Brian Bridgewater (Photo by Terrill Weil)

Game Preview: LSU vs. Tennessee

LSU hosts Tennessee for Senior Night and home finale on Wednesday at 6 p.m. CT on the SEC Network.

LSU (9-19 overall, 1-15 in SEC) vs. Tennessee (15-14 overall, 7-9 in SEC)
Wednesday, March 1 at 6 p.m. CT
WHERE: Maravich Center (Baton Rouge, La.)
TV/RADIO: SEC Network | Tiger Sports Radio Network
SERIES: Tennessee leads 64-45
LAST MEETING: LSU won, 84-75, in Nashville on March 11

Tiger Trends

LSU is coming off one of its most disappointing losses of the season, dropping a close one at Georgia and blowing a 3-point lead with under a minute to go in Athens. The Tigers allowed star Georgia guard J.J. Frazier to go coast-to-coast in the final seconds, fouling him at the rim and sending the best free-throw shooter in Bulldogs history to the line, where he sank both free throws to lock up the win. Guard Antonio Blakeney will look to continue his 20+ point game streak against Tennessee. Forwards Brandon Eddlestone and Brian Bridgewater will be honored before the game on Wednesday for senior night. Both have seen their minutes grow as LSU struggled through the longest losing streak in program history.

Johnny Jones talks LSU's Senior Night against Tennessee, keeping team focused.

Scouting Tennessee

The Volunteers are looking to snap a two-game skid and give Tennessee a sixth straight win over LSU in Baton Rouge. Rick Barnes' squad hasn't lost in the PMAC since 2006 and with the way LSU has looked this season, that trend is likely to continue. It's been a revolving door at point guard for Barnes' team and the Volunteers played five different point guards in the team's loss to South Carolina, which resulted in 20 turnovers. Tennessee was able to force 18 turnovers by the Gamecocks in the loss, something they'll certainly want to do with their zone at times against the Tigers.

Key Volunteers to Watch

G Robert Hubbs III: The senior from Tennessee is averaging 14.4 points per game and 4.8 rebounds per game while shooting nearly 50 percent from the floor. 

F Grant Williams: An undersized forward at just 6-5, Williams is second on the Volunteers squad with 12.6 points per game and averages 5.6 rebounds per game.

Projected Tennessee Starters:
G Kwe Parker
G Lamonté Turner 
G Robert Hubbs III
F Grant Williams
F Kyle Alexander

Projected LSU Starters: 
G Skylar Mays
G Antonio Blakeney
G Brandon Sampson
F Aaron Epps
F Duop Reath

Keys to the Game

Senior night brings a lot of emotion to the table and sometimes it's difficult to balance that emotion and play smart basketball. Tennessee started slow against South Carolina and LSU has done that as well this season. Starting fast will be key for LSU as the team looks to break its long losing streak. With the reeling Volunteers coming to town, this will certainly be yet another opportunity to get that done.

Brian Bridgewater talks ahead of his Senior Night

Brandon Eddlestone talks tough senior season

Johnny Jones Press Conference Transcript

Opening statement…

“I’m certainly disappointed in the outcome of our game Saturday. I thought our guys played extremely hard and they put themselves in a great position to have success. We have to quickly turn our attention to another tough opponent in Tennessee, who has had some impressive wins this year with winning the Big 12 challenge game against Kansas State and beating a very powerful Kentucky basketball team as well. They've had some tough setbacks as well as of late. We know it’ll be a great challenge coming in here on Wednesday and on senior night. We look forward to hopefully giving our seniors a good sendoff for their contributions here at LSU on Wednesday.” 

On having four-year walk-on players like Brandon Eddlestone on the team…

“It’s great. With the scholarship limitation, it used to be 15 and now it’s down to 13, any time you have an open scholarship, you generally have walk-ons that are guys who have been around the program to allow you to have full-scale practices. You have to be real diligent in the guys you keep and what they bring to the team as well. You have to make sure they understand what their role will be. They may not have the opportunity to be on the floor on a consistent basis out there playing. It’s more so how will they practice? How will they be in the locker room? What do they bring to your team? We’ve been very fortunate over the last couple of years to have guys that have been outstanding at playing that role and have had the opportunity to be rewarded scholarships. Both of them have been extremely deserving, when you talk about Eddlestone and Henry Shortess (last year). Both of them have carried their weight and we’re really proud and happy to have guys like that in our program. They’ve certainly served positively in what they've contributed to our team. ” 

On if this is the best all-around game that the team has played…

Again, we got down and had a deficit, I think 15 or16 points, and had to fight back. In the second half they went on a little run and our guys continued to play. At the end we made some huge plays and made some big time stops, which were needed. We came down and executed on the offensive end and made plays and made some baskets. Sims made a huge three in the corner to bring us I think within three. Antonio hit a runner in the lane to put us up by three at the time. We had an opportunity to get a rebound and secure it and get a layup but it just didn’t go down for us. They have to make two free throws there at the end and unfortunately we didn't get a chance to finish it the way we would’ve liked.”

On Brian Bridgewater being a spark on Saturday…

“I think Bridgewater has gone through an injury-riddled career so to speak. Unfortunately he’s been banged up and hurt most of his career, but I thought the other night at Georgia was one of his finest efforts and maybe his best game overall of his career with the impact that he made in taking away their post guy. Offensively, he scored in the post and he got to the free throw line and made his free throws. He helped in the pick and roll action. I thought it was his most complete overall game that he’s played for us. 

On how it feels being able to give players like Brandon Eddlestone a scholarship…

“We’ve been really excited and thrilled. Any time you have people that are a part of your life and they’re doing something that’s positive, if there’s any way you can reach back out to them and show your gratitude toward them and do something positive, in this case giving him a scholarship and getting him back here for his senior year, it means a great deal to us because of the impact that he makes on our basketball team. But to have an opportunity to help him in a way where he’s put so much in for our team, we’re always excited to be able to put guys in that position and you wish that those kind of things could happen more often.” 

On Antonio Blakeney’s improvement this year…

“I think about this time last year is where he’s shown his ability to score. He’s been more aggressive on the offensive end and taken a more of a leadership in that part of his game. I think we’ve seen that each game. I think the way that he has scored and the percentages that he has shot and the shots that he’s taken now, all show growth within.  I think before he took shots that now he knows would be questionable at the time. He’s a much better decision maker now than what he was a year ago. 

On defensive progress of Antonio Blakeney…

“He’s growing as a defender. You want guys who want to be able to play and take pride in it. He understands the importance of getting stops and impacting the game, and he’s taken that step. He welcomes defensive challenges when they’ve been out there. He was I thought one of our better defenders last year. I thought this year he was a bit hesitant early on because of fouls and not wanting to get into foul trouble. I think in the latter part of the year he’s done a much better job of being more aggressive, locked in, and assertive.” 

On if he knew Brandon Eddlestone wasn't sure about coming back…

“Yep. It was one of those situations where some of those guys who are paying their way through school are working a couple of jobs to pay for schooling. I knew he was along those lines and wasn't going to have an opportunity to do that and have a chance to be on the floor with us. He was going to have to pick or choose one way or the other and I didn't want to put him in that position if we could help him. We had a scholarship available and we wanted to offer that opportunity to him. He accepted it and we welcomed him with open arms because of it.”

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