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Jones Previews South Carolina Matchup
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Published: February 12, 2013, 07:24 PM (CT)
by Kent Lowe (@LSUkent), Sr. Associate SID

BATON ROUGE - The Tigers begin a crowded slate of SEC game Thursday night at South Carolina and LSU Coach Johnny Jones talked about the preparations for the USC game and the games ahead at a special Tuesday media session.

The Tigers and Gamecocks meet for the second time this season on Thursday at 6 p.m. CST in a game televised by ESPN2 and broadcast on the affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network (Eagle 98.1 FM and in the Geaux Zone at LSUsports.net).

LSU is 13-8 overall and 4-6 in the SEC, while South Carolina is 12-11 and 2-8 in the league.  South Carolina won the first meeting 82-73 in overtime as South Carolina made 9-of-10 free throws in the overtime.

Here are some of Coach Jones comments today from the media session:
"I'm looking forward to a very challenging three games in the next six days. Starting with South Carolina on Thursday, a team that somewhat mirrors us in terms of scoring and field goal percentage. We've played them already this year going into overtime with them. Then, coming back home against Mississippi State. That will definitely pose another challenge for us. They're a team that we battled with and wound up winning in the last seconds there. We look forward to playing a Tennessee team that's continued to improve and get better. That will be another tough road game for us. We realize that offensively we're getting shots and decent looks at the basket, but we've got to do a better job of making shots. We haven't shot the ball as well as we'd liked to in conference play. I'm hopeful that we can continue to defend the way that we have, holding opponents to low field goal percentages, especially there at the three point line as well. We've got to improve our field goal percentage, and I think that will help us immensely and then cut down on some crucial turnovers. I think we can have an opportunity to improve with our record as well."

On executing at the end of games ...
"Well, I think that South Carolina games burns a little bit because we had the ball at the end of regulation and did not get a good looking shot that we would have liked to have at that time. It was kind of one of those games where you thought the team that had the ball in the last possession had a great chance of getting out of there, and we had it. We had an opportunity to run one of the plays we were looking for. Unfortunately, we didn't get the right read. Since then I think our team has made more of a conscious effort of trying to execute at a higher level. We've gotten good shots at the ends of games, including the Alabama game, getting two really good looks through execution right there at the end. Hickey and Stringer's shots didn't go down, but at least we got the looks that we needed."

On what makes Hickey affective in the open court ...
"I think because of his quickness in the open floor he's hard to contain. What we like to try and do is force people to get in a rotation and try to help, which will allow us to make other plays. The good thing for (Anthony) Hickey is he's not one of those guys that look to be a hero. If a shot is available for him he'll take it, but if the opposing team does a good job in terms of defending and rotating he's been great in terms of trying to find the open player. It's just a matter of being able to knock the shot down from there. I think it's really good that he has that type of mentality and demeanor out there on the floor. A lot of times guys, regardless of what the defensive team does and the adjustments they make, generally just try and get the shot off. Hickey has done a great job of refraining from doing that for us."

On how the team has progressed entering the league final four weeks ...
"I think we've grown as the year has progressed and become a better and more selective, more conscious, I think in a sense of the shots we've taken and making extra passes. I thought early on we probably didn't make the best decisions sometimes, or we would take some early shots that we could possibly get a little later in the clock. So, the thing we generally talk about, I try not to harp too much on or tell someone not to shoot. I just want to make sure they're shooting from their areas. The big thing is trying to get our higher percentage shot early on, and then we can work our way into shooting that three point shot or something that's a little bit later in the clock. I think that's helped us, and I think they're a little bit more conscious of that."

On whether the players start feeling fatigued at this point in the season ...
"Well, I think one of the things you talk about is that there's not a guy in your locker room on any team that doesn't have the desire to play NBA basketball. Those guys play 80 to 90 game seasons, and I think it's easy to address with these kids the number of games we play. Generally, it's about two a week, and your practices are cut back some. Those challenges are out there, so it's important that you're able to play probably a 29 to 30 game schedule regular season at a regular pace. You talk about the type of effort that you're able to give night in and night out, and competing at a high level. I think that's generally the way I would address it because they're young enough. They should be able to do it. You look at guys like Tim Duncan and how they run night in and night out. I think you're guys are young enough to be able to do that and old enough to accept that type of responsibility. You should be able to welcome it, and I think good teams do. You can point to the top teams there are out there in the country. They're not looking for any excuses in being hurt or banged up or anything. I think anytime you line up and you're playing any sport, you're going to be banged up if you're playing hard and giving the certain type of effort. Tough teams are able to play through it."

