The LSU Basketball team gets out of Baton Rouge for a little bit as the team will travel to Lubbock, Texas for the SEC-Big 12 Challenge against Texas Tech on Saturday.
After the team's worst home loss in SEC history at the hands of the Florida Gators, it's a team that is in a tough state to be in emotionally.
"There's a lot of emotion. Coach Jones didn't recruit any quitters and I sensed that as soon as I got on campus," freshman Skylar Mays said. "We come from different backgrounds, but all in all, we're used to winning. We're not happy, but the only way we can get through it and fight.
"We all love the game. We don't go out there expecting to lose. Coach Jones doesn't recruit quitters and none of us are quitters. We're going to go out there ready to play."
Head coach Johnny Jones, whose seat is scorching hot right now, continues to try different combinations to try and right the ship that has lost six straight SEC games.
“We’ve just got find guys as a group that we feel are going to be the most competitive for us and that are going to compete at a high level. Who are they? That's what our practice will have to be about, who can separate themselves," said the fifth-year coach. "Those are the guys that we’re gong to have to go with until we can play our way through"
What LSU needs to show more of is that no-quit attitude on the defensive end. Mays said it's more about rotation and hustling back in transition.
"Some of it's containing and having to help and that leaves you man open and it starts a chain reaction," Mays said. "We've got to get better at our defensive rotation and transition defense — all aspects of defense."
Guard Antonio Blakeney said that the team has to look at themselves for how to fix what is going on with the Tigers on the defensive end especially.
"Just keeping working. Don't give up. Don't point fingers at anyone, just point fingers at yourself," Blakeney said. "Look in the mirror and try to fix yourself because that will help the team."
Mays said that starts with getting on the same page, which he says the Tigers aren't at all.
"No. Not at all and it shows. Like I said, we just have to continue to work at it and make strides to get there," Mays said.
The LSU team talks about it all the time. They say to each other can't perform like that defensively and things have to change.
They haven't. Even losing No. 1 pick Ben Simmons and some new faces can't be an excuse for the team's play as of late.
"I know we lost a lot last year, but I don't think anyone would have thought we'd lost six straight right now," Blakeney said. "People were sad and frustrated and tired of losing. At the end of the day, it's going to take us doing something about it.
"115 points on your home floor, you're not going to win."
Jones is looking for a competitive group to get over that hump that's been facing the team. As the SEC slate goes along after the battle against the Red Raiders, who are coming off a 4-point loss at No. 5 Baylor, it's not going to get easier and fighting is even more important.
"It’s about fighting, a competitive spirit, a sense of urgency, toughness, and all those things come with that," Jones said.
LSU tips off against Texas Tech on Saturday at 1 p.m. CT on ESPNU.
Johnny Jones talks finding right mix of guys
Antonio Blakeney talks trying to fix team
Skylar Mays talks team mentality, defense
HEAD COACH JOHNNY JONES QUOTES
“After coming off a difficult and frustrating evening yesterday, we have to get back at it with a quick turnaround with a Texas Tech team that's playing extremely well. They went into fifth-ranked Baylor last night and had a setback by four points on the road. We know that it’ll be a difficult task for us, but we’re still searching and trying to make sure we can get this team back on the right track. It’s not going to be an easy task, but we’re trying to grind and keep our shoulders to the wheel and trying to push this thing forward. We have to make sure that we do a great job in continuing to stay focused with these guys and hopefully put them in a situation as a group to start sending up positives that we can push our way through what has been a difficult few weeks."
On where to start on correcting things…
“We’ve just got find guys as a group that we feel are going to be the most competitive for us and that are going to compete at a high level. Who are they? That's what our practice will have to be about, who can separate themselves. Those are the guys that we’re gong to have to go with until we can play our way through. We’ve got to find that, and it’s been a little bit tougher because there isn’t that consistency that you need to do that. We lost a lot of guys last year and it’s been a big turnaround. It's a new group and we were hoping that we would be in a certain spot now, but we’re not there. The challenges still exist, we’re in the midst of it, and we’ve got to figure it out. “
On if there were any positives from the game…
“No, not really with last night’s game and with the way it played out. Florida shot the ball well, better than they've shot it in a long time. They hit 19 threes, some contested and others were not. One guy went 5-for-5 that hadn’t been playing. Other guys are capable shooters but haven’t shot the ball extremely well from back there and last night they did. You have to give them credit for that. But at the same time it’s the competition level that you have to be able to play at throughout a game to put yourself in a position to compete at a high level and we weren’t there. Those are the things that I look at that concern me more than anything. We’ve got to try to make sure we get that fixed as well. We had a couple of guys that I thought played hard throughout and gave some extra effort, but it’s nothing really to brag about when it didn't consist of the team.”
