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Basketball Faces Rhode Island in Final Pre-SEC Game
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Published: January 03, 2014, 11:48 AM (CT)
Updated: January 03, 2014, 09:25 PM (CT)
by Kent Lowe (@LSUkent), Sr. Associate SID

BATON ROUGE – The LSU men’s basketball team will host Rhode Island Saturday in the final non-conference game of the year at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

The game between the Tigers (9-2) and the Rams (8-6) will have an earlier start time of 4:30 p.m. to allow for fans to see the game at the Maravich Center in person and then be able to watch the New Orleans Saints playoff game on TV that begins at 7:10 p.m. Cox Sports Television will have the game regionally in the South and Southeast and the radio broadcast will be available on the LSU Sports Radio Network (for this game only WTGE 100.7 FM in Baton Rouge and WWWL 1350 AM in New Orleans).

Tickets are available online at LSUtix.net and beginning 90 minutes prior to tipoff (3 p.m.) at the upper concourse ticket windows of the Maravich Center. LSU students are admitted free with valid ID. The first 5,000 will receive LSU 3-Point cards.

The Tigers will be looking to win for the sixth straight game, the second time that has happened in Coach Johnny Jones’ two years at LSU. The 2012-13 Tigers won the first six games of the season. LSU will be trying to win 10 non-conference games prior to the start of league play since 2012, although there were more non-conference games since there were only 16 SEC games. The last time LSU won 10 games prior to an 18-game conference schedule was 1985-86.

Rhode Island had a quick turnaround after a 75-66 win at Brown on Thursday night. The Rams have won two of their last three games and picked up their first road win. Guards E. C. Matthews and Xavier Munford combined for 46 of URI’s 75 points as Matthews scored 21 and Munford 25 in the game. Matthews hit three treys in a 7-of-12 field goal performance while Munford hit 8-of-16 and two treys. Hassan Martin blocked six shots for the Rams.

LSU is coming off a 79-52 win over McNeese State on Dec. 28. In that game, freshman Jarell Martin had his first double double of his collegiate career with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Johnny O’Bryant III and Shavon Coleman had 16 points each and Jordan Mickey was in double figures for the 10th time in 11 games with 11 points.

It marked the third time this year that LSU pulled down 50 or more rebounds and its best night this season at the free throw line, making 23-of-28 for 82.1 percent. The Tigers have been on form from the arc as well, making 27 in the last three games combined to up its season percentage to 34.5 percent. Overall, LSU is shooting 46.2 percent from the field (320-692) compared to 36.9 percent for opponents (253-686).

That is ranked first in SEC field goal defense and sixth in the NCAA. LSU has made 67 more field goals than opponents in just six more attempts.

The Rhode Island game is the final tune up before SEC play begins and it will happen quickly with the Tigers hosting Tennessee in the first game of the league season, Tuesday night at 6 p.m. on ESPN. Tickets are available at LSUtix.net. Follow LSU Basketball on Facebook at www.facebook.com/LSUBasketball and on Twitter @LSUBasketball and @LSUCoachJones.

LSU head coach Johnny Jones met with the media Friday afternoon after the team’s final practice before the Rhode Island game and here are some of his comments:

Opening Statement…
“Over the last few weeks, I’m starting to feel somewhat like a football coach playing once a week. We’ve gone from one Saturday to the next, and we’ve had a long time to prepare. I’m certainly hopeful that we’ve done a tremendous job in getting ready for a very good and solid (Rhode Island) basketball team. They’re really good with their guard play. At the same time, they have a post player (Gilvydas Biruta) who transferred in from Rutgers who has been eligible to play right away. He has done a really good job for them. I think we’ve had a good, solid week of practice. I think our guys have grown and become better in terms of what we are trying to do executing-wise, both offensively and defensively. One of the main focuses for us again is rebounding – making sure that we’re solid and continuing to grow in that area as well. Prior to conference play, we want to make sure that we are at our best. This is our last opportunity, and our last outing we will have to see where our improvement is. We will have to improve throughout the season. This game is really important for us to have a good showing on Tuesday as well.”

