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Basketball Looks to Continue Hot Streak at Tennessee
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Published: February 18, 2013, 07:35 PM (CT)
by Kent Lowe (@LSUkent), Sr. Associate SID

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - The LSU men's basketball team worked out at Thompson-Boling Arena here Monday night going over the Tennessee scouting report in preparation for two improving teams to meet looking to improve their position in the Southeastern Conference race.

Tipoff is slated for just after 7 p.m. EST (6 p.m. in Baton Rouge) between the Tigers and the Volunteers with the game airing on ESPNU with Dari Nowkhah and Dino Gaudio on the call. Jim Hawthorne and Ricky Blanton with host Kevin Ford will have the game on the affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network (Eagle 98.1 FM in Baton Rouge and in the Geaux Zone at LSUsports.net.

LSU is 15-8 on the year and 6-6, winners of the first two games of the Thursday-Saturday-Tuesday gauntlet the Tigers are trying to sweep and winners of five of the last six and six of the last eight after starting 0-4 in the SEC. Tennessee is 14-10 overall and also 6-6 overall and on a three-game win streak.

The teams are tied with George for seventh in the league entering the final three weeks of the regular season. After the UT game, LSU will come home for two consecutive home games against Alabama and Arkansas.

LSU is coming off wins at South Carolina, 64-46, last Thursday and then came home Saturday for an 80-68 win over Mississippi State in which LSU had as much as a 20-point lead before the Tiger starters were removed. Johnny O'Bryant III had two double doubles in the games, including a career high 30 points at South Carolina, to become the league leader in double doubles with 11. O'Bryant III flirted with a triple double against State as he had eight assists.

Speaking of assists, the Tiger offense has had good success recently in getting baskets off passes as in the last two games, LSU has had 40 assisted baskets out of 56 total baskets. In the Mississippi State game, 24 of LSU's 30 baskets came off of assists.

Senior Charles Carmouche hit five treys in the State game, scoring 21 points as LSU topped 70 points for the 14th time this year.

LSU also had 12 three-pointers in the Mississippi State game the most this year and the fourth time the Tigers have had at least 10 treys in a game.

The Tigers are expected to keep the lineup they have settled into in the last few games with Anthony Hickey (11.7 ppg, nation's leader in steal at 3.3 a game), Andre Stringer (10.7 ppg) and Malik Morgan (5.4 ppg) at guards, with O'Bryant III at forward (13.0 ppg) and Andre Del Piero (4.3 ppg) at center.

Tennessee is coming off a dominating 88-58 win over No. 25 Kentucky here on Saturday and also has defeated South Carolina and Vanderbilt on the road in their present win streak. Three players - Trae Golden (11.0 ppg), Jordan McRae (13.8 ppg) and Jarnell Stokes (12.5 ppg) average in double figures. Stokes is right behind O'Bryant III in double doubles in the league with 10. Golden scored 24 points and had eight assists in the Kentucky win with McRae adding 15.

Tennessee was a perfect 5-of-5 from the arc.

A year ago in Baton Rouge, the Vols rallied from a 15-point deficit to win, 74-69, in overtime. Stokes scores 18 points, making 9-of-10 from the field.

Coach Johnny Jones met with the media prior to the team's departure from Baton Rouge on Monday. Here are some of his comments:

Opening statement ...
"We're obviously excited about the week ahead, especially coming off of this past week. I thought we played two really good games finishing up on Saturday versus Mississippi State. I thought we played well on both ends of the floor. I thought our guys did a great job of sharing the basketball by getting 24 assists on 30 made baskets. To come in at halftime and hear guys discussing other guys missing shots that cost them assists instead of them worrying about somebody throwing them the ball and getting them baskets was encouraging. It just shows the unselfishness of this team and the success that they've had because of it. They're continuing to grow. A tough task this week starting at Tennessee on Tuesday. They're a team that's playing extremely well coming off of three straight wins, two of those being road victories. At South Carolina, they had to hit some late shots to win. Winning at Vanderbilt, a place that's extremely tough to play. That's also a big rivalry game between the two in-state schools. Then, how they played against a talented Kentucky team, I think says a lot about them. Obviously, that's a big rival there for them as well. For them to play that well throughout the game, I think says a lot about how well this team is playing at this point in the season. I think they're playing probably as well as anyone in our league right now. Obviously, Alabama this Saturday, also presents a great challenge for us as well."

