Hot Hoops Tigers to Face Hotter LSU

Auburn head coach Jeff Lebo talks about the difficult challenge of playing at LSU on Saturday.

Auburn, Ala.—The Auburn men's basketball team, winners of four straight SEC games, faces an LSU team on Saturday at 7 p.m. that has won 10 straight SEC games and is 17-1 on its home court at the Maravich Assembly Center.

The LSU Tigers start four seniors and fourth-year junior Tasmin Mitchell.

"The main thing about them is the experience," Auburn head coach Jeff Lebo says. "They've got five seniors. Two of those seniors started on the Final 4 team."

Mitchell, at 6-7, 235, is a do-it-all player for first year head coach Trent Johnson. He averages 16.9 points and 7.3 rebounds, but isn't the team's leading scorer. That distinction belongs to senior Marcus Thornton, who is second in the league behind Jodie Meeks scoring at 20.3 per game pace.

"Tasmin Mitchell back healthy for them is obviously a difference-maker," Lebo states. "They can score a variety of areas with Thornton on the perimeter, with Mitchell inside or out and they've got a great shot-blocker inside in Chris Johnson, who I think is just a few blocks away from (Jarvis) Varnado."

This is the first meeting between Auburn and LSU this year, and the road team won both contests last season. Auburn won 74-67 in Baton Rouge, but LSU evened it up at Auburn 81-80 two weeks later in large part because of Thornton's 38, including a difficult three-pointer with four seconds left.

"He made it every which way he can make shots," Lebo recalls. "He can really get going. He's had a lot of big games against everybody. He's just a great player. He's a prototype NBA two guard who can score on the dribble, can get it going offensive, who's tough and has the ability to get to the foul line."

Auburn, at 17-9 overall and 6-5 in SEC play, is more athletic than most of its opponents, but that's also LSU's strength.

LSU is 22-4 overall and 10-1 in the SEC. In conference games the Fighting Tigers lead the SEC in both field goal percentage defense (.385) and rebounding margin (plus 6.5). They have been outrebounded in just one of 11 SEC contests.

"They really, really defend," Lebo notes. "They've really committed to the defensive end. It's hard to get a lot of good shots against them and they're playing very well at home."

Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. with no television coverage.


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