A tale of two defenses

LSU and No. 23 Virginia have a shared identity on the court. The Cavaliers pose the Tigers' last hurdle prior to the SEC season when the two sides square off at 6 p.m. Monday at the PMAC.

The LSU men have carved out an identity in the first half of the season, a defense-first mentality that has helped the Tigers win seven straight games amidst a 10-3 start.

During the win streak, LSU has have held every opponent to under 60 points.

"Coach (Trent) Johnson is a really defensive-orientated coach," junior center Justin Hamilton said. "From the start of the year we have been talking about setting up our identity as a defensive team. We just wanted to focus on that."

After a 67-59 upset win over No. 10 Marquette at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center on Dec. 19, the Tigers get a crack at another one of the country's top teams when they host No. 24 Virginia (12-1) — another defensive-minded team—on Monday.

"They keep teams under 50 points, so the first team to 65 or something will win," freshman guard Anthony Hickey said. "I'm not a psychic, but we are going to bring it like they are going to bring it and it's going to be a great toss-up game."

With both teams in the midst of lengthy win streaks (Virginia has won 10 straight), Johnson didn't shy away from this game being the toughest test to date.

"We are going to have to be at our best, because this is a team that can play in the half court and play in the full court," he said.

Virginia held its first 10 opponents to under 60 points, a run that helped the Cavaliers climb to second in the nation in scoring defense (50.3 points per game).

No matter, Hickey – who has stepped into a larger role with sophomore Andre Stringer sidelined – plans to attack at the usual pace.

"We are going to keep playing the same and going fast," he said.

Hamilton added: "It's going to be possession by possession to determine who is going to win this game."

Can LSU slow Scott?

The SEC schedule will bring a handful of talented players into the PMAC, but it can be argued that, to this point, the Tigers have yet to see anyone as good as Virginia fifth-year senior forward Mike Scott.

Averaging 17.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game, Scott leads the ACC in points, rebounds and double-doubles.

"He's a special player," Johnson said. "He's strong and he's skilled."

Scott didn't play in last year's 64-50 win over LSU in Charlottesville, meaning the Tigers will see the 6-foot-8, 237-pound two-time ACC Player of the Week for the first time on Monday night.

"We don't have a player the caliber of Mike Scott in terms of what he can do offensively," Johnson said. "The most important things is the mindset of, ‘If we are not right mentally and physically, then we are going to struggle.' "

What they said…

"I think this year, compared to last year, we really focus on defense from the beginning to the end of practice." – Hamilton on the team's adopted mentality of defense first

"Every guy is important. The next level of help is always important with our defense. And we have team goals. We want to take a lot of charges and things of that nature. Every game is a challenge. Defense is about heart and hustle and effort. We put it all out there." – Jalen Courtney on his defensive mentality

"We started talking more on the floor." – Hickey on his view behind the turnaround from an up-and-down start

"His conditioning is not very good right now. You are talking about a guy who hasn't done anything in three and a half weeks. I think he was a little surprised at how bad he was in terms of his conditioning." – Johnson on Andre Stringer, who has been sidelined since fainting in early December during a team walkthrough

CHALK TALK: No. 23 Virginia at LSU

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