Hoops Notebook: LSU on Horizon

PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Shortly after the LSU football team plays for the SEC title, the basketball team tips off against Rutgers at the Louis Brown Athletic Center. Building up to a tough SEC challenge, Rutgers coach Mike Rice spoke with ScarletReport.com after practice with the latest injury news and preparations for LSU.

PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Rutgers is already without big man Kadeem Jack and may also have to go into the LSU game Saturday without freshman forward Malick Kone. Kone did not practice today while nursing a knee injury and his status for the Big East/SEC Challenge is uncertain.

"Malick is battling a knee and that will be further information given out probably by Saturday," said head coach Malick Kone. "Right now, something's wrong with his knee. It's not major, but it is major as far as he could miss some time up to next month."

LSU already holds a size advantage with six players 6-foot-8 or higher on the roster. Potentially losing Kone means having just Gilvydas Biruta, Austin Johnson, Derrick Randall and Greg Lewis in terms of big men.

Kone averages 5.6 points per game and 3.1 rebounds in 14.9 minutes.

"I was probably going to play Greg more at the four anyway because … they're bigger," Rice said. "Malick worked because some of the other [teams] had 6-foot-5 power forwards. These guys, the BCS, have 6-foot-9 and 6-foot-10 power forwards, so I'm probably going to play Greg there a little bit more anyway to match up."

Against a team of LSU's caliber, defending the post is critical, Rice said.

"We haven't done very well against mid- or high-major players and it's basically because of our position," Rice said. "We get too relaxed off the ball, away from the ball and good athletes, great athletes, great big men are going to put you behind if you get behind in position. They have a good balance of their offense coming from their tremendous three-point shooters and their three bigs. It's the same as last year; we just have to defend as a team."

Starting Lineups

Rice added freshman Jerome Seagears and sophomore Mike Poole to replace freshman Elijah Carter and junior Dane Miller Monday against UMBC. It may change again Saturday, said Rice, who wants more production coming out of the locker room.

"Starting lineups don't matter to me," Rice said. "They do to them and I understand that, but I could care less. It's who gets the most minutes, who's prepared, who's ready to make winning plays and who finishes the game. Ask me who's going to finish the game, and I don't know to be honest with you, that's what I'm worried about.

"The reason why I changed is because they were getting their butts kicked in the first four minutes of both halves. So I had to make a change because we weren't starting well."

Miller's Unselfishness

Simply put, Rutgers needs more offensive production out of Miller, who looks to pass first and often turns down good shot attempts to get the ball to a teammate.

"He's the most unselfish person and I said that's selfish of you to be unselfish," Rice said. "He's got to be more aggressive and it's just Dane's nature to want to get everybody involved. He's kind of the big brother now and he looks out for these young guys and he wants them to do well. But for us to be successful, he's got to score in double digits. Now maybe some nights we can get by, but most nights in the Big East, we can't."

Jack Update

Jack had foot surgery before the start of the season and is on schedule in his recovery. The walking boot is off for the red-shirt freshman forward and doctors will evaluate him in two-and-a-half weeks to determine if he can resume basketball activities.

For now, Jack remains on the sidelines during practices to rehab his surgically repaired foot.

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