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Game Preview: LSU vs. N.C. Central

Tiger Blitz previews LSU's return to action at the PMAC on Tuesday against N.C. Central after a long layoff.

When: 8 p.m. (CT) Tuesday
Where: PMAC | Baton Rouge
TV/Radio: SEC Network | The Eagle (98.1-FM, Baton Rouge)
Series: First meeting

Tiger trends

LSU is back in action for the first time since an impressive 84-65 win at home over Houston on Nov. 29. Tuesday launches a stretch of four games in 10 days, three at home. … The Tigers’ domination of the Cougars was widespread as they claimed a 44-26 advantage on points in the paint, 23-5 on second-chance points and whipped UH on the backboards, 46-28. … LSU’s 50% shooting effort against Houston (36-of-72) marked the first time the Tigers had hit the break-even mark when launching 70 or more field goals since Dec. 13, 2005. … Craig Victor II made his first start of the season in the last outing after missing the first three games while he was suspended. He responded with season-highs in points (13) and rebounds. 

Breaking down N.C. Central

The Eagles’ 6-4 mark is their best start to a season since 2013-14 when they began 5-1. … Included in those six victories was a 62-52 decision over Missouri in Columbia on Nov. 28. NCCU also gave Ohio State fits in a 69-63 road loss. … The Eagles’ roster includes eight Division I transfers. … N.C. Central has shot 50% or higher in four games this season, all victories. They have also recorded three games with 20 assists or more. … N.C. Central has a game with 8 blocks (Missouri) and another with 11 steals (LIU Brooklyn this season). … The Eagles average 7.8 3-pointers a game, but also allow 6.8 a contest.

Eagles to watch

G Patrick Cole: The fifth-year senior has scored at least 14 points in every game this season with five games of 20-plus. Just as importantly, he is one of the top facilitators in college basketball with 63 assists this season, with 5 or more in each of the last seven outings.

G Rashaun Madison: For the Eagles to hang with LSU, they will have to find some success from outside the 3-point arc and that has to start with Madison. He has made and attempted more treys than any other N.C. Central player (28-for-72) and has put up only 10 shots from inside the arc all season.   

F Del’vin Dickerson: Which guy shows up this time? The one who scored 22 points against LIU Brooklyn a week ago or the one who scuffled through a meager 2-point outing in a loss to Coastal Carolina? Dickerson us from Houston, making him the Eagle playing closest to home Tuesday and Saturday when N.C. Central goes to McNeese State. He is also the Eagles’ best offensive rebounder with 17 offensive caroms among his 42.

Projected starting lineups:

N.C. Central
G Patrick Cole (21 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 6.3 APG, 77% FT)
G Dajuan Graf (12.1 PPG, 4.2 APG, 46.9% FG, 76.7% FT)
G Rashaun Madison  (10 PPG, 2 RPG, 28-72 3-pt. FG)
F Pablo Rivas (9.9 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 80.4% FG, 10-11 FT)
F Del’vin Dickerson (6.1 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 48.3% FG)

G Brandon Sampson (11.7 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 10-28 3-pt. FG)
G Antonio Blakeney (15.6 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 42% FG)
G Jalyn Patterson (2.9 PPG, 3 APG, 11 steals)
F Duop Reath (13.6 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 54.9% FG, 15 blocks)
F Craig Victor II (7.5 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 37.1% FG)

Matchup to Watch

LSU’s perimeter defense vs. N.C. Central’s outside shooting: The Eagles are hitting 34.2% as a team this season (78 of 228) and because they will be considerably smaller than the Tigers, are going to have to attack from deep. As mentioned above, Madison is the lynch pin for N.C. Central from outside, but Cole and reserve Ron Trapps are also viable threats. The Eagles are coming off a game when the fired up a whopping 38 3s (compared to 24 tries from inside the arc) and a trend continued: In all four losses, N.C. Central has shot 31.6% or lower from deep. LSU limited Houston to 29.4% (5 of 17) from downtown in the win on Nov. 29, the Tigers’ second-best defensive performance in that category this season.

Keys to the game

LSU needs to take another step forward from its impressive win over Houston, which means knocking off rust quickly after a two-week layoff. Easy offense generated from defense would be a nice place to start, but also a challenge against a veteran Eagles’ team that takes reasonably good care of the ball, although they lost it 15 times vs. LIU Brooklyn and 17 at East Carolina. Taking advantage of what looms as a major size advantage inside is also a must for LSU – meaning Reath and Victor must steer clear of foul trouble and affect the game on both ends. Lock-down defense on the versatile Cole will also be big for the Tigers, and that task could be a time share among Patterson, Skylar Mays and Blakeney.

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