Jones Reviews Texas A&M Game, Previews Kentucky

LSU's Anthony Hickey
LSU's Anthony Hickey
Caroline Russell
Kent Lowe (@LSUkent)
Kent Lowe (@LSUkent)
Communications Sr. Associate

BATON ROUGE - Fresh off the team's first Southeastern Conference victory Wednesday night, 58-54, over Texas A&M, Coach Johnny Jones of LSU turned his attention to Saturday's visit to Lexington to take on the University of Kentucky at Rupp Arena.

LSU is 10-6 on the year, 1-4 in the SEC, while Kentucky is 12-6 and 3-2 after losing on Tuesday at Alabama.

The game is set for 3 p.m. CST on the SEC Network and the affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network (Eagle 98.1 FM in Baton Rouge)

Here are some of Coach Jones comments from today's session:

Opening statement ...
"It was a really good win for us last night. I thought the fashion in which it came about, the kids playing extremely hard. It was a hard fought battle. At the end, they put themselves in a situation to be able to close the game out with good strong solid defense, being able to rebound the basketball, being able to convert on the other end of the floor executing offensively and being able to knock down a couple foul shots there at the end to seal the victory. It was good. It was something that was needed. I think it's a sign of growth with this team. Like we talked about before, it's going to be a process. That's part of it, and I'm very comfortable with the way that they played last night. We quickly have to really turn our attention now to Kentucky, going and playing in one of the finest venues and probably one of the tougher atmospheres in college basketball. It's something that we'll embrace and really look forward to."

On the value of Anthony Hickey ...
"I think Anthony has done a tremendous job in terms of developing as the year has progressed into one of our leaders. He's very valuable to our basketball team. He's tremendous in terms of handling the ball. He takes care of the ball. He's a great assist guy and creates opportunities for others on the floor. At the same time, he's really been good on the defensive end of the floor. He's a guy that his motor is always running on high. He competes at a high level all the time, and he looks forward to challenges. He's really had an opportunity to rise to the occasion on many times this season."

On Anthony Hickey returning home to play in Kentucky ...
"Well, I'd much rather be in the position of trying to tone a guy down than trying to pick one up. It's one of those deals where there will be some emotions. There's not a lot that you can talk about. It's about growth, maturity and understanding. That's something that he'll have to go through. He will recognize it, but I don't want to make him too conscious. Although he plays at a high level, I think that he'll have even a different burst of energy for this game and think that it will be positive for him. I look for him to come out a little bit different than other games. I think that's the norm for a player having an opportunity to go play at home where he grew up and played. It's one of the most storied programs and great traditions there at Kentucky. So, I'm sure he looks forward to having an opportunity to go out there and play on that floor where he's played before."

On Anthony Hickey staying poised ...
"If you go back to Anthony's play against Florida, one of the better defensive teams in our league, he didn't have any turnovers in that game. I think one of the games that he's had probably more turnovers than assists was the South Carolina game. He had five turnovers. That's kind of uncharacteristic of his style of play, generally high in assists, get steals, but creating opportunities for others and taking care of the basketball. That's probably one of the few games where he had a high number of turnovers. We're very comfortable with him out there handling the ball, and I think when the game is going fast that's his style, that's his pace. I think he enjoys both. He's comfortable playing either way, but I think he has a little bit more success when he has the ability to push the ball up the floor, get in the gaps and really try to create opportunities for his teammates."

On playing a fast-paced game against Kentucky ...
"I can assure you we won't have to speed Kentucky up. They're not one of those teams that we'll have to try to get the tempo to our liking for them because they'll play fast. They'll get it up, push it up the floor and look for some easy scoring or quick opportunities. I think the same will be on our end. We're going to look to get it out. We're hopeful that we're able to execute at a high level and shoot the ball well. If we're shooting the ball well and they're getting it out of the net, that will help us in terms of slowing them down, trying to get to the other end of the floor. They will try and take advantage of every missed shot and every loose ball situation and try to push it and get after you. That's just their style of play."

On the first time he walked into Rupp Arena as a player ...
"It was just how loud, how ruckus of a crowd it was and the great fan base. To have that many people, I think it's over 20,000 folks in there and the sea of blue that they have, I thought it was pretty neat. I was very fortunate to be playing with a senior laden team. Our senior dominated team that year that had a lot of success. Going back in there and playing with those guys, that was something that they looked forward to, was those types of challenges and playing in front of those types of crowds. Unfortunately for us, that was the only conference game we lost that entire season (1980-81). It was there on a last second shot, or I think we got off a last second shot. I still think Sam Bowie fouled Howard Carter, and they didn't call it. I just thought I'd let you know."

On what makes LSU's press so effective ...
"I think it's a combination. I think when you have Shavon Coleman, as long as he is. You've got a Malik Morgan and Charles Carmouche, or any number of guys, like a Shane Hammink that would be able to play in that role as well because of his length. When someone like (Anthony) Hickey is really good at reading shoulders and eyes and playing like a defensive back there and getting interceptions. A lot of times there are deflections that are caused by those guys on the front line, and he's (Hickey) able to come up and shoot the gap and come through there and be the recipient of some hard work that has happed on the front. Hickey does a great job too as an on-ball defender in getting his hands on a few balls a game and punching it out of there because he's got quick hands. He's got really strong hands, and he's created some steals that way as well."

