Men's Basketball to Take on North Texas

by Kent Lowe (@LSUkent)
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Men's Basketball to Take on North Texas

BATON ROUGE – The LSU Tigers look to get back on the winning track before the short Christmas break, but the task will be a tough one as they face a veteran North Texas team Wednesday night at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. Tipoff is 7 p.m.

Tickets for the game start at $14 ($5 for youth ages 3-12) and are available at the LSU Athletics Ticket Office and online at LSUtix.net. LSU students are admitted free with their school ID. The game will be televised regionally on Cox Sports TV and broadcast on the affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network (WTGE New Country 100.7 FM The Tiger in Baton Rouge) and at LSUsports.net/live.

LSU is 7-4 on the season after a heart-breaking 70-69 loss to Wichita State Saturday in Bossier City after LSU had come all the way back to take a lead in the final 80 seconds after being down 17 with a minute to go in the first half. North Texas is 9-2 after an 85-62 win over Texas State on Sunday.

While LSU has no seniors on its roster, North Texas has four seniors in its starting five from a team that went to the NCAA Tournament a year ago and was 24-9 and Sun Belt Tournament Champions. The Mean Green is paced by senior Tristan Thompson who is averaging 17.8 points per game, while George Odufuwa is one of 30 players in the NCAA averaging a double-double this season with 11.5 points per game and 10.1 rebounds per game.

“North Texas is very similar to McNeese State and Coastal Carolina in terms of how they play,” said LSU Coach Trent Johnson. “They want to play fast and are perimeter oriented. They return the nucleus of their starters, in fact their top seven from a team that won the championship (Sun Belt) last year and went to the NCAA Tournament. This is a team that knows how to win and is 9-2 coming in. We need to defend the three, deliver transition opportunities and continue to get better from the standpoint of rebounding the ball. We need to play well.”

The Tigers will look for more offense like the second half of the Wichita game when Ralston Turner scored all 21 of his points, hitting five treys. He became the first player to score back-to-back 20-point games for his team, after his 23-point effort on Thursday against McNeese State. Andre Stringer had 18 in the loss and Garrett Green will be looked to continue to show improvement and consistency after his first college double double of 15 points and 13 rebounds.

No starting lineup changes are expected in a Tiger lineup that will have Stringer (15.5 ppg, 2.9 apg), Turner (14.2 ppg, 1.7 apg) and Aaron Dotson (9.5 ppg) at the guards and Storm Warren (7.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg) and Malcolm White (8.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg) at the forwards.

The game will be a homecoming of sorts for two Mean Green players and head coach Johnny Jones. Senior guard Josh White is from Baton Rouge and Christian Life Academy and junior forward Kedrick Hogans prepped at Karr High in New Orleans.

Jones, from DeRidder, La., is in his 10th year at North Texas and was a guard on the 1981 NCAA Final Four team coached by Dale Brown in 1981 and served as an assistant coach for Coach Brown when the team went to the 1986 NCAA Final Four. He served as an assistant 1984-97 before moving to Memphis as Associate Head Coach and taking over in 1999-2000 as Interim Head Coach. He then served as assistant at Alabama for a year before becoming the head coach at the Denton, Texas university.

“Knowing Johnny like I do, his team will be ready to play and it will be all business,” said Coach Johnson. “He is an ultra competitor so he will be coming in with one thing on his mind, to get his team ready to play and win the basketball game.”

Following the contest, LSU will take three days off for Christmas before resuming practice on Sunday evening in preparation for a 6 p.m. game on Monday at the PMAC against Southern University.

Follow LSU Basketball on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/LSUBasketball and on Twitter @LSUBasketball and @LSUCoachJohnson.

Trent Johnson Media Session
December 21, 2010

Opening Statement …
“Yesterday’s practice was about an hour and a half, so it was real light. Obviously we have had a stretch of games that have been real tough and really exhausting from a physical standpoint, so I thought we needed to go light. (Tuesday) we are going to go out for an hour and half and get after it. North Texas is very similar to McNeese State and Coastal Carolina in terms of how they play. They want to play fast and are perimeter oriented. They return the nucleus of their starters, in fact their top seven from a team that won the championship last year and went to the NCAA Tournament. This is a team that knows how to win and is 9-2 coming in. We need to defend the three, deliver transition opportunities and continue to get better from the standpoint of rebounding the ball. We need to play well.”

On getting off to a fast start on offense …
“It all starts with the defensive end. I don’t put a lot of stock into the fact that we didn’t shoot the ball well against Wichita State (in the first half). We need to generate some easy baskets by defending and rebounding, and that is hard. It sounds redundant but kids in the sport of basketball want to let their offense dictate how they play. We have to continue to work on letting our defense and our ability to rebound the ball and take care of the ball dictate our identity and how well we are going to play.”

Same approach to each game…keeping team on even keel…
“We don’t look at it like this is a big team and this is a small team. Nicholls State was a wakeup call, and I think Aaron Dodson said we are going to come out and try to compete and not lay down for anyone. Regardless, these kids knew Coastal Carolina was a good basketball team and they knew McNeese State was a good basketball team. For me, when you start talking about ‘big teams’ and ‘little teams,’ I don’t care and I don’t put much stock into that. All the good teams that I have had and all the good players I have been around, they understand that. I know these guys understand that. My personality, which I know is their personality because we have so many young players and it is starting to rub off, is you value each possession, defensively and offensively. That is the reason we are 7-4 is because we have given up 130+ offensive rebounds and we are plus 29 in turnovers. If you just take six off the top, eliminate six turnovers and six offensive rebounds in two games, you are probably 9-2. Those are the things I continue to harp to them and we continue to work on because there in lies your even keel.”

On if he is surprised at Garrett Green‘s increased level of play …
“No, his play hasn’t surprised me. He has had two really good games against the two best teams, but it doesn’t surprise me because what we have seen in practice is a different Garrett Green in terms of concentrating on doing the little things and then not beating himself up and playing through pain. It is a maturation for him, but the key is to develop some consistency. He has a ways to go, so we just need to give him time.”

On defending North Texas’ perimeter players …
“For us one of the things we have done is a decent job of defending the three. We have put a lot of onus on our perimeter players to do a do a good job there. This is a team that we prepared for and will continue to prepare for, but we have to defend the three. We are going to leave our post isolated by themselves. There have been certain games where guys have been talented on the perimeter and have had a solid post that we would have to double down on, but this game we are taking the perimeter players out and leaving the post players alone. We have done a decent job defending the three, but every game is different so our plan is going to be the same.”

On Johnny Jones playing against his alma mater for the first time …
“Johnny has been great, he has done a hell of a job at North Texas and he has been very cordial to me since I have been here. Knowing Johnny like I do, his team will be ready to play and it will be all business. He is an ultra competitor so he will be coming in with one thing on his mind, to get his team ready to play and win the basketball game. Johnny is one of those guys that everybody as a head coach when you see on the road always speaks to him and he always has time for everybody. He is just such a genuine person. He is a hell of a basketball coach, too, but he is for me one of the few guys in the profession that I don’t happen to know that well but I can trust. Every conversation I have had with him has been so genuine and he has been very supportive of me since I have been here in terms of talking to me about the donors and telling me about the tradition and history of the program.”