Jones Previews Wednesday's Vanderbilt Tilt

LSU head coach Johnny Jones (right)
LSU head coach Johnny Jones (right)
Hilary Scheinuk
Kent Lowe (@LSUkent)
Kent Lowe (@LSUkent)
Communications Sr. Associate

BATON ROUGE - LSU men's basketball coach Johnny Jones conducted his normal Monday media session in preparation for the Tigers game Wednesday night at 7 p.m. at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center against Vanderbilt.

The game will be shown on ESPN3 and the Watch ESPN App for phones and tablets and broadcast on the LSU Sports Radio Network affiliates.

LSU is now 12-7 and 3-5 in the league after wins last week over No. 17 Missouri at home and a rallying last-second win at Mississippi State on Saturday. Vanderbilt is 8-12 and 2-6.

Here are some of the comments from today's media session:

Opening statement ...
"We're excited about, obviously, the events over the past week and the outcome of the two games. We also know that this week ahead is very challenging for us. We're hopeful to be able to look back at last week, the growth of our team because of the events and things that happened towards the end of games, finishing well. We hope that it will carry over this week that we'll continue to grow. Two really tough teams, Vanderbilt, I don't think you look at their record. The games they've played have been extremely close. Kentucky, a two- point game and a very close game with Alabama as well. They've been right there with Tennessee, I think another two-point game. So, a very tough schedule they've played. They've only been a few possessions away from their record looking totally different. Alabama is continuing to get better each night out. So, we look forward to those challenges this week, and we embrace them."

On Anthony Hickey ...
"As a matter of a fact, I watched him (Anthony Hickey) play as a freshman. I remember calling Trent Johnson and telling him that I saw a kid during the timeout - you could just see the look on his face how competitive he was and how in tune during the game he was. I think he's the same way, and he's continued to get better. He's what I like to call a warrior and a winner. He doesn't shy away or back away from those opportunities at the end of games. He wants to be a part of it and in the middle of it, be it on the defensive end or offensive end. I think he's really worked hard on trying to continue to improve, to get better and earning the respect of his teammates. I think, not only on the floor, but off as well."

On Johnny O'Bryant III's impact ...
"I think anytime a player is on the floor and can really have an impact on the game just because of their presence, it means a lot. When you find guys that are not just one dimensional, meaning that if they're only scoring, that's the only way that they're productive for you. I think it can hurt or harm your team. It's good to have guys out there that can be productive just because of their presence on the floor."

On Andre Stringer's defense ...
"I think, on the defensive end, he's really taken on the responsibility and challenge. His shots weren't going down, but I thought he was one of our better defenders on Saturday because of his assignment. I thought he did an excellent job of defending. I think the guy he was guarding wound up going 1-for-8 on the night. I think that's credit to his hustle, his attention to detail and how hard he played. Offensively, I think we look at Andre (Stringer) because of his ability to stretch the defense and shoot the three. But I think he's added some other dimensions to his game that have been helpful for us."

On the team's offensive struggles in Saturday's first half ...
"We had some good looks, and they didn't go down. It was disappointing because had those shots gone down, I think the complexity of the game would have been a little different. Unfortunately, we weren't able to make shots. On the other end, they executed offensively and made shots. That made it tough for us. We're lucky our defense picked up in the second half. They cooled off some, and we were able to execute and make some plays down the stretch."

On coaching a player similar to Anthony Hickey who can struggle during a game and then turn it on ...
"I've been around guys like that. I just left a guy (at North Texas) a couple years ago. Well, I didn't leave him, but he just graduated from me.  A kid Josh White, who was from Baton Rouge, had that kind of presence on the floor. Regardless of what type of night he had, you wanted the ball in his hand at the end of the game. Some good things were going to happen for you. I think that's just signs really of good point guard play, or guys with some leadership qualities about them."

On the team's confidence level after wins ...
"Well, the big thing is, if you look at when we've had setbacks. I looked at the attitude of our guys, and they couldn't wait until the next opportunity to be back out there on the floor to have a chance to play again. I think that's a sign of confidence, not being too down. When we've won, I think they've showed their gratitude or excitement after games when we've been able to close people out. I think their confidence has shown there as well because they know what they're capable of. When we've had our setbacks, we were right there in games. When we've won, they've been really excited in the locker room especially in the last two games. Both games came down to the wire. Plays that were made in those games gave them reason to be excited. So, I think anytime we're in a ballgame they know that we're right there and we have a chance. That's what you want to ask for."

