College of Charleston (8-3) at LSU (7-2)
When: 7 p.m. (CT) Saturday
Where: PMAC | Baton Rouge
TV/Radio: SEC Network+ | The Eagle (98.1-FM, Baton Rouge)
Series: Tied 1-1 with the teams splitting games the last two years on home courts.
Last meeting: Last Nov. 30 the Cougars stunned the Tigers 70-58 in Charleston,
Junior guard Branden Jenkins suited up Saturday and could have played, LSU coach Johnny Jones said. Whether the hard-nosed Chicago native takes the court Monday could be determined by the pace and stature of the game. … Craig Victor II has yanked down 30 rebounds in the last three games and is coming off his third career double-double (14 points, 10 boards vs. Texas Southern), his second game in a row with a double-digit rebound total. … Brandon Sampson shot under 50% (4-for-10) for only the third time this season, with a cold hand outside the 3-point arc (0-for-4) as the main culprit. He compensated with 4 assists and also chipped in with 5 rebounds. … Duop Reath matched his season-best with 9 made floor shots (out of 14 tries) vs. Texas Southern. … In three home games since LSU returned from the Bahamas, Antonio Blakeney has hit 26-of-49 floor shots, 10-of-15 from 3-point range and has produced 66 points. ... Jalyn Patterson bounced back from a scoreless outing against N.C. Central with a season-high 12 points on Saturday and still mixed in his other contributions with 4 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals. … LSU is shooting 41.7% (23 of 56) as a team from 3-point range over the last three games. … Texas Southern’s 30 free-throw attempts were the most by an LSU foe this season, as were TSU’s 19 makes.
Breaking down College of Charleston
Two of the Cougars’ top three scorers are back this season after redshirting last season: Junior guard Joe Chealey and freshman guard Grant Riller. … During the 2014-15 season, Riller was a high school combatant of Blakeney in the Orlando area, and in fact, earned District 8-5A MVP honors over the Tigers’ sophomore in 2014-15 when he averaged 29.1 points a game for Oconee High. … During a five-game winning streak, the Cougars have allowed 64 points or fewer in every game – just 80 total in the last two outings, wins over East Carolina and Anderson. … CofC’s three losses came consecutively to Central Florida, Wake Forest and reigning national champion and currently top-ranked Villanova. … Charleston shoots 72.5% as a team from the foul stripe. … The Cougars have gotten out-rebounded in six games this season, including all three losses.
Cougars to watch
G Joe Chealey: Has come back from missing last year with a purpose – both from a numbers standpoint and as a leader on a young team. Chealey has been the Cougars’ most consistent scorer with seven games of 14 points or more but is also getting teammates involved with 33 assists – seven games with 3 or more helpers.
F Jarrell Brantley: Gives the Cougars a battle-tested inside presence after a solid freshman season when he logged five double-doubles. He already has three this season and has scored in double digits in every game but one this season.
G Grant Riller: In his first month in action as a college player, the 6-foot-3 guard has shown little affect from a torn ACL and gives the Cougars an explosive scoring threat. His 10.3 points a game come in 20 minutes an outing and he has been a threat despite not finding his stroke from deep yet.
Projected starting lineups
College of Charleston
G Joe Chealey (13.5 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 3 apg, 86% FT)
G Grant Riller (10.3 ppg, 45.6% FG, 87.5% FT)
G Cameron Johnson (8 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 11 steals)
F Jarrell Brantley (12.9 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 41.5% FG, 81.1% FT)
F Nick Harris (5.4 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 62.9% FG)
G Brandon Sampson (11.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 50% FG, 12-40 3-pt. FG)
G Antonio Blakeney (16.9 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 46% FG, 16-43 3-pt. FG)
G Skylar Mays (5.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 4.1 apg)
F Duop Reath (14.4 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 58.5% FG, 17 blocks)
F Craig Victor II (8.7 ppg, 7 rpg, 36.2% FG)
Matchup to watch
LSU point guards Skylar Mays and Jalyn Patterson vs. Charleston’s Joe Chealey: This figures to be the head-of-the-snake key for the Tigers, because as Chealey goes, the Cougars go. The 6-foot-4 fourth-year junior will put the two-headed Tiger lead guard tandem to a test, especially Mays, who has started to show more defensive chops as he has had his feet put to the fire. Patterson is the kind of defender who can pester playmakers into bad nights and LSU may him to do so that to prevent Chealey from ever getting comfortable or staying that way.
Keys to the game
CofC thrives when it can gum the pace up on offense and force opponents to defend for long stretches while the Cougars hunt for open shots, and also be a lest on defense. Both those ingredients were major against LSU last season when Charleston raced in front 39-17 by halftime and never let the Tigers breathe. Outside looks were particularly tough in that game, and for LSU to succeed that’s where the execution has to be sharp. A year ago, Blakeney was 0-for-9 from the field (0-for-4 from 3-point range) vs. Charleston and Sampson was 0-for-3 (0-for-2). Both are a year older and comfortable creating shots and doing damage in other ways, which has to be prominent against the Cougars. The Tigers also need to take care of business in the paint against Brantley, which puts plenty of onus on Reath and Victor to not only be oppressive inside on defense but also steer clear of foul trouble. Keeping CofC off the free-throw line is big, which could tie into forcing them to attack from the perimeter.