There are precious few opportunities left for LSU and the rest of the SEC to position themselves for the conference tournament next week and the postseason at large.
Tonight marks one for the Tigers, 17-10 overall, 8-8 in league play, when they travel to College Station to do battle with Texas A&M (17-12, 7-9). It's the first time the two have met in Reed Arena since 2008. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m., and the SEC Network will have the television broadcast.
LSU, tied for eighth in the SEC with Georgia, is attempting to move up to the No. 7 seed in advance of the conference tourney in Nashville, a move which would put Johnny Jones' squad in the bracket opposite league-leader Florida. Two wins this week (the Tigers host Ole Miss on Saturday) would also put LSU in prime position to crash the NIT.
Texas A&M, tied for 10th with Vanderbilt, is trying to claw its back way to .500 in the conference in an attempt to swoop in and steal an NIT berth late in the regular season.
Here are the projected starting lineups for tonight's contest.
LSU (17-10, 8-8)
G Anthony Hickey (So., 5-11, 178) – 12.2 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 3.9 apg, 3.2 spg
G Andre Stringer (Jr., 5-10, 182) – 10.1 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 2.1 apg, 39.7% 3s
G Charles Carmouche (Sr., 6-4, 187) – 10.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 3.5 apg, 1.9 spg
F Johnny O'Bryant (So., 6-9, 258) –13.8 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 49.5% FGs, 3.2 TOs
C Andrew Del Piero (Sr., 7-3, 254) – 4.2 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 1.1 bpg, 57.3% FGs
Key Rotational Players: G Malik Morgan (Fr., 6-4, 188; averages 5.5 ppg and 3.0 rpg) and F Shavon Coleman (Jr., 6-5, 195; averages 10.6 ppg and 6.3 rpg)
Texas A&M (17-12, 7-9)
G J'Mychal Reese (Fr., 6-1, 173) – 6.8 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 2.1 apg, 75.0% FTs
G Alex Caruso (Fr., 6-5, 176) – 5.1 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 3.5 apg, 2.0 spg
G Elston Turner (Sr., 6-5, 212) – 18.0 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.4 apg, 1.0 spg
F Ray Turner (Sr., 6-9, 230) – 9.4 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 52.2% FGs
F Kourtney Roberson (So., 6-9, 234) – 6.7 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 60.4% FGs
Key Rotational Players: G Fabyon Harris (Jr., 5-11, 172; averages 11.8 ppg and 2.2 rpg) and F Jarod Jahns (Sr., 6-6, 202; averages 1.7 ppg and 2.0 rpg)
The last time these two met, on Jan. 23 in Baton Rouge, LSU pulled out its first conference win (in its fifth SEC game), topping the Aggies 58-54 in a game tilted on its head when the hometown Tigers went to the full-court press.
LSU forced 24 A&M turnovers, stealing the ball a whopping 19 times, including a season-high eight from Anthony Hickey, and overcame a woeful shooting night (38.1%) in the process. Shavon Coleman led the Tigers with 17 points off the bench while Johnny O'Bryant posted 14 points and 10 rebounds.
It's a safe assumption that Jones will have LSU break out the press again tonight.
LSU will also be looking to secure a repeat performance in guarding Elston Turner, the SEC's second leading scorer at 18.0 points per game. On Jan. 23, Turner managed just five points on 1-of-7 shooting. Tiger senior Charles Carmouche indicated recently he plans to see a lot of Turner defensively on Wednesday night.
With LSU coming off a game at a tough road environment in Mizzou, Jones said Monday he feels his team is ready for the rigors of playing in College Station.
"We're coming off of a tough setback," recalled Jones. "Like we've done all year long, we've had an opportunity to look back and evaluate some areas. Although things didn't turn out the way that we would have liked for them to, we felt like we had an opportunity to grow in the Missouri game. It was a tough environment, but I thought our guys did an excellent job of staying between the lines. They stayed extremely focused there being able to get a lead on a really tough team in a great environment … We felt like we did some great things in that game."
Statistical Notes for LSU
- Carmouche has been on an absolute tear lately, posting the following shooting efforts from the field (and three-point land) in his last four games, excluding the game in Knoxville. He was 8-of-11 (5-of-8) at Mississippi State; 5-of-11 (4-of-7) versus Alabama; 9-of-11 (3-of-5) versus Arkansas; and 6-of-12 (5-of-8) at Missouri.
- After taming his foul-trouble problems for a five or six-game span, O'Bryant has come back to earth in that department. He fouled out four games ago in Knoxville and, two games ago, picked up an early four versus Arkansas that limited him to only 21 minutes and five points.
- Hickey is coming off a career-high 22 points at Missouri. He got to that number based off a stellar afternoon shooting from deep. In Columbia LSU's point guard was 6-of-14 from downtown. Those 14 attempts from three represented 73.7% of his total attempts from the field. That trend, as I documented several weeks back in On the Bounce, has been growing from his freshman season. It also means he's not attempting to drive the lane with much regularity against set defenses.
PREVIEW: LSU vs. Texas A&M
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