Basketball Set for Showdown with No. 1 Kentucky

by Kent Lowe (@LSUkent)
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Basketball Set for Showdown with No. 1 Kentucky

BATON ROUGE – For the 20th time, LSU will play the number one team in college basketball and for the 10th time it will be the University of Kentucky coming to the Pete Maravich Assembly Center for a Super Tuesday nationally-televised basketball clash with the Tigers that is set for 6 p.m.

The game will be nationally-televised by ESPN with Brad Nessler, Dick Vitale and Shannon Spake and broadcast in the Geaux Zone of LSUsports.net and the affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network. Jim Hawthorne, Ricky Blanton and host Kevin Ford will have the call.

The game will be on these stations in the following areas: Baton Rouge (WDGL 98.1 FM); Alexandria (KSYL 970 AM); Bogalusa (WBOX 92.9 FM); Ferriday (KFNV 107.1 FM); Houma (KJIN 1490 AM); Jena (KJNA 102.7 FM); Lafayette/Opelousas (KLWB, 103.7 FM); Lake Charles (KXZZ 1580 AM); Leesville (KJAE 93.5 FM); Monroe (KMLB 540 AM); Morgan City (KFRA 1390 AM); Natchitoches (KWLV 1907.1 FM); New Orleans (WWL 870 AM; 105.3 FM); Ruston (KRUS 1490 AM); Shreveport (KWKH 1130 AM); Tallulah (KTJZ 97.5 FM); Tylertown, Mississippi (WFCG 107.3 FM); Ville Platte (KVPI 1050 AM).

LSU enters the game, set for a Maravich Center where all available advanced tickets were sold out for the game, with a record of 17-6 and 6-4 in the Southeastern Conference while the top-ranked Wildcats remain undefeated at 23-0 and 10-0 in the league. On Saturday, LSU defeated Alabama, 71-60, while Kentucky at Florida, beat the Gators, 68-61.

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It was last year under vastly different circumstances when the temperatures were subfreezing and a heavy freezing rain and sleet storm was shutting down the city that LSU was able to knock off Kentucky, 87-82.

LSU is expected to go with its same lineup it used on Saturday as Jalyn Patterson and Tim Quarterman moved into the starting role to join Keith Hornsby in a three-guard offense. Patterson is averaging 5.4 points per game, Quarterman 12.3 points and Hornsby 12.5 points a game. Jordan Mickey and Jarell Martin will start at forwards. Mickey is third in the league in scoring, second in rebounding in the SEC and sixth in the nation in block average (17.0 ppg, 11.0 rpg, 3.6 bpg). Martin is averaging 16.0 points and 9.0 rebounds a game.

For John Calipari, Kentucky is expected to start the seven footer Willie Cauley-Stein, the Harrison twins (Aaron-11.5 points per game; and Andrew), Dominique Hawkins and Karl-Anthony Towns.

Kentucky owns an 85-25 all-time record against LSU, including 29-17 in Baton Rouge. Former LSU coach Dale Brown was able to get 18 of those victories.

Coach Johnny Jones met with the media on Monday afternoon prior to practice and here are some of his comments:

Opening Statement …
“After playing Alabama on Saturday, we are looking forward to another great challenge (Tuesday) night against the number one team in the country … Kentucky has been challenged in a lot of games this year and have done a tremendous job of overcoming a lot of obstacles and continue to be successful. We are looking forward to getting out in front of our tremendous crowd and having an opportunity to play against I think one of the best teams ever assembled in college basketball. It’s going to be a great challenge for us and one that we certainly look forward to.”

On if a perfect game is needed to beat Kentucky…
“We have to be the team in the game that makes the least amount of mistakes. It’s not going to be a perfect game, I don’t think by either team. It’s going to be a great challenge for us, and we need to really play well. I think you are going to have to make sure that you limit your mistakes and make sure that you are executing at a high level, not only offensively but defensively, as well. You have to make sure you play at a certain level throughout because they present a certain challenge that most teams can’t overcome over a 40-minute period or however long it takes. The number of guys they have and the way that they play makes them one of those teams that can really push you to the limit because of the number of minutes that their guys have to play each game. They have the chance to really stay fresh.”

On Jordan Mickey and Jarell Martin‘s experience against Kentucky…
“The experience is good having Jarell (Martin) and Jordan (Mickey); both of those guys are sophomores and played a lot of valuable minutes for us last year in three games against a talented Kentucky team. They had an opportunity to see it up close and personal last year having success in one game and unfortunately a couple of setbacks in the others. At the same time, they understand the level of play that you have to play with to be successful. They did experience that, and that’s going to help. We are hopeful because of the experience that our other guys have gained throughout the year that it will put us in the position to be able to challenge them at a certain level tomorrow.”

