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Tigers Look to Find Identity in Charleston Classic; vs. Dayton Thursday

by Kent Lowe
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Tigers Look to Find Identity in Charleston Classic; vs. Dayton Thursday

CHARLESTON, South Carolina – The LSU men’s basketball team looks to determine its identity and move forward as it plays three games in the next four days here in the annual Shriners Children’s Charleston Classic at the downtown TD Arena.

LSU faces Dayton at 4 p.m. ET (3 p.m. Baton Rouge time) in the second of four games scheduled for Thursday. The game will be broadcast on the affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network with Colin Lacy (sitting in for Chris Blair) joining Coach John Brady for the broadcast (Guaranty Media flagship in Baton Rouge Eagle 98.1 FM). ESPN2 will televise the game with Chuckie Kempf and former Tulane coach Perry Clark on the call.

Both teams are 1-1 on the young season after suffering defeats at the end of the week — the Tigers to Nicholls and Dayton on the road at Northwestern. For the Tigers, Coach Matt McMahon hopes what he has seen with his team in practice will carry over to the start of Thursday’s tournament game.

“I think the leadership (of our older players) has really set the tone for how we need to move forward as a team,” Coach McMahon said after a film session on Thursday. “I want to see that obviously carry over to the game floor, but I think they have done a terrific job of responding and I look forward to that continuing as we go into the opener (Thursday).”

Nicholls, in the 68-66 win on Friday, hit 9-of-17 three-point field goals in the opening 20 minutes as LSU failed to match the intensity level of Colonels in the opening 20 minutes before rallying from 24 down to take a lead into the final minutes. LSU did not shoot well overall in the game, making just 39.3 percent of their field goals (22-56) and just 3-of-19 from distance.

Dayton, the favorite in the Atlantic 10, is coached by Anthony Grant, who spent six years as the head coach at Alabama. Da Ron Holmes led Dayton in the 71-66 loss at Northwestern with 17 points and six assists while Koby Brea scored 15 points (4 treys) with Javon Bennett adding 12 points and five assists.

The Flyers made 21-of-39 field goal attempts, including 12-of-23 from distance.

“Dayton is a really good team, a terrific defensive team. They run a lot of different actions on the offensive end, so there is a lot to prepare for there,” said Coach McMahon. “The major focus for us is when that ball gets tossed up at 4 p.m. eastern (Thursday) what is our mind set? Do we have a laser focus on doing the things we need to do — to play with relentless effort and energy to give ourselves an opportunity to win and that has to be the foundation of what we are about?”

The winner/loser of Thursday’s game will play one of the other two teams in this half of the tournament bracket in Friday’s second day action. St John’s and North Texas meet in the first game on Thursday at 1:30 p.m. ET.

The losers will meet at 11:30 a.m. ET (10:30 a.m. BR time) and the winners will play at 2 p.m. ET (1 p.m. BR time).

The evening session on Thursday will have Houston and Towson meeting followed by Wake Forest and Utah. LSU would face one of those four teams in Sunday’s final game in Charleston.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity to respond the right way to a disappointing event,” said Coach McMahon of the opportunity for three games in four days. “We’ll play great teams in this field. When we go into these really good tournaments our focus has to be on No. 1 getting better as a team and No. 2 going 1-0 on Thursday at 4 p.m. After that game, then we will reset the table and start our preparation for the next one.”

It is expected the Tigers will keep the same starting lineup of freshman Mike Williams III, junior Carlos Stewart and graduate Jordan Wright at the guards with sophomore Jalen Reed and graduate Will Baker at forwards. Reed scored an LSU personal high of 14 points in the game against Nicholls on Friday and is averaging 11.0 points and 7.0 rebounds a game.

Will Baker is averaging 15.5 points after his 29-point effort in the opener against Mississippi Valley, while Jordan Wright is averaging 11.5 points in the first two contests.

The Tigers practiced for close to two hours on Wednesday morning at TD Arena, the first half in the College of Charleston’s practice gym and the second half on the arena floor.

This will be LSU’s second appearance at the Charleston Classic in the 5,100-seat venue, having appeared in the 2011 version. LSU went 2-1 in that tournament, losing to Northwestern, before scoring wins over Western Kentucky and Georgia Tech.