On if he’s going to shorten the rotation and go with extra effort guys…
“I think you have to. I think you have to reward the guys who are able to get out and be competitive and able to give multiple efforts. That's what you’re looking for. They've got to be able to separate themselves. It’s easy right now for some not to, and it’s going to be tough for guys who want to dig deep to be competitive because of the way our schedule is about to turn. You’re going to have to be able to compete at a high level to have a chance to have success.”
On defensive mistakes…
“Well again you have one guy that comes in that hasn't been playing for them much and goes 5-for-5 from the three point line. There are some adjustments that you have to make as the game is being played. (Devin) Robinson gets going and he hits a few. Again, the way they wound up playing the game last night you have to credit them. They got comfortable early and I don't think there was much pressure was on their shot because of the score. They felt more comfortable taking those shots they were taking because there wasn't as much pressure on them. We’ve got to do a better job of keeping the score close and competing. That's on the other end of the floor, we have to execute at a high level offensively, making extra plays and extra passes. We have to make shots to keep pressure on our opponents when we aren’t getting stops. That's an area where we think we were better early than where we are right now. Our offense is not as effective as it was early. Our concern is still on the defensive end because when we do go dry on the offensive end we still have to be consistent in getting stops and we haven’t done that on a consistent enough basis and we know that. Any time you give up the number of points that we have in several games this year I think it’s clear that we should be concerned with where we are on the defensive end of the floor.”
On if he’s ever been in a situation like this in his coaching career…
“No. I think my second year at North Texas we wound up winning a total of maybe seven games. But that was a group that the kids competed at a certain level night in and night out and at practice every day. It was different, the talent level probably wasn't there but they had competitive spirits day in and day out because they didn't know when they’d have their next breakthrough and that's an area that this team has to get to. They have to realize that they've got to be able to compete at a certain level every day in practice and at games to give us a chance. We just weren’t there last night. When you talk about every second, every play, that means something. That doesn't necessarily mean that you’re going to win, but you've got to build on things like that. That's got to become a part of your DNA. It’s about fighting, a competitive spirit, a sense of urgency, toughness, and all those things come with that. That team I thought that team had that and other teams have as well that we’ve had success with. Since I’ve been here we’ve had teams like that as well. Again, no, I’ve never been through a situation like this before.”
On apologizing to the fans Wednesday night …
“Well one, I’m very appreciative of our fans and our fan base and what they do. I think they've given us a lot. They've done a tremendous job of supporting us. We’re very appreciative of that. I feel like we didn't give them all that we had last night and that's all that you can ask, is to give them everything that you've got and to perform at a certain level. They’re there for that entertainment. They’re there to pull for you and you have to make sure you do your part. We didn't do our part last night. I was extremely disappointed in our actions throughout the game last night. We’ve got to get better and I didn't want them to think it was going unnoticed. It wasn’t anything that you sit around and try to sugarcoat. You just be direct about it and move on.”
On where to go with the players…
“I think it’s not easy. You can’t handle them with just kid gloves, but you can’t beat them ‘down’. Sometimes you have to beat them ‘up’ in terms of their confidence. At the same time you have to address the issues and the concerns. An area that you have to be sensitive to the fact but you have to get your point across and it’s not easy. You have to be direct and handle it the right way.
On resetting for Texas Tech…
“Well it’s going to be another tough game for us. Now it's a matter of just trying to get better regardless of if it’s conference play or if we’re playing another conference caliber type team on Saturday. I think Texas Tech is very good and very talented. They beaten West Virginia. They played a top five team last night on the road in a very tight and contested game. We know what’s in front of us and we’ve got to try to get better quickly, because nobody out there is going to feel sorry for us. You've got to try to improve and get better.”