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Tigers Host MSU in Saturday Afternoon Tilt

Freshman Wayde Sims In Double Figures Both SEC Games For Tigers
Freshman Wayde Sims In Double Figures Both SEC Games For Tigers
Madeline VeZain
Kent Lowe (@LSUkent)
Kent Lowe (@LSUkent)
Communications Sr. Associate

BATON ROUGE – The LSU men’s basketball team, coming off one of its best offensive and defensive halves of the year in a rallying 88-77 win at Missouri on Wednesday, looks for two wins in a row Saturday at 2:30 p.m. when the Tigers host Mississippi State at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

Tickets for the game are available online at LSUtix.net overnight and Saturday morning and at the upper concourse ticket windows of the Maravich Center beginning at 1 p.m.

The game will be broadcast on the LSU Sports Radio Network affiliates (Eagle98.1 FM in Baton Rouge) with Chris Blair and Victor Howell and televised by the SEC Network in the second game of its Saturday quadruple header. Richard Cross and Jarvis Hayes will have the television call.

Both teams are 9-4 with LSU splitting its two SEC games, losing at home to Vandy (Dec. 29) and then Wednesday’s win at Mizzou. Alabama defeated Mississippi State on Tuesday (68-58) in its first SEC game. The road team has won nine-of-the-first-12 SEC contests heading into Saturday’s seven-game slate.

LSU’s Wednesday rally from five-down at halftime marked the 12th time the Tigers under Coach Johnny Jones have rallied from five or more down at the half to win. LSU shot 55.3 percent in the second half (21-of-38) and 4-of-8 from the arc. Meanwhile, LSU held Missouri to 12-of-31 shooting in the second half and 1-of-13 at the three-point arc. The Tigers scored 53 second half points and over the final 25 minutes of the game, outscored Missouri, 65-44.

Antonio Blakeney recorded his third straight 20 points game with 24 points, while Aaron Epps and Jalyn Patterson added 11 each, with Brandon Sampson and Wayde Sims getting 10 each.

Mississippi State will be playing its first true road game of the year at LSU Saturday. Sophomore guard Quinndary Weatherspoon is fourth in the SEC with his 18.0 scoring clip and leads the Bulldogs in scoring average. I. J. ready averages 10.3 points a game and Tyson Carter 10.1 points per game for second year head coach Ben Howland.

LSU’s lineup is expected to remain the same for the third straight game with Skylar Mays (5.6 ppg, 3.9 apg), Blakeney (17.5 ppg, 5.1 rpg) and Sampson (11.9 ppg, 3.5 rpg) at the guards and Duop Reath (13.8 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 2.0 bpg) and Epps (6.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg) at the forward spots.

Follow updates on the game at www.Facebook.com/LSUBasketball and on Twitter @LSUBasketball.

LSU Coach Johnny Jones met with the media on Thursday afternoon and here are some of his comments regarding the Missouri win and the game Saturday with Mississippi State.
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HEAD COACH JOHNNY JONES

Opening statement…
“We’re excited about the win (Wednesday) on the road. Road wins are extremely tough to come by in a venue that's been a tough place for us to get a victory. I thought the guys went in and played a really sound game against a team that I thought came out and played extremely well. I don't want to discredit what they did there in the first half, going into the half with a five-point lead. I thought they played well enough to be there but I thought our guys did a good job of staying the course and played extremely well coming out in the second half. As the game played out we continued to stay poised even when they made their runs. I thought we had a good core of guys who stepped up last night and made a difference in the game. I thought Wayde Sims came in and played a special role inside especially with Duop (Reath)’s foul trouble. Epps had an opportunity to be rested as well because of fouls. So I thought he stepped up. I thought Jalyn Patterson came in and did a good job of pacing the game. I thought Kieran Hayward came in and did a good job on the defensive end of the floor and played some quality minutes for us. He hit a big three on a great run that caused them to really have to call a timeout. I thought there were a lot of guys who did good things for us last night. Antonio Blakeney again stepped up big in the scoring column. He’s been able to do that and has been on a roll as of late and we’re excited about that.

“We’re excited about this weekend against a Mississippi State team who always poses an excellent challenge. They have excellent guard play and are very effective on the perimeter. We know that it’ll be another tough challenge for us and we look forward to 2:30 on Saturday afternoon.”