On playing in a tough venue like Thompson-Boling arena in Knoxville ...
"I think the good part that this team has had an opportunity to experience that at Rupp Arena (at Kentucky), a huge arena, and it was obviously filled there with a great atmosphere. I think Thompson-Boling arena presents the same type of task there with the big open space, but I think it's great that our guys have had an opportunity  to play in that type of venue already."

On Tennessee's 30-point win at Kentucky on Saturday ...
"I thought Tennessee came out and played exceptionally well on both ends of the floor. They shot the ball, I think about 57 or 58 percent, for the game. They did a great job in terms of rebounding the ball. They defended well. They had two things working. You obviously have Kentucky coming off of a game and playing in their first game without Nerlins Noel, who is their best player and one of the best players in the country. That shock and having an opportunity to play on the road against a team that is excited, fired up and playing as well as Tennessee, I think there was a combination of things that created that atmosphere. Tennessee is a team who is very capable and got off to a great start. They do a great job of taking the ball to the basket, mid-range game and playing in the lane. When you take away that shot blocker (Noel) from them, that's what Kentucky has geared their defensive pattern around all year long, it makes it extremely tough for you. I thought Tennessee really benefitted from that."

On the coaching strategies that yield success for the team ...
"I think anytime, any coach, you have a system. You have a philosophy that you implement. You have to feel like you can be successful in doing what you do. I think that's the approach that you have to take. You have to just make sure that you go in - on the defensive end, you're hopeful that the things that you teach and implement will allow you to have some success. Offensively, you have to execute against a tough defensive basketball team in making sure that you have the right reads and make the right passes to get things done. So, you're hopeful that because of what you do, you force your opponents to have to adjust to what you do and not what they do. With the scouting report, you want to take away several things from them to not allow them to play to their strengths as well and force them into probably playing to their weakness more so than their strength. If we can do that, I think we can have a chance to be successful."

On playing together as a team ...
"I think that's just a part of coaching. I think it's just kind of a process. It's teaching the kids you've got, all of these young guys that have been very blessed and fortunate to come out of programs where they've had some type of star status or been the leaders on their team. It's just a matter of understanding how important it is to play together. One of the things we write on the board prior to coming out every night is H-I-T. We play with the H-I-T philosophy. That means hard, intelligent and together. I think when guys understand it, we come out and play that way and playing together means a lot and implies a lot. We don't try to come out and get things done individually."

On Tennessee F Jarnell Stokes ...
"He's just a grown man. He's very physical. He's strong and probably about as physical and strong as a person that we've seen this year outside of probably out of (Patric) Young from Florida. He has great ability around the basket. I think he's shooting around 50 percent from the field, and that's a great number. He's averaging about eight rebounds, so he's a big load to really have to deal with. This guy is very mobile, extremely strong and has a great motor. He has a really good ability to play and play with a sense of urgency so it'll be a great challenge for out post guys tomorrow night."

On F John Odo (who is allowed to practice with the team) ...
"I think John Odo has done a tremendous job during his time here. The great thing for us, not only do we see improvement every day in him, but our players see that as well. John Odo has seen the ability in the improvement he's made. Because of our strength and conditioning program, he's worked on the weights. He's gotten bigger, stronger and has really adapted to what we are doing. He's made some really good plays in practice for us. That's extremely encouraging on both ends of the floor, be it shot blocking, his defensive prowess or his ability to score. That's something that he'll have to continue working on, but he's really improved in terms of his offensive skills as well."

On Anthony Hickey getting to the basket and finishing in the half court set ...
"It's just something that we constantly have to work with him on. It's just a learning process for him. We'd like to see him do it more because of his quickness and his strength. I think he will do an excellent job of getting to the rim and finishing because of his quickness. We do a lot of ball screens outside where the matchup is such that we think that he should be able to get to the rim more, but it's about him settling sometimes. That's something that we're continuing to work on, and I think that he'll continue to improve that."

On what he remembers about playing Tennessee in the past ...
"We played at the old arena, I think it was the Stokely. My roommate, Leonard Mitchell, wound up hitting a free throw right there at the end of the game and started playing with his ring finger because we had actually clinched the conference championship that evening. We were really excited about that. So, that was one of the great memories of playing there."

