"I think every game from here on out is very important," Tigers' point guard Lewis Monroe says. "So, we are just going to try and get on a winning streak and push hard for the SEC Tournament."
However, despite improved play over the last week from the Tigers, who are 12-9 overall and 3-7 in the SEC, heading into Baton Rouge and leaving with a victory is something that has not been easy to do. The Bayou Bengals hold a 30-19 advantage in Baton Rouge and a 22-9 advantage in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. Overall, LSU has a 72-54 advantage in the series.
To go along with the historical disadvantage Auburn will face, the Tigers will have to battle an LSU squad that is very physical and playing very well. The Bayou Bengals are also on a five-game winning streak that includes a 73-70 win at Florida on Saturday to go along with victories at Alabama and home wins over Georgia, Tennessee and Arkansas.
"Well, LSU is coming off of a great win at Florida," Auburn Coach Cliff Ellis says. "I think they are one of about four teams in the league that kind of separated themselves from the rest of the pack. As you can see by their record and ranking they are a very good basketball team and it is going to be a tough game where we have got to go and just play a fantastic game to have the opportunity to win."
Two of the biggest reasons LSU, which is 17-4 overall and 7-3 in SEC play, has been playing so well are big men Jaime Lloreda, who is averaging 17.5 points and 11.9 rebound per game, and freshman forward Brandon Bass, who is adding 13 points and 7.4 rebounds in the Bayou Bengals frontcourt. The devastating duo is putting some gaudy numbers for their team and Ellis says they can make things tough on their opponents.
"Jaime Lloreda, going into the season, was heralded as probably the top post player in our league coming back," Ellis notes. "His numbers have shown that that has held up because of the double-doubles that he has had. Anytime you average double figure points and double figure rebounds that says a lot. One of the more heralded freshmen in the country and not just in our league is Brandon Bass and that gives them a strong duo inside."
Along with the power inside, LSU can hurt you outside as well, especially with sophomore Darrel Mitchell. The 5-11 shooting guard is dropping in 11.7 points and dishing out 2.3 assists per game. He is also hitting 51 percent of his three-point attempts in SEC play.
At the point the Bayou Bengals rotate steady junior Xavier Whipple, who is scoring 4.6 points per game and serving up 3.1 assists, and flashy freshman Tack Minor, who is averaging 6.2 points per contest.
"They are a great team," Ellis says about his team's next opponent. "They are just well balanced. They really don't have an area that you can slack off on. Their point guards are very good in the open floor. Their wings can shoot. Their inside people rebound and can score. It makes them a very strong basketball team."
Overall, the matchup in the contest looks to be a physical, defensive battle with both teams being very strong on the boards and on the defensive end of the floor.
LSU is second in the league in scoring defense allowing opponents only 60.2 points per game and Auburn is third giving up only 62.3 points per game. On the boards LSU is pulling down 38.4 rebounds per game and Auburn is crashing the boards for 37.4 per game.
"It is going to be physical, we know that," Ellis, who is 8-9 versus LSU, says. "We are going to have to do a great job against those inside players, yet at the same time they have got players on the outside that can make things happen."
One place Auburn might be able to gain an advantage on the tough and physical Bayou Bengals is in the turnover department. Despite the Tigers tendency to be rather sloppy with the ball themselves, LSU is last in the SEC in turnover margin at -2.67 and assist to turnover ratio at 0.83.
For the Tigers, who are off to their worst start in SEC play since beginning the 2001 season 2-8 before finishing at 4-12 in the SEC and 12-16 overall, things have been looking up over the past week with a win over Georgia and a hard fought loss on the road at Ole Miss.
"I think the last two games we have played pretty hard and executed," Ellis explains. "We have played pretty well and I think Georgia is a pretty good basketball team and I think Ole Miss is a pretty good basketball team. I have been pleased with the way that we have played, really."
Monroe says one of the major keys to the Tigers being able to make a run at postseason play will be the continued growth of their offense, especially against the zone, and he says he is looking to take that task and his team on his back to get there.
"Yeah, I am looking to penetrate more and try and get other shots at the same time--get myself some shots," says Monroe, who is averaging 5.2 points and 2.7 assists in his 10 games since coming back from surgery on his foot.
Tip-off for Wednesday game is set for 7 p.m. and it will be the Tigers' only SEC road game of the season not to be televised.