Men's Basketball Back to Work Before Homestand

by Kent Lowe (@LSUkent)
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Men's Basketball Back to Work Before Homestand

BATON ROUGE – After a couple of days off, the LSU men’s basketball team went back to work Tuesday in preparation for a Thursday night game at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center with  Auburn, starting a stretch of three home games in six days.

It was a busy day as former media reporter and present-PA announcer Dan Borne’ remembered back to 45-years ago this past Saturday when he covered Pete Maravich’ s milestone night when he set the career scoring record. Borne’, a member of the WAFB staff at the time, was covering the game for CBS Radio Sports.

Coach Johnny Jones also spoke about Maravich and his dealings with the superstar later in life before his untimely death.

The Tigers of LSU and Auburn will meet Thursday at 6 p.m. on ESPN2 and the affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network. It will be the first of two meetings of the team’s in SEC play and the game marks the conclusion of the first half of play in the league. LSU is 16-5, 5-3 in the league in a large group tied for third entering play Tuesday night while Auburn is 10-11 and 2-6 in SEC play under first-year coach Bruce Pearl.

Coach Jones then met with the media prior to the team’s return to practice and here are some of his comments from that session:

Opening Statement …
“We look forward to two challenges this week. It is exciting to have an opportunity to be back at home for a three-game stand. We’ve been out on the road for five of our first eight games. To have an opportunity to be here in front of our crowd this Thursday, Saturday and Tuesday are good days for us. We are excited about it. With the extended days and the demand that will be on our guys, we wound up giving them Sunday and Monday off hopefully to heal from injuries and get some rest for the long haul. We look forward to getting back to practice (Tuesday) in preparation for a really good, tough, hard-nosed Auburn basketball team Thursday night.”

On preparing for three games over a six-day span…
“In preparation going into (the three games), we want to be mindful in terms of our practice and in terms of our load. It won’t determine any way how we will play. We will certainly play the same way because each game will have a life of its own. We will do everything that we possibly can to make sure that we are successful there. But it’s prior to (these games), the practices the day before and the day after and in between those games are where we have to be smart as coaches.”

On players’ rest during games…
“Most of the times you know (when guys are tired on the court). Guys understand, and if they are winded and something should happen, they will gesture that they need out. It doesn’t happen a lot. We really try to keep an eye on them to make sure that guys are not resting on the floor. That’s what you want to make sure that you guard against. Sometimes players feel like they are smart enough and know the areas they can get away with it, but we don’t want guys getting into that habit. We have guys over there chomping at the bit for opportunities to get in games. We want to make sure we give them that opportunity when guys have exhausted themselves on the floor.”

On Jalyn Patterson and Jordan Mickey‘s health…
“I think if they are able to play, they will go. That’s what our practices are for to make sure that they are prepared and ready to go and get in and have the opportunity to play. If someone needs to have some limited minutes because of injuries or something, then we have to make sure we do a great job of guarding against that. But, I don’t think we are in that type of mode with either of these guys right now. I think both of them are healthy.”

On Bruce Pearl and the energy he’s brought to Auburn …
“I got to see and appreciate Bruce (Pearl) more during his time at Tennessee. Having a chance to watch him from before, I thought he did a tremendous job of coaching, creating the atmosphere and environment that he did at Tennessee and the success they had in the program. It’s obvious from his bio that he had success in other places that he’s been. He’s created that same type of energy there at Auburn. During his down time, I had the opportunity to watch him as an analyst and thought he did a great job there in talking about basketball and the passion he has for this game. He’s good for the game, and I am excited that he is back in the league.”

On possibly overlooking opponents…
“One thing we want to make sure that we guard against is looking for any excuses for any setbacks that we have regardless of what they are. There’s not a team in our league that we disrespect. You have to respect everyone going into games because on any given night any team can beat you. You can look at the similarities in terms of teams, not only with the won-loss record but also with the closeness of the games that they’ve played in and the teams that they’ve been able to beat. Auburn’s record indicates that. Mississippi State’s record indicated that as well with how well they played. They certainly didn’t sneak up on us. We prepared and we certainly told our players about how good they were and how we had to prepare for them. We, unfortunately, probably got outplayed in that game. We have to make sure that we bounce back and do a good job against another team that has the same qualities and abilities, and that’s Auburn.”

On what the keys are to being able to beat a zone defense …
“One of the things you really work on and what people really try to take away from you most of the time is your inside play. That’s where they want to crowd you. We like to try to get into the gaps of the zone and force people to help and then pitch it and make plays. You are hopeful that you are knocking down shots. We are a good shot making team. We just have to pick our spots and be patient enough to really get the shots we want. We think throughout the game that will happen for us. People are going to try to take the inside away. They will try to double down on you. We have the ability. I think with Jalyn Patterson‘s ability and his basketball IQ – he understands how to get into the gaps, make plays, get the ball to the right people or take the right shots in there. It helps us, and we will benefit from that.”

On Aaron Epps‘ play over the last couple of games…
“I thought he (Aaron Epps) did a really good job in the Mississippi State game. I thought he rebounded the ball well. He had two good put backs around the basket. Defensively, I thought he did a good job of trying to angle and stay in front of his man. When we were in the zone and making them play up over the top of us, his length helps us in the zone. When he’s out there in the game, I think he fits in well. He’s given us some positive minutes when he’s been in the game.”

On Darcy Malone‘s getting into the starting lineup and making a positive impact…
“The good thing about Darcy is that he never hung his head, pouted or anything in practice. He continued to work extremely hard every day. I am hopeful that those other guys that are over there looking for opportunities to get some positive minutes will follow his lead. When that time comes, they are prepared and ready to deliver. Darcy is a prime example of taking advantage of an opportunity. He did, and he is playing quality minutes for us right now.”

On how important it is to have Jordan Mickey and Jarell Martin come through each game…
“I think that’s the good thing about our team. All year long, we have been able to depend on (Jarell) Martin and (Jordan) Mickey. You can almost pencil in the numbers that they were going to give you. Then, you look for what those other guys were going to be able to put up because those guys are solid. Their averages are good. Unfortunately for Jarell, he … got into foul trouble the other day. He never felt as though he was able to really get into a rhythm and play like he’s capable of playing. I thought his fouls hurt him early in the game.”

On how important the upcoming three home games are …
“The conference season is extremely tough as you know. You can look around the league. Being on the road five out of eight games is difficult in this conference, especially to start. We understand the 18-game schedule. Being at home, you want to make sure you do a great advantage of trying to make sure you take care of your home games because the road is difficult. We’ve had some success out there, more so this year than we did last year in this early part of the season. We know how important home games are. That’s why we are excited we will be back In front of our crowd who will give us a great deal of energy and the role they play in our game. We are excited to be home.”