Men's Basketball Puts Home Streak on the Line

LSU's Chris Johnson
LSU's Chris Johnson
LSUsports.net
LSUsports.net (@LSUsports)
LSUsports.net (@LSUsports)
LSU Sports Interactive

BATON ROUGE -- LSU’s 12-game home winning streak faces its toughest test to date when Washington State comes in for a 1 p.m. contest Saturday and no one knows that any better than LSU Coach Trent Johnson.

Johnson knows Coach Tony Bennett and the Cougars well because he played Washington State while he was at Stanford twice a year in the Pac-10 round robin play. Last year, he played Washington State three times, including in the Pac-10 Tournament. Overall, Johnson is 8-4 against the Cougars, including a split in two games while he was the head coach at Nevada.

He knows what to expect and he knows how well-prepared the Huskies will be.

“Washington State without question is probably one of the best defensive teams in the country,” said Johnson. “I’m very familiar with them. There is only one team that has scored over 58 points against team and that was Gonzaga. This is a basketball team that has been battle tested. This is a basketball team that we are really going to have to stay poised and it is going to be a possession by possession basketball game. This is a team that you are not going to be able to take a bad shot against without them capitalizing. A six or 10-point lead for a team like this is like 20. This is going to be a very, very physical game. They are strong. They are extremely well-coached and it is going to be interesting.”

The game will be nationally-televised on ESPN2 beginning at 1 p.m. The game will also be available on the affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network (New Country 100.7 FM The Tiger in Baton Rouge) and in the “GeauxZone” at LSUsports.net.

Tickets go on sale at the Maravich Center upper concourse ticket windows beginning at 11:30 a.m.

LSU is 9-1 on the year, with all the wins in the PMAC, and the 12-game winning streak includes the final three home games from the year before. The winning streak is the 10th longest in the 38-year history of the building. Also Saturday, LSU will surpass six million in tickets sold for basketball games at the Maravich Center which opened in January 1972.

Washington State comes into the game off a road win at Idaho on Sunday that ran their record to 8-3. Their only three losses have come to nationally-ranked Pittsburgh of the Big East, Baylor of the Big 12 and nationally-ranked Gonzaga.

LSU is expected to continue to use the starting lineup it has used all season long Bo Spencer, Marcus Thornton and Garrett Temple at guards, Chris Johnson at center and Tasmin Mitchell at forward. Thornton, who has scored in double figures six straight games, is averaging 17.6 points per game, while Mitchell, on a five-game double figure scoring streak, is averaging 13.0 points per game. Point guard Bo Spencer is averaging 11.2 points per game.

Both Thornton and Mitchell doubled up in a 62-59 win over McNeese State Monday night with Thornton getting 15 points and 11 rebounds, with Mitchell scoring 12 points and 10 rebounds.

The Cougars are paced in scoring by Aron Baynes at 11.6 points and 6.1 rebounds per game, while Kay Thomason averaged 10.9 points. Point guard Taylor Rochestie averages just shy of double figures at 9.8 points and 5.0 assists per game.

But defense remains the main point of the Bennett family coaching tree. Tony Bennett’s dad, Dick, coached Wisconsin to a Sweet 16 NCAA win over LSU in 2000 playing the same system his son inherited.

“They are going to play the game the way it is supposed to be played and they are going to be physical,” said Johnson. “We’ve had a level of success in the past (at Stanford). We beat them three times last year. In those three games, I’ve never been in a situation where you won and you feel like we lost. That’s the biggest compliment I can give a team like Washington State. Ben Howland (UCLA coach) said it best two years ago that when you play a Tony Bennett-coached team that it’s like a root canal. That’s what it is. We will have to understand that if we get careless with it like (Monday) night, we are in trouble. If we have those to start a game like Washington State, you are looking at a 10-point deficit and it’s going to take some real discipline to get it back to where that thing is workable. We’ve got to take care of (the ball).”

LSU continues its homestand on New Year’s Eve (Dec. 31) with a 1:30 p.m. tilt against Louisiana-Lafayette. That game time has been changed from 4 p.m. because of the LSU football game, the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, later that evening.

 

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