On the increased effort in practice and games by Johnny O'Bryant III ...
"I think what Johnny has recognized is that he won't be 100 percent, and he will have to do the best that he can with where he is. I think that's for all of our guys. I think it's a challenge for them. I think it's a part of maturity for Johnny. He's only a sophomore and has to be able to understand how hard you have to play every night. I think it has helped him to understand how hard he needs to practice to have the success that he would like to have on game nights. I think that's what has happened the last few games, the success he's had with the double-doubles and the high percentage that he's had in the last few games, I think it's because of just the mentality and understanding. It's a part of his growth. Credit to him that those lights have somewhat come on, and he's been able to play that way."

On being able to rest Anthony Hickey and Johnny O'Bryant late in the previous two games ...
"Well, it's been good to give other players the opportunities out there on the floor and get them reps as well. Having three games in six days, that's been a huge plus for us because it was obviously a concern for us going in logging those type of minutes night in and night out having to play the caliber competition. I have to again go back and credit our team. You've got guys out there sitting on the sideline that have been waiting all year, or waiting for opportunities to play, contribute and be a part of what we're doing. You go down the bench and tell those guys to get in, and they don't want to go in the game because they want to leave Johnny (O'Bryant III) in so he can get a triple-double. I think that says a lot about our team. Johnny's sitting there close to a triple-double and wanting to come out so he can give these guys an opportunity to play. That's obviously a big deal because I think it's the first time since Shaq had done it. I think it says a lot about this team and where they are mentally with each other."

On whether he pays attention in depth to the stat line during the game ...
"I have no idea who's scoring what, who has what assists and how many points because it's about possessions. It was brought to my attention by the kids. I had no idea where Johnny (O'Bryant III) was. Heck, I thought he had about 15 or 20 rebounds because I thought at the beginning he had a bunch of rebounds. I didn't know where he was in terms of points. I knew he had made some great passes, but I wasn't registering in terms of keeping up with assists. I told Jalen (Courtney) to go in and he said, 'Coach, he only needs two more assists for a triple-double'. I'm looking at the clock, and I just thought we probably needed to get Johnny out because anything can happen throughout the course of a game like that. I thought we were in a situation that we needed to get our other guys some reps and get on the floor. We had to encourage them to go ahead and get in there. So, we were able to get Johnny out, and we were hopeful that at some point that would take place. But no, I don't keep up with that kind of stuff. I did hear on TV that that's the sports information guys' responsibilities to get over there and let one of the assistant coaches know so I will get the message. So, I didn't know how that worked, but now I do."

On the coaching style of Cuonzo Martin ...
"They're hard-nosed. I watched Cuonzo (Martin) when he was at Southwest Missouri State, I think it was before. I had an opportunity to watch his teams play then, and I've always kind of admired the way that they've played with the tenacity that they play with. It's defensively that they get after it. They're also a very good and deliberate basketball team on the offensive end of the floor. These guys are really well disciplined and play extremely hard."

On drawing a good crowd Saturday against Alabama after playing Tennessee on Tuesday ...
"Well, I'm hopeful that we can get to that point to where when the Tigers are playing at home, our fan base is excited and will come out and watch us. We definitely need them because they're the ones who really give us a great deal of energy. They mean so much to us, and the fans can help you win games by just being there. I'm hopeful that on Saturday, we're celebrating the 1978 team, the SEC Championship team. We should have a great group of guys returning like the 1953 team that was just celebrated over the weekend. We're hopeful on Saturday that our fans will be out not only supporting our team, but to welcome that group (the 1978 team) back as well. I think a win versus Tennessee would definitely create even more excitement about that game on Saturday versus Alabama, a great afternoon game for our fans to come out and be a part of."

On Jarrell Martin being named a McDonald's All-American ...
"I tell you it's rewarding when you talk about someone being rewarded for their hard work. Hard work pays off. I think it kind of exemplifies that term because he's one of the hardest young workers that I've ever seen in high school. He's a young man that puts in overtime, works extremely hard during the weekend when his other teammates are off. I think it's a great compliment to him and how hard he's worked. I'm glad he's been rewarded for that, and deservingly so because watching him he's one of the Top 10 high school players in the country. He's one of the most talented high school players that I've had an opportunity to watch in a long time."

 

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