Texas A&M (11-10, 3-6 SEC) at LSU (9-12, 1-8 SEC)
When: 8 p.m. (CT) Saturday
TV/Radio: ESPNU | The Eagle (98.1-FM, Baton Rouge)
Series: LSU leads the series 18-17, but the Aggies have won the last two games and have closed the gap by winning six of the eight meetings since joining the SEC. The Tigers are 13-2 vs. A&M in Baton Rouge.
Last meeting: The Aggies thumped the Tiger 92-62 on Jan. 11
Last time out: South Carolina 88, LSU 63; Vanderbilt 74, Texas A&M 68
Projected starting lineups
G Antonio Blakeney (16 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 37 assists, 45.5% FG, 33-93 3-pt. FG)
G Brandon Sampson (10.5, 2.9 rpg, 48.8% FG, 34-48 3-pt. FG)
G Jalyn Patterson (6.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 3.7 apg, 26 steals)
F Duop Reath (13.3 ppg, 6 rpg, 54.7% FG, 36 blocks)
F Wayde Sims (6.4 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 51.5% FG, 11-26 3-pt. FG)
Off the bench: G Skylar Mays (7.4 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 3.8 apg, 75.9% FT), F Aaron Epps (6.1 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 46.6% FG), C Elbert Robinson (2.3 ppg, 1.4 rpg, 61.5% FG)
G Admon Gilder (13 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 4 apg, 41 steals, 39.6% 3-pt. FG)
G D.J. Hogg (12.5 ppg. 5.2 rpg. 3.2 apg. 38.1% 3-pt. FG)
F Tonny Trocha-Morelos (7.8 ppg, 5 rpg, 68.3% FT)
F Robert Williams (10.7 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 57.3% FG, 50 blocks)
F Tyler Davis (14.2 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 62.6% FG, 64.8% FT)
Off the bench: G JC Hampton 6.4 ppg, 39 assists, 43% FG, 42.9% 3-pt.FG), F Tavario Miller (3.5 ppg, 3 rpg, 49.2% FG), G Chris Collins (2.1 ppg, 31 assists)
In the first battle with the Aggies, LSU struggled to make shots, hitting 36.8% (25 of 68) and made only 3-of-14 3-pointers (21.4%). … The last 10 LSU foes have shot at least 21 free throws, with Alabama, Arkansas and South Carolina topping 31. Conversely, LSU has gone to the stripe 20 or more times only twice in that same span. … The Tigers’ 22 turnovers against South Carolina were a season-worst. … Brandon Sampson returned to the starting lineup against the Gamecocks after coming off the bench in five of the previous six games and responded with 14 points. … Duop Reath has his least productive game in an LSU uniform against USC with only 4 points and no rebounds in 20 minutes. … Antonio Blakeney has scored in single digits only four times in 21 games, but two have come in the last three games – 4 vs. Florida and 9 against South Carolina. … Skylar Mays knocked down a pair of 3-pointers vs. the Gamecocks, the third time this season he has hit at least two. … With LSU coach Johnny Jones frustrated with the Tigers’ starting big men, senior Brian Bridgewater and former walk-on Brandon Eddlestone logged 12 and 11 minutes, respectively. Eddlestone responded with 6 points and 4 boards, both career-highs. … Wayde Sims is shooting 70.4% (19 of 27) from the floor over the last five games and averaging 8.6 points4.6 rebounds a game in that stretch.
Breaking down the Aggies
Against LSU 3½ weeks ago, A&M recorded season-highs in field goals made (34), field-goal percentage (56.7%), assists (24) and blocked shots (11). … Big Tyler Davis is averaging 19 points and 9.7 rebounds a game in the last three outings when he has also connected on 24-of-30 floor shots (80%). … Admon Gilder has played every minute but one of the last five games. … The Aggies are averaging 17 turnovers a game in league play. … Tonny Trocha-Morelos has scored in double digits just once in the last 14 games – he had 14 points against LSU. … Freshman Robert Williams from Vivian, La., has blocked two shots or more in 15 of 21 games this season, including vs. the Tigers when he rejected four. … Chris Collins notched a career night vs. LSU with 12 points, 8 assists and 43 rebounds in a starting role.
Matchup to watch
The Tigers’ ability to score inside vs. Williams & Davis: The Aggies’ defense has given LSU fits the last few years because it tends to slow the Tigers down and knocks them out of their comfort zone. Williams and Davis add the element of rim protection – A&M swatted 11 shots on Jan. 11 – which could relegate LSU to firing away from the perimeter.
Keys to the game
Until it changes, nothing will change for the Tigers: They have to avoid a slow start and falling into a massive first-half hole. That is particularly true against the Aggies’ defense, which is created to nullify big comebacks. Florida and South Carolina both neutralized Blakeney and that forced other Tigers to step into uncomfortable offensive roles, so getting the sophomore guard on track is a must. Getting A&M into foul trouble and digging into the Aggies’ bench, especially in the front court, would be huge for LSU.
Up next | LSU at Kentucky, 6 p.m. Tuesday