On how the fast pace benefits the offense ...
"It helps us create tempo because once we start pressing people in full court situations, it takes them a little longer to try and get the ball across half court. Once they cross half court, they're not really in a working position in which they are penetrating into our defense. I think the shot clock starts working against them now. They don't have as long to try to sit there and run any type of continuity in terms of their offense. It speeds them up a little bit, and they're looking for any quick opportunities because they don't know if they're going to get trapped or turn it over. So, sometimes they'll take some quick shots."

On what makes Anthony Hickey so successful at getting steals ...
"I'll tell you what he has, which is a really good combination. He has really good speed and quickness. I think that's a great combination. Some people are quick, but they're not very fast. I think he's really quick, and he's really fast because when he gets the ball he can get it and turn it up and head the other way. Nobody really comes to mind that's like that I can think of right now. Ethan Martin (who Coach Jones played with 1977-81) was that type of player when he was here. Ethan was quick, but he didn't have that type of speed. He had great hands and really could anticipate really well in terms of getting steals. Anthony's really fast."

On taking on a good shot blocker in Nerlens Noel ...
"Well, I think the best way to attack him is to really go at him because if you try to get away from a good shot blocker or play timid around him, that's when they're going to get you. When you go at him, generally, you can at least try to put them on the defensive and play through them. You're either going to them in foul trouble, or you're hopeful to take it in there at him and get close enough to their bodies that you're able to get your shot off because you're having some type of contact in there with them in terms of leverage. If you try to play around those guys, he's going to go get your shot. I think in games like that you have to realize if you're playing inside in that position against him that there's probably a good chance that you're shot is going to get blocked throughout the course of the game, but you can't be intimidated by it. You still have to try and play through him and get to the foul line. Anytime you're playing towards the rim, that's what we want to do, either get to the line shooting free throws or finishing inside. We feel like that's our best chance against anybody be it a great shot blocking team or whoever. We want to make sure we get the ball to the rim."

On first year players affect a team ...
"I think we're both pretty much in the same situation. I think when you have a group of freshmen as talented as those guys are, it's hard. You don't have a lot of exhibition games or preseason games to really work a lot of those things out. Kids really have to have an opportunity to play through a lot of things be it their mistakes, trying to play together and chemistry. Regardless of how talented you are, it becomes a huge part of what you're doing. That's where we are right now. We have some guys that have been here over a year and some other guys who are veterans, who have transferred in. The chemistry is the biggest part that we're trying to make sure that we work through and really guys understanding each other, where the best place to get the ball to, what you're expecting from your teammates and all those things really come into play. It's difficult just to tell somebody this is exactly what you do. You can tell them what your expectations are, but they have to really understand and trust in the system. They have to really trust each other for you to have some success. At the end of the day, they've got to try and play through a lot."

On whether players have a hard time accepting roles ...
"Absolutely, I think a lot of times because of recruitment they've been told so many things. They're going to be the next whatever, and that superstar. They've come out of a situation where they were able to do everything, and they get into a system to where you only need him being maybe a great rebounder, defender or taking the ball and going to the basket with it. They may feel like they need to step outside, take some shots and it's beneficial for them. When guys understand what they're roles are and are willing to sacrifice for the good of the team, that's when I think you have a better basketball team because you have a group of guys who are willing to make those sacrifices regardless of what's going on be it a great scorer, asking them to defend. That's going to help our team if you're willing to take on that responsibility. I think you have an opportunity to be successful."

On Kentucky's young team ...
"Those guys are really talented and tremendous basketball players. They're All-Americans, and they've got a chance to really be successful. I'm sure he (Coach Calipari) wants them to play a certain way. When you look at what he's done in the past, the group of guys last year that are young, they wind up winning a national championship. These guys are coming in on the heels of that so the expectations are really high for them. They're really talented. At the same time when you have a group of guys like that and they're new, the biggest deal is chemistry. They have to get that."

On Johnny O'Bryant III playing physical ...
"We always want Johnny to play big boy basketball any night we're out there, regardless of who the opponent is. Size and strength, you want him to be that way. If we're playing someone not as big and not as strong, we absolutely want him to be playing that same way because I think it's beneficial for our team. When we're strong and taking the ball to the rim, it helps us get into the foul count. It helps us put more pressure on our opponent. In essence, it gives us an opportunity on the perimeter for guys to get open. When we're not doing those things, I think we play into the hands of our opponent because if you look at field goal percentages they will allow you to take outside shots. That's what they want. When we put pressure going towards the rim, our field goal percentage gets a lot better."

On what causes Johnny O'Bryant's III turnovers ...
"Balance. Sometimes when you're getting travel calls or you're off balance or you're making plays, it's just being poised under pressure is what you have to do and making the right reads. Anytime people are doubling you, I told Johnny when that happens you have to look at it as a compliment. They're sending two people at me, and it's up to me to be able to make that next play. Now, the other guys on the team have to make sure that they're in the proper places for an outlet to allow him to make that pass. But he has to be poised and strong enough to be able to make that next play. He's capable. Unfortunately, because of the double team sometimes, he's had high numbers of turnovers. Other times, just one-on-one, he's lost the ball trying to make a play at the basket. So, it's just a combination of things."





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