On changing the approach to facing Kentucky without Johnny O’Bryant III
“I think the impact that Johnny (O’Bryant III) made and how people had to defend Johnny last year and the percentages that you could put down what he was going to rebound, the chances of him scoring, the double teams that he was going to receive and what you could play off of was invaluable for us last year. Johnny played well offensively and defensively. He created opportunities for a lot of his other teammates. Things will be different for us not having Johnny and the experience of Andre Stringer and those guys last year.”

On the players approach to the Kentucky game…
“Your approach has to be guarded in a sense in coming out there. To beat those guys, you are going to have to be at a certain level in playing. You just hope that it’s in a controlled sense that you are out there and being able to play with because you have to have that level throughout. It’s going to happen because anytime, regardless of where you are playing at, it’s significant scheduling. You can’t schedule the number one team in the country. You have to really play your way into it outside of the preseason. After the first game, things can always change.  This doesn’t happen often. I don’t care what sport it is. Anytime you are playing the team at the top, you are going to feel a certain way. Obviously, some things are going to happen out there for you. You just have to make sure that it’s controlled.”

On the difference between Kentucky’s team last year and this year…
“I think this team is different because of the experience of the guys they have returning. You would expect the Harrison twins, if they were possibly going (to the NBA), then it looks different because you have a new core of guys in there. When you have Willie Cauley-Stein, Dakari Johnson and Harrison twins returning, a lot of guys that people may have projected them to possibly not be there for two years, that added year of experience that those guys have and being around speaks volumes for how they’ve been able to play this year and get through a lot of things they have. Being a young team, they may have been tripped up earlier had it not been for the experience of those guys. The sophomores that they have this year that played a lot of valuable minutes for them last year.”

On the opportunity to play the number one team in the country…
“It is the No. 1 team in the country. It’s a great opportunity. It’s kind of a one shot deal. Again, you can’t schedule that. It just happens. Not every team has an opportunity to do that year-in and year-out. Some guys may go through a four-year college career and never have the opportunity. When it comes around, it’s a little bit different. The atmosphere and everything around you changes, that’s what you sign up for. It’s tough, you just want to make sure that it’s controlled and the mindset is right. You are going to have to get in the game. As the ball goes up and you start playing, you will play to it.”

On the defensive approach against Kentucky…
“We want to do what we’ve done all year and try to make teams take difficult shots. When they take those, we have to make sure that we can rebound the basketball and hopefully not give them second chance opportunities. The task could be tougher against them because of the size and strength that they have inside. It’s something that they rely on. They shoot it and try to go and get it and get put backs. We have to make sure we do a great job of that and be consistent with it throughout the night. That means that you have to block out because their guys are coming to the offensive glass. The other thing defensively is making sure that when we take shots, we have to do a great job of getting back defensively because they can rebound the basketball. Their guards don’t have a lot of responsibilities on that end of the floor. They have a tendency of leaking out. If they can throw the ball over the top and get some easy scoring opportunities, they will do that as well.”

On what the guards have to do to be successful against Kentucky…
“Our guards will have to do a great job tomorrow defending and containing the basketball and keeping their guys in front of them. That way our post guys can really stick to their assignments near the basket. That will help us tremendously. The least that they have to help, the better off we will be because if they can get you in a rotation and taking shots, that means you lost some of your blocking out angles and the people that you maybe attach to and give an opportunity to get in some rim running lines that we certainly have to try to guard against.”

On the fan support he expects for the Kentucky game…
“Our fans have done a tremendous job for us all year long, and tomorrow will be no different. We need them to continue to bring the energy that they have brought into this building the last several weeks. By energizing our guys, our guys will certainly reciprocate in making sure that we are doing the same for them out there.”

On how his team can offset Kentucky’s depth…
“Look forward to the timeouts that we can use as well as the TV and media timeouts. One thing we can’t do is sign and trade, and you can’t do anything right now. Your teams are set, and we can’t reinvent the wheel. We’ve got to really roll it out there. They are a tremendous team. It just like we are in the same situation as every other team in the country. There is no other team out there that is as loaded and has as many players as Kentucky has that are able to play at that level. You just have to go out and do what you have done all year. Hopefully, that is good enough for us. “

On his memories from last year’s Kentucky game…
“The biggest thing I remember was not expecting the type of crowd that we wound up getting because of the emergency that was surrounding it not wanting fans to come out and closing the roads. To come out that tunnel and see the number of students and the fans that made it out anyway with the energy that they really brought into the building. The start that we got off to in that game meant a lot. We were fortunate to lead from start to finish in that game that night. The energy our fans were able to provide throughout the game. Then after the game, the emotions that were felt especially because of the weather. I thought a lot of our fans were denied a great experience that evening, and it was unfortunate because of inclement weather. I thought our team did a great job of performance that night with everything that was surrounding us.”