PREVIEW: LSU at Missouri

Already 12 SEC teams have begun conference play this week. The final two teams to usher in league play square off tonight in Columbia in a battle of Tigers. Preview the game from every angle with TSD.

The second season begins tonight for LSU (11-2) in Columbia, MO, as the Bayou Bengals take on Missouri (6-7) in both team’s SEC opener.

Tipoff in Mizzou Arena is scheduled for 6 p.m., Central Time, and ESPN2 will have the television broadcast with Rich Hollenberg and Sean Farnham on the call.

In gunning for its ninth straight win, LSU will face a Missouri squad that’s dropped three of four and four of its last six contests under first-year head coach Kim Anderson.

Mizzou has been tested in its non-conference schedule, playing the likes of Arizona, Oklahoma, Xavier, Illinois and Oklahoma State; the problem is they didn’t win any of those games.

While the record doesn’t show much reason for enthusiasm, Missouri has been buoyed of late by the addition of talented freshman Jakeenan Gant, who missed the team’s opening nine games due to concerns over his eligibility.

Get ready for tonight’s game with projected starters and stats, matchup and personnel talk as well as quotes from LSU coach Johnny Jones on the SEC East Tigers.

PROJECTED STARTERS

LSU (11-2)

PG Josh Gray (Jr., 6-1, 183) – 9.8 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 4.9 apg
G Keith Hornsby (Jr., 6-4, 210) – 12.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 2.2 apg
F Aaron Epps (Fr., 6-9, 208) – 1.3 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 0.7 bpg
F Jarell Martin (So., 6-10, 235) – 18.2 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 50.6% FGs
F Jordan Mickey (So., 6-8, 235) – 16.3 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 3.7 bpg

Missouri (6-7)

G Keith Shamburger (Sr., 5-11, 170) – 8.2 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 3.2 apg
G Wes Clark (So., 6-1, 185) – 8.6 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 3.1 apg
G Montaque Gill-Caesar (Fr., 6-6, 215) – 11.5 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 81.8% FTs
F Jakeenan Gant (Fr., 6-8, 207) – 7.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 52.4% FGs
F Johnathan Williams III (So., 6-9, 225) – 13.5 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 48.3% FGs

TALK OF CHALK

- LSU has been spoiled to a certain extent in non-conference play, primarily facing teams that lack formidable post presence defensively. What that’s meant is Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey have been able to devour these smallish interiors, where, for example, the duo combined for 50 points on 21-of-28 shooting in the Tigers’ last game versus Savannah State. No longer will that be the case – where it’ll be that easy – and that directive begins tonight. So the operative question is: How will LSU respond when teams scheme to take away the two sophomore forwards and throw zone galore at them? Floor spacers like Keith Hornsby, Jalyn Patterson (and dare I say Tim Quarterman) will have to take up the mantle. Their ability to do that is what separates LSU from being an almost-unguardable, balanced offensive outfit and one that’s too dependent on Martin and Mickey.

- Offensive numbers on Missouri this season aren’t flattering. The Columbia-based Tigers carry the following national ranks into tonight’s matchup: 240th in scoring (65.4 ppg), 242nd in rebounding (33.5 rpg), 310th in sharing (10.2 apg) and 212th in field goal percentage (42.9%). Some of those statistics are extraordinarily bad on a national level, particularly the assist numbers. And then when you consider that starting guards Keith Shamburger and Wes Clark average 6.3 assists between them, there’s not a lot of effective ball distribution going on amongst the others.

- If Mizzou trots out the projected starting five above (which was the starting unit in the team’s last game), LSU can feel confident in countering with Aaron Epps. He’s started two of LSU’s last three games and, according to head coach Johnny Jones, makes the Tigers a faster, more athletic group while also affording better matchups for Martin and Mickey. This is still getting into the time of year where players like Elbert Robinson III and John Odo will have to play more in-game, but at least from the tip I look for Epps to get the early run.

- Finally, and a bottom line for LSU in this game, the Bayou Bengals have to play this contest with the mindset of running Missouri off the floor with pace and scoring. Mizzou quite simply hasn’t shown this season that it can score consistently at a high clip. Only four times this season has Missouri eclipsed the 70-point plateau. Who were those opponents? Oral Roberts, Chaminade, Elon, Oklahoma State (in OT) and Lipscomb. With the exception of the overtime affair versus the Pokes, when Mizzou eked out 72 points in a loss, those teams aren’t near the level of an LSU. Score, score, score and push, push, push. That’s the formula because even at home, Missouri doesn’t seem to have uptempo or high-scoring in its bag.

WHAT LSU’S SAYING

“They are a team that if you look at their record, the way they have improved, they continue to get better. Players are eligible now. (Jakeenan) Gant, a fine freshman that they have, will certainly make an impact on their team. Those guys have played a lot of quality minutes, the young guys in getting ready.”
- Johnny Jones’ overview of Missouri

“Missouri has a new basketball coach there, and Coach (Kim) Anderson has done a tremendous job in the respective places that he has been. He’s always won, and this team will continue to grow and get better as the year goes on because of the fact that they have some quality players in the program. JWIII (Johnathan Williams) III is just a sophomore, but he has done a tremendous job in continuing to get better in leading this basketball team again.”
- Jones on new Mizzou coach, lead player

"Everybody says the home team plays better at home. I think the opposing crowds in their own territory are really tough and really hostile. So the teams coming in there don't play as well. I think it's just hard to win on the road."
- LSU G Keith Hornsby talks winning on the road in SEC play

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