Jones Previews Basketball Home Opener

by Kent Lowe (@LSUkent)
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Jones Previews Basketball Home Opener

BATON ROUGE – LSU men’s basketball coach Johnny Jones met with the media on Thursday in preparation for the season opener Saturday night at 7 p.m. at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center against Northwestern State.

The game is the first of three home games in a seven-day period as LSU will also host UNO on Tuesday night and then Southeastern on Nov. 22. The Northwestern State game will be broadcast on the LSU Sports Radio Network affiliates and in the Geaux Zone on LSUsports.net. There is no live TV broadcast for the contest.

Tickets are available at LSUtix.net.

The Tigers are 0-1 after a tough 92-90 loss Tuesday at UMass, while Northwestern State is 1-0 going into a Friday night game at Auburn that the Demons will play before coming to Baton Rouge for Saturday’s contest.

Coach Jones said that freshman Jarell Martin will sit out the contest after spraining his right ankle in the first 33 seconds of the game on Tuesday.

Johnny O’Bryant III had a strong game to open his junior season with 25 points and 11 rebounds while freshman Jordan Mickey had 14 points, 10 boards and five blocks.

Here are some of the comments from today’s session with Coach Jones:

Head Coach Johnny Jones

Opening Statement
“We were certainly excited to get the season started on Tuesday. We played a very tough basketball team in UMass. I thought that a lot of positive things happened for us in that game. A lot of bright spots – one, to be able to score 90-plus points and rebound the ball well. We out rebounded a very good basketball team. So I thought there were a lot of positives. A lot of guys got additional minutes, be it because of injuries or foul trouble, and I thought those guys did an excellent job with the time that they had out there on the floor. We are really encouraged and glad that we were able to play the type of opponent that we did because we learned a lot about ourselves this early part of the season. We’re certainly disappointed in the setback, but we look forward to all of the challenges that are ahead for us. And we’re hopeful that we will grow from the experience that we had together on Tuesday.”

On Jarell Martin being out for Saturday’s game …
“I think according to our doctors and trainers that would be the side that they would like to lean on. Jarell will probably continue to rest because of precautionary measures, which will allow him to continue to heal and not be out there – not being at full strength. So I think we will definitely try and go through this weekend without him but continue to treat him very aggressively. Hopefully, we’ll try to get him in the lineup next week.”

On Martin’s injury stunting the progression of the team …
“Anytime you start off the season you hope to be full throttle. We’ve been very blessed throughout the preseason and in practices that we have been injury free. Unfortunately, 30 seconds into the season, we have an unfortunate injury that will sideline one of our guys. It’s different. It’s something we hope that we will be able to work through with this young team being able to jell with the chemistry. But I think things happen for a reason. This will give us an opportunity to have some different looks for what could happen down the stretch as well. It’s unfortunate, but we’ve got to make sure that somebody on this team has to step up. It’s an opportunity for us to see who’s willing and capable of doing that.”

On the new rules defensively …
“I think we had 20-plus fouls called in the first half, and I think nine or so in the second half. It was a quick introduction and learning experience. I think there’s going to be a learning curve for all of us, but I thought our guys did an excellent job – even with the fouls being called – of not overreacting and continuing to play the game and play through it and not get distracted by it. That was a concern, but I thought it showed the maturity of our team.”

On Darcy Malone
“Darcy unfortunately had an injury prior to [the game]. He got hit in practice that required some stitches, and it was going to have to be an emergency situation to have to put him in. The first game of the season, I didn’t think that there could be anything of emergency to put him in a situation that could cause further harm or damage to his injury. We sat him that game and he’ll be ready for us this weekend. We were more on the cautious side because of doctor’s recommendations.”

On the team’s frontcourt depth …
“I thought last year our team did an excellent job when Johnny [O’Bryant III] went down with injury. We played a little bit differently – a little faster and quicker. The guards had more of an impact on the game, and we were able to lean on them. Shavon Coleman also was able to set up. I thought Tuesday when Johnny went down [with foul trouble], Jarell goes down [with an injury], fouls are being called – I didn’t think our guys were distracted at all. I thought they continued to play and battled and really stayed in striking distance. So when Johnny was able to get back in late in the second half, we were still in the ball game. I think it says a lot about the experienced guys that took over – that would be [Anthony] Hickey and [Andre] Stringer during that stretch there in the second half.”

