LSU Gold

Tiger Basketball Opens SEC Tournament Thursday At Noon

Listen Live SEC Network Live Stats Bracket +0
Tiger Basketball Opens SEC Tournament Thursday At Noon

NASHVILLE, Tennessee – The LSU basketball team, winners of five-of-its-last-seven games to close out the regular season, looks to get off to a good start in the Southeastern Conference Tournament when it faces Mississippi State in the opening game of the second round Thursday at noon here at Bridgestone Arena.

The 8-9 seed game between LSU and Mississippi State will tip off shortly after noon and will be broadcast on the affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network with the “Voice” of the Tigers Chris Blair and former LSU coach John Brady (Guaranty Media flagship in Baton Rouge, Eagle 98.1 FM). Karl Ravech, Jimmy Dykes and Marty Smith will have the over-the-air television coverage on the SEC Network.

LSU is 17-14 and 9-9 on the season with wins over three ranked teams (Ole Miss, South Carolina and Kentucky), three one-point wins, a 5-5 record in games of four points or fewer, and a +7 increase in league wins from one season to the next (tied for second among Power 6 teams).

The Tigers can still move forward and solidify their changes at a post season tournament bid with a win against the Bulldogs. LSU is guaranteed a winning record for the season and has made significant progress since Coach Matt McMahon was hired two years ago with no basketball staff or players in place.

One of those two losses in the last seven games was against Mississippi State, 87-67, at a point in the season directly following the wins at South Carolina and Kentucky.

“We talked about it after that heartbreaking loss at Florida that dropped us to 4-7 in the league. We had lost three one-possession games in a row in league play. Great credit to our players, they just kept coming to practice to get better, improve and find ways to win and figure it out,” said Coach McMahon. “We were able to start getting it done in the last minute of those games. We had three straight one-point victories and finished the year 5-2 to get back to .500 in the league. So, I hope our players have great confidence going into the tournament. We also know we are playing a team that basically just destroyed us in our own building three weeks ago. So, we know we have to play a lot better if we want to win on Thursday.”

In the first meeting with State, Trae Hannibal scored 22 points with Jordan Wright scoring 14. LSU shot just 41.4 percent from the field (24-of-58) with 3-of-17 from distance and 16-of-22 at the line. State made 30-of-65 field goals, 10-of-21 from three-point range and 17-of-22 at the line. LSU had 15 turnovers and just four assists, the fewest for the Tigers since the SEC semifinal in 2016.

All-SEC selections Josh Hubbard and Tolu Smith lead the Bulldogs in scoring with Hubbard making 98 three-pointers (36.7%) and averaging 16.8 points a game. Smith averages 16.3 points and 8.2 rebounds a game.

“Really excited about the start of the SEC Tournament,” said Coach McMahon. “We know we are playing a really good Mississippi State team on Thursday. They present a lot of problems on the offensive end of the floor. (Josh) Hubbard is playing as well as any guard in the country, averaging 29 ppg and making almost six threes per game over the last five games. Tolu Smith has been fantastic in their frontcourt. Then defensively, I think they are terrific. Very physical, really bothered us in the first matchup. Cameron Matthews is a versatile problem for opponents with his ability to guard multiple positions and his physicality. We’re excited about the opportunity. We also know we’ll have to play really well on Thursday and have a much better performance than we did in the first matchup against Mississippi State.”

For the Tigers, Wright leads the team at 15.1 points a game with Will Baker at 11.4 points. Tyrell Ward is averaging 9.2 points a game with Wright and Baker averaging a team best 5.0 rebounds a contest. In the last five games, Wright has averaged 16.0 points, Trae Hannibal 12.6 and 4.7 assists to go with a team best 6.8 rebounds a game. Ward has made 10 treys in those five games, averaging 11.6 points a game.

After arriving late Tuesday afternoon, the team practiced for 40 minutes Wednesday (as did all the teams that don’t play until Thursday) at Bridgestone Arena in downtown Nashville, mainly going through shooting drills and getting used to the atmosphere in the arena. The team then went to Trevecca Nazarene University and had their normal pregame/scouting practice for another 50 minutes at the Trojan Fieldhouse.

The winner of the 8-9 game Thursday between LSU and Mississippi State will face No. 1 seed Tennessee on Friday in the quarterfinals.