Jones Previews Matchup with Kentucky

LSU head coach Johnny Jones (right) with Johnny O'Bryant III
LSU head coach Johnny Jones (right) with Johnny O'Bryant III
Elizabeth Thompson
Kent Lowe (@LSUkent)
Kent Lowe (@LSUkent)
Communications Sr. Associate

Please click here to view schedule changes due to expected winter weather in Baton Rouge on Tuesday and Wednesday.

BATON ROUGE – As LSU moves forward on playing the nationally-televised game between LSU and Kentucky Tuesday night at the Maravich Assembly Center, Coach Johnny Jones met with the media to discuss his team.

The game as of Monday night is set for 8 p.m. on ESPN and on the LSU Sports Radio Network. Tickets will be available at and beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the ticket office on the upper concourse of the Maravich Center.

Kentucky has won three straight games and is ranked 11th in the country with a record of 15-4 and 5-1 in the SEC, while LSU, losers Saturday at Alabama, 82-80, is 12-6 and 3-3.

With the current weather situation, the LSU Athletics Department is asking fans to monitor and @LSUBasketball for official updates on the status of Tuesday night’s game.

Coach Johnny Jones made these comments to the media on Monday afternoon before his team began practice:


Opening Statement…
“Coming off of a tough, hard-fought battle on Saturday night, I thought our guys did a tremendous job in continuing to fight and scratch and claw. We got back in the basketball game and got an opportunity to take a late lead. Fortunately, we wound up knocking down some big shots down the stretch in that basketball game. We look forward to a challenging week with Kentucky (Tuesday). (Kentucky) is a great basketball team who was picked in the top of our league along with Florida. (Kentucky is) one of those teams that’s possibly being picked to be a Final Four participant. (Kentucky) is a very good basketball team from point guard to their post and can hit you from a lot of different areas. They have about five different guys averaging in double figures and all are very capable of making plays. (Kentucky) is a very solid defensive team as well as rebounding. We will have Arkansas coming to town on Saturday.”

On the key to keeping Johnny O'Bryant III out of foul trouble…
“It was unfortunate for Johnny. The first foul he picked up, the guy was a ways away from the rim and not a threat to us in terms of scoring. He went on a dribble and tripped over Johnny’s foot. Errant, and they wound up calling a foul on Johnny saying that he tripped him. Those things are tough. We want Johnny to continue to play at the basket and defending the rim. If he were going to pick up fouls, that’s where we would prefer him to be because we’re eliminating baskets in there and challenging. That gives the official an opportunity to make a choice or decision on who the foul should be against. Johnny has done an excellent job of moving his feet and putting himself in position. But it’s not so much Johnny, it’s what we are doing out front. If we can keep people out of the lanes and stop the rotations, I think that would help Johnny as well.”

On the other guys playing well once Johnny O’Bryant III gets in foul trouble…
“We need to really try and do a better job of containing the basketball and doing a better job of rotating. That will help possibly keep him out of foul trouble. Once the game is on, you’re not worried about who is in foul trouble and who is not. You’re just worried about playing the game. You’ve got other guys over there waiting on opportunities to play, and we just have to make the necessary adjustments during the game. Those things are going to happen. We can’t just sit there and worry if Johnny is in or out of the game and be paralyzed by that. We have to continue to play and hopefully be able to execute. Those guys coming in should take advantage of the opportunity that they get.”

On Julius Randle…
“I think Julius Randle is a terrific basketball player. He is very sound on both ends of the floor – strong, quick and very powerful. He is a great rebounder as well and has the ability to score. He’s one of those guys that allow them to be a very good defensive basketball team. They’ve done an excellent job of rotating and switching when they have needed to. They do a great job as a unit in terms of defending.”

On Johnny O'Bryant III handling more or less of the load on this team…
“I’d really like to see Johnny be the player that he can each possession on the floor offensively and defensively. He can make an impact on the game where he sees fit. It’s up to our other guys to take advantage of the opportunities that they get when they are out there on the floor. It’s not so much of really delegating to each other. It’s playing the game. When you have an opportunity to execute be it offensively or defensively, as a team you have to make sure that you do that. Those guys are upperclassmen and do a tremendous job in terms of playing together and really feeding each other without having to delegate amongst each other who is taking shots or taking over. A lot of times, defensive teams are going to dictate that, and what they’re going to allow.”

On Kentucky’s freshmen class …
“You look at the rankings of those guys in high school. Had the rule not been in place and guys could still go hardship, we probably wouldn’t be watching a guy like Julius Randle in the college ranks because he’s just that type of phenom. With the way that he played in high school, he certainly hasn’t done anything to discount that while he’s been there at Kentucky. I think the guards have really been good. The (Harrison) twins have made a tremendous transition as well, and (James) Young has an incredible stroke. He is a really good player and leading a great team in scoring. They have a lot of firepower on that team that they are dependent on, and they’ve delivered extremely well.”

