LSU seeks first SEC win vs. Texas A&M

The hardwood Tigers look to shake off an 0-4 start in the conference tonight (7 p.m., SEC Network) with Billy Kennedy's Aggies in town. TSD gets you ready for the matchup and has a spotlight feature on freshman Malik Morgan, who's becoming a more regular part of the rotation.

The challenges continue to get more difficult for LSU (9-6, 0-4) in the next week as the Tigers look to pick up their first win in conference play and the first in the head-coaching career of Johnny Jones.

Jones' Bayou Bengals, coming off losses to previously 0-fer-in-the-SEC teams Georgia and South Carolina, are home to Texas A&M tonight (7 p.m., SEC Network) before traveling to Kentucky Saturday and then hosting ranked Missouri next Wednesday in the PMAC.

The combined record of those three teams is 38-15, 8-6 in league play.

First up are the Aggies, a team with an interesting track record through 17 games this season.

Billy Kennedy's Texas A&M squad – 12-5 overall, 2-2 in the SEC – has lost to Saint Louis (70-49 on a neutral court) and Southern-BR (53-51 at home), but also beaten Arkansas by double digits (69-51), trumped UK in the land of Bluegrass (83-71) and, most recently, came within an eyelash of beating a really good Alabama team in Tuscaloosa (losing 50-49) on Saturday.

LSU, on the other hand, has had a very similar string of results the past four games: all losses. The Tigers are now the only team in the SEC without a conference win.

Below are the projected starting lineups for both teams in Wednesday's matchup in Baton Rouge.

LSU (9-6, 0-4)
G Anthony Hickey (5-11, 178, So.) – 11.8 ppg, 3.8 apg, 3.5 spg
G Andre Stringer (5-10, 182, Jr.) – 11.1 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 2.0 apg
G/F Malik Morgan (6-4, 188, Fr.) – 5.3 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 1.7 spg
F Johnny O'Bryant (6-9, 258, So.) – 10.8 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 47.2% FGs
C Andrew Del Piero (7-3, 254, Sr.) – 5.0 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 1.5 bpg

Key Rotational Players: F Shavon Coleman (6-5, 195, Jr.; averages 12.1 ppg and 8.0 rpg, both team highs) and, if healthy, G Charles Carmouche (6-4, 187, Sr.; averages 9.9 ppg, 3.6 rpg and 3.9 apg).

Texas A&M (12-5, 2-2)
G Fabyon Harris (5-11, 172, Jr.) – 9.9 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 1.2 apg
G J'Mychal Reese (6-1, 173, Fr.) – 7.6 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 2.4 apg
G Elston Turner (6-5, 212, Sr.) – 16.1 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 41.3% 3s
F Ray Turner (6-9, 230, Sr.) – 10.6 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 57.0% FGs
F Kourtney Roberson (6-9, 234, So.) – 6.6 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 58.2% FGs

Key Rotational Players: G Alex Caruso (6-5, 176, Fr.; averages 4.9 ppg, 3.2 apg, and 2.0 spg) and F Jarod Jahns (6-6, 202, Sr.; started team's last game, averages 1.6 ppg and 1.8 rpg).

A&M's alpha dog is unquestionably Elston Turner. The 6-5 senior from Sacramento, best known for laying 40 on Kentucky on 14-of-19 shooting (six made threes) Jan. 12, is the starting – and often ending – point of the Aggies' offense.

Sporting a nice three-point shooting percentage (41.3%), Turner is a handful on the perimeter and slashing toward the basket. Look for a number of Tigers to try their hand manning up Turner on Wednesday, a list that will include freshman Malik Morgan and Shane Hammink, junior Shavon Coleman and, if healthy, Charles Carmouche. (Coleman would actually seem to be a nice choice for Jones and LSU, and Turner would be a nice change of pace from the bigger fours Coleman has seen through four games in SEC play.)

Carmouche sat out the team's game in Athens on Saturday, the byproduct of a nagging knee injury that's given the player an issue the past few weeks. No word yet on if Carmouche has progressed enough to get back in the lineup.

In his stead Morgan started against Georgia and would do so again tonight if need be. TSD has more on Morgan at the bottom of this post.

Continuing the Texas A&M scouting report, the Aggies turn next on offense to another Turner – Ray. The 6-9 senior came off the bench at Alabama, scoring just two points in 16 minutes, but he's started a number of games this season and is currently the team's second-leading scorer.

In the backcourt Kennedy will start 5-11 junior Fabyon Harris and 6-1 freshman J'Mychal Reese. This will be one of the few SEC matchups in 2012-13 that is favorable or at least equivalent, size-wise, for the Tigers' starting guards – Anthony Hickey and Andre Stringer, both under 6-0.

Finally, in addition to Carmouche, LSU is also sweating the injury bug for freshman point guard Corban Collins and senior forward Eddie Ludwig. Collins has definitely been ruled out of tonight's game, coming off a nasty collision and subsequent concussion Saturday, and Ludwig's status is more or less assumed doubtful at this point.

TSD will have full coverage from the PMAC before, during and after the opening tip, scheduled for 7 p.m. Come back to view our live game blog.


Also, in advance of tonight's game with the Aggies, TSD is shining a spotlight on freshman Malik Morgan.

The Tigers' rookie guard/forward from John Curtis has had a nice run the past two games, posting seven points, five boards and four assists against South Carolina before starting at Georgia and scoring a career-high 11 points.

Here's what Morgan and Coach Johnny Jones have to say about the freshman's recent play to go with a video shot with the player by TSD's Taylor Halsey.

"I really wasn't surprised. It wasn't breathtaking or anything like that. It's just something that goes along with the game. A man goes down and the next man has to be able to step in and deliver his blow."
- Morgan on how he felt when he learned he'd start at Georgia

"I've tried to show a lot more in practice, just working a little bit harder, staying after and shooting extra shots. It's a lot of little things like watching extra film and trying to pick up on more of the game."
- Morgan on earning more trust, playing time

"I really wasn't the man on defense in high school, but now I've gotta try to learn how to lock down defenders. That's part of what it takes to play here and in the SEC. Being able to defend, that's something you've got to want to do. It's something that takes a lot out of you, but you've got to be able to do it to help the team."
- Morgan on picking up the slack on defense

"We've just got to keep getting better every day. That's what our mentality is. We've got to keep coming in every day, doesn't matter if it's practice day or an off day, keep coming in and getting extra work in. I think we're real close. We've got all the intangibles, all the work ethic and leaders. We've got everything we need. We've just got to pull it all together."
- Morgan on LSU getting over the hump and being close

"I think Malik did an excellent job of taking care of more minutes with [Charles] Carmouche being down and him being inserted into the starting lineup. I thought that he did extremely well. I thought he was aggressive going to the basket. I thought he knocked down a couple of shots early coming off screens and out of fast breaks. And he defended well. The issue and the problem that we've kinda had with Malik is that he's been a little bit foul-prone. He's got to do a better job of moving his feet and playing with his chest instead of his hands. He's very capable of doing that."
- Jones on what Morgan's been doing well and where he most needs improvement

Finally, click on the link below to view Halsey's video interview with Morgan.

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