Tigers set for season opener versus Nicholls

The LSU men's basketball team, seventh-ranked in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll, finally opens its 2006-07 season Friday night at 7 p.m. at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center against Nicholls State University.

LSU is the last team in the Southeastern Conference to play an official game and one of 11 teams that hadn't played a game entering the weekend.

Nicholls State is 0-4 on the year after losing the season opener at Mississippi State (55-90) and then three games in the Basketball Travelers Classic to Northern Iowa (63-68), Washington (74-102) and Pepperdine (83-98).

In the Pepperdine game, Nicholls State was just down four at the break and Adonis Gray had 33 points in 33 minutes hitting 11-of-19 field goals and 11-15 free throws. Gray, a junior from Thibodaux, had an outstanding tournament scoring 20 against Northern Iowa and 29 against Washington.

Nicholls State has been playing with only eight players, but has had time to recover from four games in four days having been back home from Washington since Wednesday.

LSU is coming into the game off exhibition wins over EA Sports (70-65) and Louisiana College (94-41). Dameon Mason and Glen Davis have averaged 15.5 points per game in the two exhibitions with Davis double-doubling in each game and Mason also posting a nice line of seven assists and no turnovers.

Magnum Rolle returned to practice after being out of the game Wednesday with Louisiana College and the past couple of practices with back problems.

It is expected LSU will go with the same lineup it used in the exhibition games of guard Garrett Temple (7.0 ppg, 3.0 apg in exhibitions) and Dameon Mason (15.5 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 4.0 apg) and forwards Tasmin Mitchell (15.0 ppg, 7.5 rpg), Darnell Lazare (11.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg) and Glen Davis (15.5 ppg, 12.0 rpg).

For Davis it will be his 66th start in 67 straight games and he enters the game with a 40-game streak of scoring in double figures dating back to the last four games of his freshman year. Mason will be seeing his first regular season action since transferring from Marquette after his sophomore season.

LSU will enter the contest with a 60-game winning streak against Louisiana schools dating back to December 1988 and a present nine-game winning streak on the floor of the Maravich Center.

Coach John Brady was pleased with the improvement his team made from the first exhibition game to the second.

"We had a little better feel about ourselves (Wednesday) than we did last week and hopefully we can continue to improve. I thought we defended and rebounded well," said Brady, who enters his 10th season as the head coach of the Tigers. We used our size and athleticism to our advantage. It starts for real on Friday against Nicholls State and we are going to have to have the same effort we had tonight and continue to improve."

Brady's Tigers are coming off an SEC championship season and the team's first trip to the NCAA Final Four in 20 years, but the team realizes a lot is expected.

"I think what people need to understand is that we are not the team that beat Duke and Texas to reach the Final Four," Brady said. "We are not that team yet because of the players that we lost. If someone expects us to pick up right where we left off last season with the two prominent players we lost, you can't do that. We are still trying to figure out who we are and trying to get a good substitution mix. I don't think our team is caught up in that (high expectations). We are just trying to find out who we are and what we do best."

After waiting so long to start the season, LSU will have little time between games as the Tigers will host Louisiana-Monroe at 3 p.m. Sunday in a game regionally televised by CST. Tickets for that game are also on sale and all fans buying tickets Sunday at the arena can use their Ole Miss football ticket stub from Saturday night for a $5 ticket to the game.

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