On Jordan Mickey and Tim Quarterman
“I thought both played exceptionally well. I thought there were two plays that we can possibly look back on late in the second half that Tim may have struggled or probably wasn’t able to complete some plays or execute like we would have liked. That was late in the second half, but I thought throughout the game he played a very strong part. He was able to initiate our offense and did a pretty good job defensively and shadowing. And [he’s] been very competitive. I thought Mickey – on both ends of the floor – offensively making plays, good passes, getting to the basket and scoring. On the defensive end, I thought he did an excellent job in terms of shot blocking, altering shots and good help side defense. At the same time, I thought he was a strong rebounder, and he really impacted the game in a lot of areas. For a freshman to step into that type of environment in the first official college game of his career and make that type of impact, I think speaks volumes – just from his preparation and maturity level of his game.”

On the players not feeling discouraged after the loss …
“I thought in the locker room they were very disappointed because we were up there on a mission. We went up there to win a basketball game and compete at the highest level. I thought the guys left it out there on the floor and played extremely hard. I think they can look back and we can as a team and staff that we’re only a few plays away from coming out of there with a victory. It didn’t happen for us, and there are areas that we can correct. It’s not that we’re deficient and can’t get it done. We all have the wherewithal to get those things done. It’s just a matter of attention to detail, cutting down on some mistakes and some great things can happen for us.”

On the team’s free throw shooting …
“I thought the guys stepped up to the line and made some big free throws. Shane Hammink made one in the first half to complete an and-one … I feel that we’re a good free-throw shooting basketball team. Unfortunately, we may have had an opportunity that we missed – either a front end of a one-and-one or the backside of an and-one that could’ve given us the opportunity to maybe take a lead or something there. I’m confident in this team, and I think we’ve got really good shooters. Johnny [O’Bryant III] particularly being one of them didn’t start the season last year as a great free throw shooter, but I thought he finished the season really strong. He was one of our better free-throw shooters at the end.”

On Anthony Hickey providing a spark from the bench …
“I think Anthony – I don’t want him to settle into anything. I just want him to be at his best whenever he’s called because he’s a tenacious player when he hits the floor. Offensively and defensively, he’s strong. You know that you can count on him, and he’s going to give you everything that he has. I thought that when they were on the floor together [Hickey and Tim Quarterman] and Anthony was at the one [point guard] and Quarterman was at the two [shooting guard] – I thought they complemented each other well. We started running a lot of baseline plays, high screen-and-roll action, and I thought Anthony executed really well out of it. I thought late in the game again when we put Quarterman in that position – something that he will be able to do extremely well because of his skill level ball handling and his knack for creating opportunities for other people that he will get so much better at. To put him in that position this early in the season first game probably wasn’t the best, but we’re glad that we had the opportunity to see where we were. He will get better. I can assure you he will be in that spot before the year is over and making some really key plays for us.”

On the post players creating space for the offense …
“Well, I think we have a great high-post, low-post combination. That’s something that we look for, and we play out of a lot. When you have high-post guys – both of those guys [Johnny O’Bryant III and Jordan Mickey] are capable of knocking down outside shots. You have to honor that guy up there in the high-post with the ball, and you can’t double down [in the low post]]. I thought it really helped, and Johnny benefitted from that and was able to go to work against their players. Both of those guys are good enough passers to make plays in the games. That’s something we didn’t have consistently last year, and I think both of those guys are capable of benefitting because both can play with their back to the basket as well.”

On who will replace Jarell Martin in the starting lineup on Saturday …
“We would probably have to maybe look at Shavon [Coleman]. He’s been more consistent in playing out of that spot [small forward]. And Malik [Morgan], it depends and Shane [Hammink] as well. Those are the three guys that we will probably look at more so in that spot. We’ve been playing Malik a little bit more at the two spot [shooting guard] which he’s capable of playing the two or the three [forward] which he played last year. But Shavon because of that experience that he has and being a senior and always competed – we will probably have a chance to look at him in that spot early on.”