GAME PREVIEW: LSU vs. South Carolina

The Tigers head into Colonial Life Arena Saturday afternoon looking to shake free of a two-game losing streak. TSD's Ben Love previews the Gamecocks and takes you inside the matchups before tip-off.

The Tigers head to Columbia, S.C., looking to leave the stink of a two-game home losing streak behind in Baton Rouge, where the Tigers dropped a game to lowly Rhode Island and fell by 18 to Tennessee in the SEC opener.

LSU (9-4, 0-1) will take on South Carolina (7-7, 0-1) in Colonial Life Arena Saturday, with tip-off set for 12:47 p.m., Central Time. Joe Davis and Joe Dean Dr. will be on the live television broadcast for SEC TV.

The Gamecocks were on a four-game winning streak before losing at No. 10 Florida 74-58 on Wednesday. Frank Martin's crew enters Saturday with three freshmen in the starting lineup while Johnny Jones is mulling a change to remove one first-year player from his starting five. Speculation has senior Shavon Coleman filling in for frosh Jarell Martin at the three for LSU, playing its first road contest since a narrow 71-69 win at Texas Tech on Dec. 18.


LSU (9-4, 0-1)

G Anthony Hickey (5-11, 182, Jr.) – 9.1 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 3.3 apg
G Andre Stringer (5-10, 190, Sr.) – 11.5 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 3.3 apg
F Shavon Coleman (6-5, 195, Sr.) – 8.4 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 1.1 spg
F Jordan Mickey (6-8, 220, Fr.) – 14.1 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 3.7 bpg
F Johnny O'Bryant (6-9, 256, Jr.) – 14.3 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 52.1% FGs

South Carolina (7-7, 0-1)

G Brenton Williams (5-11, 172, Sr.) – 11.1 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 1.5 apg
G Duane Notice (6-2, 221, Fr.) – 6.8 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 2.9 apg
G Sindarius Thornwell (6-5, 206, Fr.) – 10.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 1.6 apg
F Mindaugas Kacinas (6-7, 210, So.) – 6.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 51.8% FGs
F Demetrius Henry (6-9, 215, Fr.) – 6.7 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 47.9% FGs


The Gamecocks have shown flashes of promise and good things to come in the future through 14 games this season, taking Baylor to the wire in Waco and holding their own in Ganesville for 30 minutes earlier this week. However, South Carolina in reality is what they're 7-7 record indicates – average.

Now without talented playmaker Bruce Ellington, who's decided to take his talents to the NFL Draft, Martin is rebuilding with a talented core of youngsters, including a trio of freshmen starters (Henry, Notice and Thornwell). The growing pains have been evident, in particular on the offensive end, where South Carolina is shooting 43.4% from the floor as a team (229th in the NCAA) and scoring only 70.4 points per game (227th).

The team's leading scorer and assist man, junior guard Tyrone Johnson (6-3, 194), actually comes off the bench. For the season Johnson is averaging 11.7 points and 3.6 assists. In the Cocks' most recent game at Florida, he played 27 minutes, scoring 12 points and pulling down six boards. He's joined by another solid reserve, sophomore forward Michael Carrera (6-5, 214), who gives South Carolina a physical presence in the frontcourt.

Among the starters Williams and Thornwell bring the most offensive firepower, and it would make sense for LSU that Coleman, if indeed he is the starting lineup, would spend time on Thornwell, a 6-5 freshman from Lancaster, S.C. In the post Henry will probably draw the assignment of O'Bryant, who out-weighs him by 41 pounds. The Tigers should have a size advantage inside all game.


Coleman's perimeter defense may have him in the starting lineup
- That South Carolina doesn't feature a dynamic playmaker in the backcourt the likes of Bruce Ellington anymore is good news for an LSU team that is struggling mightily with perimeter defense. Still, even without Ellington, the Tigers will have to improve on keeping opposing guards and wings out of the lane. Look for the speculated insertion of Shavon Coleman into the starting lineup to help LSU in that regard. Johnny Jones was clear at his recent press conference that he wants the team to start out stronger on defense and in boxing out/hitting the boards. How LSU defends on the wing and keeps South Carolina's guards off the glass will go a long way to determining if the Tigers can pull off the road victory.

- Will South Carolina try to man up Johnny O'Bryant again? The LSU big man looked back this week to his 30-point, 10-rebound performance in Columbia last year. "It was just a great day for me overall. They played me on-on-one, and I was able to get to the free throw line and get toward the rim. A lot of my shots fell that game." That's exactly what Jones is looking for in this game and, frankly, for the last week – for JOB to get down on the block, draw fouls and LSU play inside-out. Here's what O'Bryant had to say when asked if he takes it personal when teams try to play him one-on-one. "I do. I definitely do. I feel like it's kind of disrespect, but, at the same time, I've got to do more and have more action than talking." It's good that he realizes that, but O'Bryant will have to show it on a stage where he could again have some single-man defensive looks on Saturday.


On getting back on the floor after the Tennessee game …
"We're looking forward to getting back out on the floor today in preparation for our game on Saturday afternoon against South Carolina. We're hopeful that we can get back to executing at a certain level, work on some things and get some things ironed out. We need to execute offensively on things that we've possibly been getting away from in the last couple of games on a consistent basis. Defensively, we need to do more of the same in terms of working on a rotation, getting better in those areas, including rebounding to improve and be a contender in a really tough conference."

On whether or not Coleman can bring advantages at the three …
"He can – The experience that's on the floor sometimes or the matchups may be better for him because of the quickness or size of the opponent. Certainly, that's something that we would have to address and really look at. We certainly want to play to our strength as well."

On difficulties finding the right lineup combination …
"That's a part of coaching. I think any time or any year, regardless of who we have returning, it's a new year. Especially with the teams we play in this conference, they are well-coached and understand what we run. They are going to make adjustments, and you have to make sure that you're capable to make yours as well. Regardless of who you have back – be it veterans or a new team – you have to implement your system. Guys really have to get used to each other, too. That's a part of what we're going through right now. We've gotten off to a good start. Our record is what it is, and we stubbed our toe and probably didn't play as well as we would have liked to on Tuesday. We understand that we have a lot of season in front of us and a lot of growing to do. We're hopeful we are playing great basketball come February and March."

How do you feel the Tigers match up with the Gamecocks?


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