Tigers In Nashville For SEC Tournament
Communications Sr. Associate
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Southeastern Conference takes over the Bridgestone Arena in the downtown area of Music City beginning Wednesday when the annual league tournament begins a five-day run to create a winner of the league’s automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.
For the Tigers of LSU, they will open the event at 6 p.m. Wednesday as the No. 13 seed takes on the No. 12 seed Mississippi State in the first of two games on the opening night. The game will be broadcast on the affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network (Eagle 98.1 FM and LSUsports.net/live) with the “Voice of the Tigers” Chris Blair on the call and televised by the SEC Network with Tom Hart, Jon Sundvold and Laura Rutledge handling the broadcast.
A limited number of tickets for Session 1 of the Southeastern Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament are on sale now for $15 each. Session 1 features Mississippi State vs. LSU followed by Auburn vs. Missouri. All seating for the session will be general admission. Session 1 tickets will be the only single session tickets sold. To purchase tickets, fans can visit www.SECsports.com and visit the ticket page or visit the Bridgestone Arena box office or any Ticketmaster location.
LSU is 10-20 overall and 2-16 in the SEC, while Mississippi State finished 15-15 and 6-12. The teams met just this past Saturday in the regular season finale with State an 88-76 winner. State won both regular seasons matchups in Baton Rouge and Starkville and in both games the Bulldogs were able to dominate the first half of play before LSU was able to play even in the second half, in fact, outscoring Mississippi State by eight total points combined.
The Tigers arrived mid-afternoon after practicing in the morning in Baton Rouge. The team took part in a late afternoon shoot around in Bridgestone Arena before going to a team dinner.
LSU and Mississippi State have played five times in the SEC Tournament with the Bulldogs having a 3-2 advantage. The last three games, all MSU wins, were in semifinals (2002, 2003, 2009) of the tournament. LSU’s two wins (1952, 1987) came in first round games like Wednesday’s contest.
This will mark the third time that LSU has played the same opponent in the regular season finale and then played them again in the team’s first game of the tournament. In 1993, LSU beat Ole Miss in the finale and then defeated the Rebels in the Tigers’ first game of the tourney. In 1946, LSU actually faced Tulane in three straight games with the last one an SEC Tournament opener.
LSU in Nashville SEC Tournaments has a record of 4-8 with a record of 4-6 in games played in the Bridgestone Arena. Johnny Jones is 3-4 in his four previous SEC Tournament appearances as the head coach of the Tigers. LSU’s lone SEC Tournament title was in 1980.
LSU is expected to continue with the same starting lineup that was all in double figures in the game on Saturday at Humphrey Coliseum – Skylar Mays (8.1 ppg, 10.4 in SEC games), All-SEC second teamer Antonio Blakeney (17.4 ppg, 19.6 over last 5 games) and Brandon Sampson (11.8 ppg) at guards with Duop Reath (12.2 ppg, 7 double doubles) and Aaron Epps (6.1 ppg) at forwards.
Reath had double doubles in both games against the Bulldogs, with 12 points and 12 rebounds in Saturday’s contest.
Mississippi State was paced Saturday by Quinndary Weatherspoon with 18 points while senior IJ Ready had 13 assists.
The winner of Wednesday night’s game will meet the No. 5 seed, Alabama, in the second game on Thursday.
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Coach Johnny Jones met with the media prior to the team’s departure to Nashville and here are some of his comments:
“We’re looking forward to the SEC Tournament this week. We’re not familiar over the last couple years or so with our timing of getting there. We’ve had a double bye so we haven’t had to play this early. This will be somewhat new to us. Our guys have to be ready against a familiar foe, someone who we just finished playing. It’ll be a neutral site game and it’s a third opportunity to play an opponent and it’s something that we look forward to. It’s another great challenge. They’re a team that has played well against us both times. We thought we had moments on Saturday that gave us the opportunity to cut into the deficit. Being the offensive team that they are, they made some shots when they needed to keep the deficit where it was. In the first half I thought we put ourselves in a position that made it more difficult to overcome the deficit that we had there in the first half, with going in 18 points down. Wednesday is a new day and for the teams that are playing on that first day, it’s survive and advance. Somebody will get a win and someone will have a setback on Wednesday and we’re hopeful that we’re the team that will continue to play on, on Thursday.”
On playing a team a third time…
“Well I think back to back helps because you’re just coming off of a scouting report and you just finished playing them. They’re a talented team, but they probably aren’t looking to make as many adjustments because of the success they’ve had. We know there are areas that we have to make adjustments on that created some scoring opportunities for them and less for us in certain situations. We feel like we have got more things to correct than they do and we hope we can make those corrections and that it’ll be beneficial to us and take away some of the positive things that they do.”
On being in survive and advance mode with a young team…
“It’s excitement for a young team especially with the position that they’re in. If they want to continue playing they have the ability to play with a certain edge about them. You’ll learn a little bit more about them. They've shown that several times this year. Unfortunately we’ve come up short in some of the battles. I think when you’re in a situation like this and there’s no tomorrow with a setback for this season, teams have a little bit more edge about them. I think you’ll see that Wednesday with the four teams that’ll take the floor.”
On what a run would do for this team…
“I think competition is always good. I think with the newness of this team and the lack of experience we have on it these type of environments are healthy for them and I think its always good moving forward. Some of the guys that were expected to play big roles have never been put in the position before. So this is always good and it’s a part of the growth and a part of the process for these guys. It’s one of those things you look forward to, how they will step up to the challenge and accept it.”