On gauging the amount he will press each game…
“Not such going into the game, we know that it’s available for us. Sometimes, the game will dictate it. If we feel like we are not doing a great job in terms of tempo, we may go to it if we need to disrupt a team. If we happen to get in a position like the other night and fall behind, you have to change some things up and try to create havoc. We can do that as well. At the same time, we have to be mindful - that’s not something you go out there and press for 40 minutes. Because of the guys we have on the floor and the number of guys we happen to have in our rotation, that’s not something that we can really get into. We feel comfortable doing it in the spurts that we do (press).”

On what he liked about the press from the Alabama contest…
“We created some turnovers. They had one guard out there who was a great ball handler in (Trevor) Releford. When he gave the ball up, we were able to get some turnovers and create some easy scoring opportunities for us. We put them in a situation where they would have to play a little bit faster than they normally want to play. We were able to make some plays on the other end because of it and plays finishing at the rim for us. Hopefully, it wore down their guys a little bit and exhausted them. I’m not sure if Releford came out of the game the other night. That may be the third straight game that he has played 40 minutes.”

On his team losing close games…
“No – I think anytime you’re down 19 points. If you don’t have maturity and experience, you don’t come back to put yourself in position there at the end to try to have an opportunity to close. Unfortunately for us, I thought we got hurt in transition stuff the other night early on. We had some great shots and looks at the basket that didn’t go down. Unfortunately, they got some run outs on a couple of them and made some good plays. Then, they had guys who normally don’t knock down shots, hit some shots. Those guys stepped up in some other areas. Those are some things you just have to be faced with. We have enough maturity on this team. Guys understand – the same guys we had last year when we closed out games and made plays and shots at the end. Anthony Hickey is that same guy that made plays for us. He’s a quarterback and a good decision-maker for us. Sometimes those shots go in when you have them, and sometimes they don’t. What I’m impressed with is taking a young team with some of the guys who aren’t as experienced on the road into two different venues that at the end, you have the ball with a chance to either tie or go ahead in those games. I think that says more about this team than not putting yourself in that position.”

On Kentucky’s program…
“Kentucky is a great program. They have a great deal of tradition as well. They are one of the marquee programs in the country. Anytime you have an opportunity to get a win against a marquee program, it’s always exciting. At the same time, I think if you are able to win games like that it gives you an opportunity. One, your record is a good indicator and hopeful at the end of the year it will mean something to the selection committee. There are a lot of things that go into it, but it’s certainly a great game and kind of a measuring stick of where you are. It’s a big game on your schedule.”

On the preparation for the game and the impending weather situation…
“It’s tough. You don’t tell them anything. We will prepare today as if there will be a regular game. I’m not sure if the game will go off tomorrow or Wednesday. The weather is certainly going to have a lot to do with that, but we are conscious and aware of that. Our practice and preparation will have to be the same as though we’ll go off and play. Should it happen that no one is going to be here and it’s not going to be a packed house, it will still be Kentucky. That game is going to count on your won-loss record. You have to make sure that you approach the game the same way.”

On who will make the decision on whether or not the game will be played…
“I think at the end of the day the commissioner of our league will have to determine whether the game will be played or not. Then, what will override that would be if our Governor should decide the game shouldn’t be played in the state of Louisiana or in Baton Rouge because of the inclement weather and the danger. That would override any other decisions.”

On the play of Jordan Mickey and Jarell Martin…
“I think you look at Jordan Mickey and Jarell Martin – they are the caliber guys that year in and year out who Kentucky has shown that they’ve been able to attract to their school and play for their team. When you have guys with that type of length who can really score and run the floor, that’s what they’ve had. I think that’s one of the reasons they’ve had the type of success that they’ve had over the years, but they’ve been able to do that year in and year out. I think those guys will fit that bill as well.”

On being the underdog on their home court…
“When you look at a team like a Kentucky or Florida which have been dominant over the league for the last several years, anytime that they go on the road in our league, they are supposedly the favorite. It has happened several years I think sometimes you may be able to take on that role because you’re trying to put yourself in that position. You want to become one of those top-tier teams in the conference. To do that, you have to make sure that you’re able to knock off and beat those caliber teams. I think they have something to lose too because they are playing just like everybody else for a spot in the NCAA tournament, seeding and all those things. Everybody has some type of motivation going into games.”

On the matchup…
“When you look at a team like Kentucky and the history they’ve had. They’ve got the guys that they have returning from last year, the caliber of guys that they have on their team. When you talk about top-tier guys and rated 1-2-3 in the country at their respected positions, I think it is motivation all the time to have the opportunity to challenge and play against those guys whether they are freshmen, sophomores, juniors or whatever. It certainly will be a challenge for our guys again this year playing against teams of that magnitude, but I know that this is a challenge that our guys look forward to.”




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