LSU was back at practice on Monday and for the first time in two years LSU took the floor of the Pete Maravich Assembly Center for practice ranked in the two major basketball polls. The Tigers are ranked No. 23 in the AP media poll and No. 24 in the EPN/USA Today Coaches’ poll.
“It’s an honor to be ranked and it shows just how hard this team is working and the preparation that the coaches have been giving us, and us buying into what coach Johnson is teaching and seeing that it’s working for us,” said senior center Chris Johnson. “Now that we’re ranked we have a target on our backs and we’re the hunted. We’ll try to come out and compete on every possession the same way as when we weren’t ranked.”
LSU Head coach Trent Johnson put the team through a light workout on Monday that was followed by a weightlifting session. He said the team looked fresh, but there isn’t much he can do as far as shortening the practice schedule to help the players keep their legs this late in the campaign.
“We’re locked into a situation right now where we go Wednesday and Saturday,” Johnson said. “In a perfect world we’d like to give them Thursday off but if I can’t give them Thursday off for a Saturday game we’ll go videotape and a slight walk-thru. Then after Saturday’s game we’ll have Sunday off and come back Monday for 45 minutes to an hour, hour and a half. But all of that depends on their approach and effort.”
Bo Spencer tried to practice on Monday but was in too much pain with his sprained ankle. Trent Johnson said that the sophomore point guard will not travel with the team to Arkansas and he is still listed as day-to-day.
“Obviously he is a little upset but he needs to stay behind and get some treatment and get some rest,” Johnson said.
“For him not to be able to play and practice, it’s bad,” Johnson added. “Let’s call it what it is. It’d be different if it was some other guys because Bo has a high pain threshold and he’s a tough kid, so it’s not good.”
With Spencer out of the lineup, Johnson said he will go with the same starting five that he fielded against Ole Miss on Saturday when LSU travels to Arkansas in Garrett Temple, Marcus Thornton, Tasmin Mitchell, Terry Martin and Chris Johnson.
Temple went back to his old position of running the point against the Rebels and he dished out nine assists against only three turnovers.
“When you lose a guy like Bo who has been running your team so far and Garrett’s been playing at off guard so to speak and Marcus is playing his position, it takes you out of your rhythm and that continuity is gone,” said the headman… “But no, Garrett did a good job.”
For the Tigers (21-4, 9-1) to stay ranked and continue their quest for a Southeastern Conference title they will have to defeat an Arkansas squad that has lost five in a row and is 13-10 overall and 1-9 in conference play.
“We’re going to have to play better than we’re playing and I don’t want to take anything away from how we played the last two or three games, but Arkansas in Fayetteville, to my understanding, is a different and a difficult challenge,” said Trent Johnson.
The ranking is a nice accomplishment for the Tigers, but obviously Arkansas has the headman’s focus at this time.
“I actually got a memo from the NCAA and it said we don’t have to play anymore games and the season is over. Arkansas said don’t bother to show up,” said a jokingly Trent Johnson about being ranked.
Johnson went on to say that he is happy for all of the LSU fans who enjoy the Tigers being ranked and have supported his team this season, but he doesn’t expect the accolades to affect his players.
“That’s what I like about these guys is if we’re not successful or if we get beat it’s not because of a lack of effort,” he said. “Sometimes it may be execution but the team that day is going to be better than we are. It’s not going to be because of us getting caught up in being ranked or us getting caught up in being selfish.”