Texas Southern (4-6) at LSU (6-2)
When: 5 p.m. (CT) Saturday
Where: PMAC | Baton Rouge
TV/Radio: SEC Network | The Eagle (98.1-FM, Baton Rouge)
Series: LSU leads 1-0.
Last meeting: The Tigers raced to an 89-57 victory over TSU on Dec. 9, 2000.
The Tigers’ 1-2 sophomore guard punch of Antonio Blakeney and Brandon Sampson has combined to account for 39 and 40 points in the last two games. Blakeney stayed hot at home with a season-high 27 points against North Carolina Central on Tuesday, giving him four games of 20 points or more in the PMAC this season and an average of 21.6 points in five outings. … Jalyn Patterson didn’t score against NCCU, his first goose egg this season. But he was +/- 13 to lead the Tigers. He has as many steals this season as made FGs (11). … Craig Victor II has played 60 minutes in the last two games and has responded with 20 rebounds. He is still trying to find his shooting touch, though – he is 16-for-47 (34%) so far and 9-for-26 in the last two outings.
Breaking down Texas Southern
Mike Davis is in his fifth season at the Houston school after spending the early part of his head-coaching career with six years each at Indiana and UAB, including an appearance in the 2002 national championship game. … This game is TSU’s fourth of six against power-5 conference opponents, all on the road. They play at TCU on Sunday and then head to Baylor on Wednesday before beginning SWAC play on Jan. 2. … Similarly to N.C. Central, Texas Southern has become a landing spot for D0I transfers, with six on the current roster, including former Auburn big man Trayvon Reed, who is sitting out this season. …
Eagles to watch
F Derrick Griffin: The 2016 SWAC Player of the Year, he is off to a rousing start with nine double-doubles this season, including a massive effort at Louisville when he snatched 26 rebounds (15 offensive) to go with 15 points.
G Zach Lofton: After bouncing around at three schools for three years, the fourth-year junior has been a strong presence for the Tigers with 35 points in his TSU debut, followed by three other games with 24 points or more. In his only previous season at the D-I level, Lofton averaged 11.3 points a game at Illinois State.
G Demontrae Jefferson: The diminutive (5-foot-7) freshman made his college debut at Louisville with 27 points, although it took 30 field-goal attempts to get there. After missing the first eight games, he has played every minute of the last two outings.
Projected starting lineups
G Zach Lofton (17.4 ppg, 17 steals, 18-60 3-pt. FG)
G Dulani Robinson (12.2 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 4.9 apg, 24-61 3-pt. FG)
G Demontrae Jefferson (20 ppg, 14-50 FG, 4-17 3-pt. FG)
F Derrick Griffin (12 ppg, 10.9 rpg, 75% FG)
C Marvin Jones (5.2 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 42.9% FG)
G Brandon Sampson (11.9 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 51.5% FG, 12-34 3-pt. FG)
G Antonio Blakeney (17 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 45.3% FG, 13-39 3-pt. FG)
G Jalyn Patterson (3.9 ppg, 3.2 apg, 11 steals)
F Duop Reath (13.6 ppg, 6 rpg, 57.5% FG, 16 blocks)
F Craig Victor II (7.6 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 34% FG)
Matchup to Watch
Craig Victor II and Duop Reath vs. Derrick Griffin: The TSU big man is one of the most dynamic rebounders in college basketball, especially on the offensive glass where he has yanked down 56 in 10 games. For Texas Southern to stick around, second-chance points and getting one or both of LSU’s best big men into foul trouble are massive keys and Griffin is capable of filling both needs. Victor and Reath need to be aggressive on both ends of the floor in the paint but must do so cleanly and force Griffin to earn anything he gets.
Keys to the game
LSU has to shake the blahs it muddled through Tuesday against N.C. Central but have to go in knowing Texas Southern has a similar personality with so many older players, including transfers, who won’t be overwhelmed by much. TSU has a nice collection of weapons but isn’t as talented or as deep as LSU, and the home Tigers have to tap into both of those advantages. Playing better defense in the first half has to become a constant goal for LSU starting Saturday.