AUBURN, Ala. - The LSU Tigers, looking to finish the season on a high note, travels here Friday in preparation for a Saturday 1 p.m. regular season finale against the Auburn Tigers at the Auburn Arena.
The game will be regionally televised by CBS and broadcast on the affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network (New Country 100.7 FM The Tiger).
LSU is 17-12 and 7-8 in the league, but losers of two straight, at Ole Miss last Saturday and then Wednesday night's heartbreaking loss in overtime to Tennessee, 74-69, at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center in a game in which LSU led almost the entire regulation before Tennessee was able to tie the game and win in the extra session.
Auburn is 14-15 and 4-11 in the league and losers of three straight, including Wednesday night at Alabama.
LSU has fallen with the two losses into a tie for sixth place with Ole Miss and Mississippi State, but the two Mississippi schools have the tiebreakers and if the SEC Tournament in New Orleans started Saturday, the Tigers would be the eighth seed. LSU could end up anywhere from sixth to ninth in the final seeding in what in one scenario could be a four-way tie for sixth.
LSU defeated Auburn in January meeting in Baton Rouge in overtime, 65-58. It was another game LSU had a lead in only to have Auburn hit a three-pointer with less than a second to play to force overtime. But in the overtime period, LSU responded and easily won the game.
Anthony Hickey had 18 points and six assists in the first meeting with Justin Hamilton getting 13, Ralston Turner 11 and Storm Warren 10. Johnny O'Bryant III did not play in the first meeting because of a broken bone in his non-shooting left hand.
Auburn is paced by Frankie Sullivan who averages 12.2 points per game and Kenny Gabriel who is at 12.1 a contest.
The Tigers next game will be on Thursday, March 8, at the SEC Tournament at the New Orleans Arena.
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Coach Trent Johnson met with the media on Thursday afternoon and here are some of his comments leading into the LSU-Auburn game in Auburn:
HEAD COACH TRENT JOHNSON
Opening Statement ...
"Moving right along, we're probably going to watch a little tape and change our schedule unlike the previous two road games. We'll probably practice when we get up there (to Auburn). I think we're due to arrive there around 4:30 and we'll watch a lot of video tape. I anticipate them, I haven't seen or talked to the players yet, but I anticipate them being a little flat, a little down. The mental part of this thing is real huge right now in terms of making sure they bounce back up and understand that we still have a lot of games to play if we play well. It seems like we played Auburn two years ago. All I can remember is that we had to go into overtime, and we had to fight to win that game. So, I believe it is senior night for them, and that's pretty much it."
On the mental approach of getting ready to play again ...
"My approach has always been the same. It starts with us as coaches, and hopefully they've matured enough during the course of the year that they'll pick themselves back up and be resilient like they have. The magnitude of the game, as much as I talk about one game, staying on an even keel and all that I think to a man they were a little down uncharacteristic than they've been in the past. It was a flat, flat, very solemn, very dejected group last night. Again, you have an opportunity, if you bounce back, to still play your way through some things."
On Auburn being different to prepare for ...
"Well, their size and their length, with the exception of Rob Chubb in the post. Kenny Gabriel, he's a four-three; Ward, he's like a combo. Noel Johnson, he's a three-two-one. So, their versatility, their skill sets and their athleticism causes problems. They change defenses, and they're a much different team at home than they are on the road. I've always thought that Tony (Barbee) has done a hell of a job in terms of maximizing his team's ability. They play extremely hard, and some of their losses they could have gone either way. So, I think the word there, versatile and balance, is key."
On Anthony Hickey's growth ...
"His growth, I mean, he's continued to play with a lot of courage. He's gotten better defensively, last night especially, because the previous three games people were really attacking his on ball defense. So, we took him off the ball, guarding point, that is, and put Andre Stringer on the point. In terms of his beating himself up because he missed a shot, there were a lot of plays that were out there to be made in regulation, especially during the course of the second half. So, it wasn't any one guy that put us in the situation where we lost that game. One of the things we talked about at halftime was we played extremely hard in the first half. We were the aggressor, we were dominating the glass, but we had to sustain it because going into this game, I was very impressed with Tennessee's skill level, talent level and also their mental and physical toughness."
On Johnny O'Bryant's impact this time against Auburn ...
"He brings post presence, post touches. He's another body that we can go to. I thought Johnny played well at crucial times last night. I thought he was really engaged, and it was nice to see him really fight and be enthusiastic for the seniors. Talking about beating himself up, he was at the front end of a one and one at a crucial time, and it took a while for him to get back. Like I told him, it's over with, move on to the next play. That's what happens when you have a group that's trying to win and trying to do a little too much because they want to win so bad. Also, that goes back to what I always talk about, your mental discipline and your mental toughness, being able to understand that's the last play, now go on and move on to the next play."