Martin, Mickey lead LSU into SEC play

Coach Johnny Jones feels LSU is ready for Southeastern Conference play, due in no small part to growth from sophomores Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey.

Winning eight straight is about as good a way to prepare for conference play as there is.

LSU (11-2) has done just that, holding serve over the last month following a huge win at then-No. 16 West Virginia on Dec. 4.

“We’re excited about where we are. I think we’ve played a very good non-conference schedule. It’s been very challenging for us,” head coach Johnny Jones said Monday on the SEC Teleconference. “We think with only two starters returning we’ve done a good job with meshing and building chemistry. We know how tough the SEC is, though, with an 18-game schedule sitting in front of us.”

Among the most pleasant surprises for the Tigers has been the emergence of Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey as leaders, not just the team’s two most productive players (which they clearly are averaging a combined 34.5 points and 19.2 rebounds).

“It’s going to be beneficial for us to get in that routine,” Jones said of playing twice a week. “We’ve had a couple of guys who’ve been through that rigorous schedule in the league, especially Jarell and Jordan. They’ve done a good job of making sure our guys are focused.”

Mickey, in particular, has given LSU a different dimension this season, taking over much of the post-scoring load that was shouldered a season ago by Johnny O’Bryant.

“The big thing we looked for from Jordan last year was his ability to play off Johnny O’Bryant,” explained Jones. “Now a lot of attention has been given to him because of his ability to score and impact the game. He’s done a great job of filling that role – being a scorer, because of his ability to face up and pass and find the open players on the floor.

“Defensively he’s continued to be great blocking shots on the other end, including when to and when not to (go for blocks). He’s grown and he’s matured on the offensive end of the floor, which is important for us.”

The Tigers travel to Columbia to take on Missouri (6-7) Thursday night in both teams’ SEC opener.

LSU should be at relatively full strength, although several players are playing with and through injuries.

Starting point guard Josh Gray missed two games at the end of December with a sprained right ankle. He’s been back for the last two contests but isn’t quite 100 percent … Top reserve Tim Quarterman has been dealing with an injured right hand for the last two to three weeks. He was whacked on that same hand at the end of Saturday night’s win over Savannah State, leaving the hand even more bruised and in pain … At various points in recent weeks freshmen Jalyn Patterson and Elbert Robinson III have also dealt with injuries, but both, as well as the two players mentioned beforehand, are expected to suit up at Missouri.

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