On the momentum of the two steals to begin the second half…
“I thought going into before the half we were able to cut the deficit. They had gone on a 16-0 run in the first half and we were able to cut into that. Coming out of the half, I thought Skylar was very aggressive on the inbounds play and was able to get a steal on a quick play. Then we came back with another steal and another quick bucket, which turned momentum to our side. I thought that helped carry us through. Those kinds of plays are tone setters. The first five minutes of the second half are always important whether you’re ahead or behind. I think those five minutes are important in the second half and I thought we did a great job of setting the tone.”

On the difference between the halves…
“I thought they came out and played really well in the first half. Not that we didn't play well in the first half but they played really well. We scored I think 35 points and were making some plays. I thought in the second half we continued to stay aggressive defensively. They hadn’t shot the ball particularly well all year and I thought they were a little more of themselves in the second half with the defense we played because they shot below 40 percent. They hit six threes in the first half but only hit one in the second half and it wasn't because of a whole lot of things we did. We did change a little bit of our defensive coverage in terms of initiating the screens and that may have helped us some. They didn't shoot the ball as well and we're hopeful that our coverage really helped that. We still had our flow on the offensive end and we created some steals and some turnovers opportunities with some fast breaks and we scored off their turnovers which I thought helped as well.”

On gaining confidence from a road win…
“Absolutely. I thought our guys did a good job. Any time you can handle opponents’ pressure, especially on the road, like that, is good. I thought their crowd was engaging them and had them playing at a certain level last night. They made their runs but I thought our guys were able to sustain their runs and then we were able to go on runs of our own. Any time you can keep a lead like that, make plays, and finish the game off, it’s big.”

On Wayde Sims’ versatility…
“I think Wayde played center in high school and that helps because he can go inside and post up smaller players and play pretty effective against bigger opponents both offensively and defensively. I thought he showed that last night against one of their top post players late in the game. He got matched up with him because of the foul trouble we had. He did a good job offensively when we made plays. He’s one of those guys that understands the importance of how to move without the basketball in the post. He’s effective at scoring from different areas, be it in the paint or getting behind defenders and going at the rim and getting a shot up over tall opponents. He was able to do that last night. He shoots a high percentage and takes care of the ball. He defends and knows what we’re looking for. He’s been a really good threat for us all year long. We know that he’s only going to continue to grow and continue to get better.”

On Aaron Epps and Wayde Sims playing together…
“It gives us what we like to call a small ball type lineup where we're fast. All of those guys can play on the perimeter offensively and defensively. We can also utilize that when Duop is in the game because of his range and being able to step out and shoot the ball, along with the length he has. With Wayde’s size you never know. He can get in there and mix it up with post guys so it allows us to play faster than your traditional post guys that we normally have.”

On the identity of the team moving forward without Craig…
“It’s always tough any time you lose bodies like that. It was effective last year cause we had certain post guys that we could count on. This year our team was built around post guys that we were going to have available to us. Any time you have a change like that it’s subtle. You have to make some different changes and guys have to get used to the minutes being played or roles that you’re asking them to play in extended minutes. It’s different for our team and it’s going to have to be a process for us. We have to do it by committee in terms of what we do. It’s not one person that's going to make up for it, but you hope that somebody is going to have an opportunity to step up and out, because it’s going to be rebounding, defending and leadership. We only had two guys returning from last year’s starters and now we have one. I thought these guys have done a good job of staying focused and trying to stay in tuned to what we need to get done.”

On Antonio Blakeney’s ability…
“I thought Antonio (Blakeney) showed in the last 11 games last year how effective he can be. Not only has he picked up where he left off last year, but also he’s even been more effective with his decision-making and aggressiveness. His teammates understand what he’s looking for and how to space and give him space on the floor. He can create opportunities for others on the floor. I thought either Skylar or Jalyn, one of the two, got in the gaps, forced help, and Antonio got into the area and spotted up and we got him the ball and was able to knock down a big three there in the second half. When he’s playing like that I think it creates more opportunities for Kieran Hayward, Brandon Sampson, Jalyn Patterson, and all of those other guys. He’s an effective scorer and you have to pay a lot of attention to him.”

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