On executing down the stretch ...
"I think I always talk about, even in the beginning of the season, I'm just a firm believer that most times games are going to come down to the last two or three minutes of the ball game. I think the team that is best conditioned, can execute at the highest level and make free throws is going to win those games. That's what you try to condition your team to be able to do. To be in great shape, and I think we are, you have to be able to step up to the line and make free throws. Competing or executing at a high level and making big time plays at the end, in those last two minutes of the game , I think is huge.  Not just offensively, but defensively. We lost some games because we gave up some tough rebounds, we were out rebounded, or out toughed at times and gave up some tough offensive rebounds on the other end of the floor allowing teams to keep alive an additional possession. South Carolina was one of those. I thought late in the game we had a chance to get some big rebounds. We didn't, and they got put backs or fouls stopping the clock. I think that's how they got back in the game after we were up about four with two minutes to play, instead of closing them out."

On the approach to three games in six days ...
"It's not so much substitute differently. I think you have to be smart about practice. I think we'll have a good spirit of practice hopefully today. Cut back on it a little bit (Wednesday) and have more pinpointing scouting report. Play the game and then get back in here on Friday. Same thing, it will be more about scouting report at that time, then a tough practice because you've got an early turn around and play at about four o'clock on Saturday. Generally, we're off on Sundays, but we'll have to come back this Sunday. Because of the two games, it will be more about film and attention to detail, getting better. We have to sharpen that pin on Sunday and the same on Monday because it's a quick turnaround. You're definitely going to need their bodies, legs and all those things for those three days, and turning around and playing that game on Tuesday as well. I try to tell them what you usually get done today and tomorrow will dictate how you feel about going into those games and winning them, because those next few days is just about attention to detail."

On Malik Morgan ...
"Malik (Morgan) has really been a pleasure. You look at a freshman and sometimes you think you're getting something out of a freshman like that with some of the guys we call more experienced guys, sophomores, some of the junior college transfers and like Shavon Coleman, guys that are older and have been at this level somewhat. When you get a freshman like Malik who's come in, stepped up and made plays for us, it's almost like a bonus for you. He's done well on the offensive side of the floor. He's made huge shots, big shots and he's played extremely confidently. He's given us great effort on the defensive end, and he's grown from when he got here this summer. He's out there playing really good, solid basketball in the SEC. He's been called up, and he's given great responsibility to do that, and we count on him."

"From day one to being able count on him as much as we have, he's been a pleasant surprise for us. I know he was a good high school player, and again coming in during the summer he would give us that effort, but we weren't sure how much he'd improve from that time until the beginning of the season. What he's done is continue to improve throughout the season, become more confident and have a better understanding of what we're looking for. He's been a really good freshman for us."

On South Carolina's team now compared to when they face them previously ...
"I think (Michael) Carrera kind of had his coming out party. He played well against us here, and I think he's continued to improve after that. He's really kind of become the leader of their team. He's a solid player, been really good for them, and is kind of carrying them in a sense. I think that would be the big difference in their team, and they're still right there. They were playing Tennessee the other night and they were I think one or two points up with two minutes to go. Before you know it Tennessee came up and hit a couple of threes, and kind of got the game more on their side and were able to just finish it off. South Carolina had a tough time scoring in the last couple possessions after that. So, they've been right there and competed really well. Carrera is a big difference."

On whether Michael Carrera was overlooked in the first matchup ...
"We knew who he was, but he had just come off an injury and hadn't played extended minutes for them. He'd only been back a couple of games. In our game he came up big, made some huge plays for them down the stretch, even right there in the overtime against us."

On Johnny O'Bryant's progression ...
"As the season has progressed, I think he's continued to grow. Realizing that Justin Hamilton, Malcolm White and Storm Warren are gone, he's taken on more of that responsibility now, really as of late in terms of scoring, rebounding and really defending. I think he's really matured in those areas. I think before, in the beginning it was almost like those guys were still around. The expectations were there, but he had to carry a bigger load. I think he's really accepted that responsibility now."

 

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