On why the Rhode Island matchup is a good preview for SEC play…
“I think that they present a lot of things that you will have an opportunity to see. They’ve got good guard play. They run a lot of sprint-to-screen action. They have capable shooters on the perimeter – guys that can really get going. Then, they’ve very physical inside in terms of their post players and their centers – guys that are physical enough to force us to have to play a different way inside.”

On comparing Rhode Island to Atlantic 10 teams Saint Joseph’s and UMass that LSU has played …
“If I was going to think of a team that you could compare them to, I would say more along the lines of a St. Joe’s. Those are the type of athletes I think they have strength-wise, quickness, the size they have inside and how their post guys really compete on every play offensively and defensively. I think it would be more along the lines of a St. Joe’s-type team.”

On adjusting practice to fit a schedule of two games of week rather than one when SEC play starts…
“I think what we did that really helped us I think our schedule throughout the year was the tournament in Orlando and playing three games in four days. I think that helps you prepare for that because of quick scouts, quick turnarounds and being prepared. Unfortunately, because of finals and school, it kind of takes control of your schedule a little bit. We would rather possibly been playing, but due to the break and finals, those things couldn’t happen. Things that we could control, we did. We know getting into conference play that things are going to be a little bit different – generally playing a Wednesday-Saturday schedule. Unfortunately, I guess this week we will go Tuesday-Saturday, and then we will get back more into a rhythm of what we usually do which is Wednesday-Saturday. We generally take Sundays off, but this Sunday we won’t have an opportunity to be off because we are going to make sure we practice two days prior to playing (Tennessee).”

On the possibility of the SEC league office taking over of non-conference scheduling …
“I think we play a very challenging schedule. One, I think that the SEC is a very tough conference, and we have 18 built-in tough games right off the bat because of the grueling conference schedule that we play. As coaches, you have to go out, and it’s always tough getting home games. What the conference office has been able to do is help us with the Big 12/SEC challenge which will help right off the bat. As coaches, if we can go out and find a couple of other games against tough opponents from BCS caliber schools, I think it’s good for you. I think it’s really important to have a balance in your schedule throughout the year just like any other of the top conferences in the country has as well.”

On the health of the team…
“We’re healthy. We’re good. In college basketball, you’re going to be banged up and have some nicks and bruises throughout the year. It’s going to happen. We just have to be conscious of making sure that other guys have an opportunity to step up and compete at a certain level all the time. But we’re good and we’re healthy.”

On the academic standing of the team…
“Absolutely, we’ve got guys who have done a tremendous job. Honestly, I want to give kudos to our academic center, our academic coaches and our advisors. They’ve done a tremendous job with our young men, and our young men have reciprocated and really done a tremendous job of focusing in. Our guys have been disciplined in terms of what should have been done off the floor and in the classroom. We’re really happy with them.”

On the increasing role of Jordan Mickey…
“Jordan Mickey is solid in terms of what he’s able to give us, and what we’re asking him. We’re rolling two freshmen out there in the starting lineup and counting heavily on a third at the point guard spot. With that being said and where these guys are now performing in terms of executing offensively and defensively, they’ve really helped our team and we’re counting on them – I think speaks volumes of the level in which they are. Jordan Mickey can shoot it from outside. He can play with his back to the basket. He’s a good post defender and can do an excellent job switching on the perimeter – keeping guys in front of him be it one, two or three’s. What we’re asking him to do and you don’t want to put too much on his plate – we’re asking him to do just as much as we’re asking Johnny O’Bryant (III) to do as a junior who is an all-conference type player. We’re not taking anything off of his plate. We certainly do not want to overload him as well because we think that he functions extremely well and has given us a lot of quality minutes.”

On players being able to absorb more information and affect how coachable they can be…
“I think it depends on the skill level of the player. I think Jordan Mickey happens to be one of those guys that can make that adjustment. Sometimes, it takes guys a little bit longer to make adjustments especially at this level in terms of the speed, quickness and strength of the game. If you’re implementing a certain style of offense or defense that they’re not used to – how quick do they pick up your system? These guys have done a good job of picking up our system and running something completely different possibly than they ran from high school. We run a lot of sets, and we run a lot of sprint-to-screen actions. These guys have done a good job of recognizing it and being able to pick things up. I think it says a lot about their basketball IQ.”

 

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