On Vanderbilt's similarities to Mississippi State ...
"I think people are just like we are. I think they look for their next opportunity, that next chance. I can assure you Mississippi State, who had several setbacks in a row, but they looked at Saturday as another opportunity to get out there and win. They really put themselves in a position right there late in the game to have a chance to win the basketball game. That's what you look for, and I think that's the position you want to be in. You look at Vanderbilt, it's the same way. They'll come in here with that same mindset and attitude that they're very capable. They understand that they were only a few plays away, and that's what you play to. I think that's what you hang your hat on, knowing that you want to correct those little things. They'll make a big difference for you."

On the team's slow starts ...
"I thought we got off to a decent start in the Kentucky game. As the game went on, they gradually were able to get away from us. I thought we struck first, if I'm not mistaken, on Saturday. I think we came down and hit the first basket, maybe a three. We were right there. Unfortunately I thought we were playing hard, but our shots weren't going down. Mississippi State, a great atmosphere and crowd for them, played really on a lot of emotions there in the beginning and made some plays. We weren't able to. So, I just think it's a part of it. You hate it, you want to guard against it, but it's tough. You have other teams out there playing extremely well. We were able to go against Missouri from tip-to-finish and won that game against one of the top teams in our conference. Mississippi State is someone we definitely want to guard against, but when you've got other teams out there looking to do the opposite and get off to a great start. It makes it tough sometimes."

On the team's mindset to not rely too heavily on comebacks ...
"You can actually get off to a great start. I think it's indicative to what teams have done to us. When teams make runs at you, the same thing really applies. So, its basketball and it happens. I think if you look around the country those things happen. You just have to make sure that you're willing to play out the game, and don't put yourself in a certain situation because you get behind. I think the same holds true when you get a lead. Some people get a lead, and they feel comfortable or try to hold on. When they lose that lead, a lot of times confidence goes with that as well. So, it's just a matter of really staying balanced, understanding that you've got to play the clock. You want to try and guard against getting behind, but you have to understand that you have to play the game throughout. We do get behind sometimes, but we can't allow it to really affect how we're going to play the rest of the night. At the same time when you get a 10 to 12 point lead, and I've been there, you get up 16 or 18 (point lead) and a team comes roaring back like Missouri did the other night. It became a possession game for us."

On Vanderbilt's strengths ...
"I think you have to really try to get to the three point line and guard them because they will step out there and shoot a number of threes. I think they're shooting as a team roughly around 35 percent from the field. They have post guys that can step out there, and they can stretch out the defense as well. When you're talking about picking-and-popping, you really can't sit there and try to jump. Their play, in a sense, is to allow their post guys to roll back and get good looks as well. We have to guard that area. They run sometimes a Princeton style offense and try to get you going back door. They're also in there trying to post you, all those things. So, we have to really be balanced defensively and try to make it tough for them. Hopefully, we will not allow them to get to the spots they want to on the floor where they're most comfortable."

On utilizing a halfcourt trap more after Saturday's game ...
"I just think it was a little dictated by the flow of the game, and it didn't allow as much room or space for them to operate the other night. So, we dropped it back a little bit. I thought we were a little bit extended. They got over the top and made some easy plays. So, we backed it up a little bit, and I thought it didn't allow them as much working room. Our guys didn't have to go as far for coverage, and I thought it benefitted us the other night."

On Shane Hammink play the last few games ...
"Shane has a lot of ability, and he can really help us. It's been unfortunate that he's been caught in some numbers games. I wish that we had more time with him to utilize him some at the four spot because I think he would be great on the floor with us because of his size-and-strength, picking-and-popping and stretching the defense as well. Because of our numbers, we've gotten kind of into a rotation. I think it's limiting him somewhat being on the floor with us. I have confidence in him in terms of his play and what he's capable of doing. He's gotten some turnovers, but he's come back and made plays in the game as well. I think the more minutes he plays, it will allow him to be more comfortable on the floor. It's tough being in the kind of the position he's in right now."




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