions from LSU will be honored at halftime of the game and guests of the Tipoff Club in the pregame.
The Tigers, 9-14 and 1-10 and looking to break a 10-game losing streak, showed more energy and effort in the 92-85 loss at Kentucky, taking a 25-point deficit down to six in the final 30 seconds of the contest. The Tigers shot 62.5 percent at Rupp Arena in the second half (20-of-32) and 8-of-11 from the arc in outscoring UK, 58-49 in the final 20 minutes. For the game, LSU shot 32-of-64 with 10 three-point field goals. LSU had a big 23-14 advantage in points off turnovers as both teams had 14 turnovers in the contest.
Antonio Blakeney had the third 30-point game of his career, the first this season and the first on the road, with 31 points on 12-of-19 shooting with four treys. He has scored 54 points in LSU’s last two road games (at Texas Tech and at Kentucky) after scoring a combined 20 points in the last three home games as defenses doubled on him and forced him to take rushed shots.
Arkansas comes in at 17-7 and 6-5 in the SEC after losses at Mizzou (83-78) and Tuesday night at home against Vanderbilt (72-59).
Dusty Hannahs led Arkansas in the Vanderbilt loss with 24 points on 10-of-19 shooting with three treys, while Moses Kingsley had 11 points. Arkansas shot just 25 percent in the opening half of the game (7-of-28) and 1-of-10 from the arc, while Vanderbilt was 14-of-25 and 10-of-15 in the first half. Vanderbilt built a 39-18 halftime advantage, leading by as much as 24 points.
Coach Johnny Jones is expected to go with the same lineup from Tuesday with Skylar Mays (7.5 ppg, 3.74 apg), Blakeney (16.3 ppg, 4.8 rpg) and Brandon Sampson (17 pts vs. UK; 11.3 ppg, 2.8 rpg) at the guards with Duop Reath (11.3 ppg, 2.8 rpg) and Wayde Sims (6.7 ppg, 3.9 rpg) at the forward positions.
Hannahs leads Arkansas in scoring at 14.6 points per game, while Daryl Macon comes in at 13.0 points per contest. Kingsley checks in at 11.8 points and Jaylen Barford is at 11.3 points a game.
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Coach Jones met with the media before practice on Thursday and here are some of his comments:
“We’re looking forward to getting back on the floor on Saturday against a good Arkansas basketball team who’s had a couple of setbacks. But we do know the quality and the type team they are and what they’re capable of doing. We’ve had an opportunity to play them early in the year and I thought they did a great job with fast break opportunities. I think that hurt us and we didn't take advantage of the free throw opportunities that we had in that game. At the end I thought we were sitting there in striking distance but there were a few things … whether it be defensively or offensively, and executing at the level that we needed to. Unfortunately we came up short. But the guys are excited about getting back out. They aren’t happy about losing (Tuesday) but they did a great job of battling against one of the top teams in the country in Kentucky and playing in the atmosphere and environment that they did. I though they took some positive steps. It will be entertaining being with the ’91 team that won the conference championship that year. We look forward to those guys getting back here and interacting with everyone.”
On execution in the second half of Kentucky…
“I thought they executed better in a really good environment against the quality competition that we were playing against. It was good to see it on a pretty consistent basis. We’ve shown some signs of it, but what we’ve gone through are lapses. The end of the first half the other night I think we may have gone close to a three minute stretch without a basket. Those are the things that we have to try to make sure we guard against. We put ourselves in much better shape and make runs but then we’ll have those lapses. We’ve got to be better defensively or we have to make sure we’re hitting on all cylinders on the offensive end. You can’t be down in both areas and occasionally we get there. We’ll allow our opponents to score and then we’re not as effective in getting baskets. I think that's where some teams get separation and unfortunately that comes with a little bit of the inexperience that we’re dealing with.”
On getting consistent scoring from both Antonio Blakeney and Brandon Sampson…
“I think with good teams the numbers from players are consistent in what you can depend on and rely on night in and night out, especially with averages. I think a lot of times you can look at averages whether it’s rebounding, scoring, or field goal percentage and you know what you’re getting night in and night out. I think the inconsistency from our guys has certainly been one of the things that has hampered us from making consistent strides week in and week out. I think if you take Brandon and Blakeney as an example, those two guys are two who are very capable. But obviously the opponents are going to have something to do with it as well when it comes to defending them. But if we consistently got their averages and then other guys chipped in what they’re capable of, and if we were better on the defensive end I think that would certainly help us with their consistency. But at the same time although they scored, the defensive end of the floor is where I think we have to continue to make sure that we make strides and get better. I thought we did some good things the other night with field goal percentage.”
On second half shooting success against Kentucky…
“I thought I was good for us. A lot of it came late. We hit a lot of threes late in the ballgame. We were able to spread them out when we were down. I thought our guys did a great job of scrambling and playing hard defensively. They created some opportunities for us. We got some fast break opportunities and that's tough to do against them as well. But shots went down and numerous guys were able to hit those shots and that's good for us. As the game played out I thought our field goal percentage was up because we did a great job of sharing the basketball. We didn't quick shoot it. A lot of guys were touching the ball and a lot of things came from within our offense. Anytime we do that and our guys get their feet set and get good looks good things happen for us.”
On how can that shooting translate into shooting in the first half…
“At the beginning of the game we talked prior to leaving the locker room about not worrying about the clock or the score. We need to worry about possessions and how we play on those possessions. At the end of the night the clock isn’t an indicator of how it all turned out and how we responded to things. I thought our guys did that. I talked to Antonio Blakeney about the energy and effort that he was able to give us a year ago against (Jamal) Murray from Kentucky, who is a great scorer. We needed that that night from him and the rest of the guys need to follow suit. I thought they all played hard and gave great effort in a tough environment on both ends of the floor. Those guys were very capable and good scorers but unfortunately they had guys step up for them as well and had career nights. I thought that was really the difference in the ball game.”
On if the confidence of the team is at its best now…
“I think any time you play the team with the caliber of Kentucky and with the tradition that they have, plus playing them on the road in that type of environment, for the team to be able to respond the way they did. I say team because a lot of guys played some minutes in there, and maybe even only two or three minutes, they were effective and came in and helped. I think it was a huge plus for us. You've got to believe and think they felt better coming out of that competition and being able to compete with those guys better than we have in other setbacks we’ve had.”
On the 1991 SEC Championship team that will come this weekend…
“I thought that was a team that symbolized one guy who was an unbelievable superstar as we know him today in Shaquille O’Neal. He was surrounded by a great group of players who did a tremendous job of playing their special roles, and that's from Wayne Sims, to Vernel Singleton, to T.J. Pew, to Mike Hanson, to Geert Hammink, and the list goes on of a number of guys who I thought came in and did a great job in terms of what we consider playing in a team environment and family atmosphere. They were very close when you talk about that family atmosphere. One of the things that Coach (Dale Brown) used to preach all the time was ‘the best potential of me is we.’ I thought that’s what that group was all about and I thought that was one of the things that allowed them to be close and have the effectiveness that they had. The leadership they had on the team allowed them to get to the championship.
“What I remember most about it as having the opportunity to take Mississippi State into an overtime game and Shaquille had to be out because he was complaining about his leg bothering him. Prior to the game coach told him not to dress and this was for the outright championship, and he didn't dress. We got back and we x-rayed him and he had a hairline fracture. We weren’t sure if he would play again, but we were excited that he didn't play in that game and compound that injury and potentially really affect his career at that time. I think that said a lot about Coach Brown not pushing him to get out there and play injured when you didn't know the status of the injury. But it was a great team and a great group of guys and obviously a lot of them are doing extremely well.”