He has been to Rupp Arena both as a player and an assistant coach at LSU, but now Johnny Jones will be making his first appearance in the arena as LSU’s head coach.
He called Kentucky “one of the most talented teams out there” and said he has a “great understanding” of what type challenge his team will face Saturday afternoon.
“I have spent a lot of years going there. It is one of the greatest college atmospheres out there. The fan support is second to none. They create an environment conducive to letting their team have a great deal of success there,” Jones said. “It has been tough for us lately in league play. We have not shot the ball particularly well and we’ve had a couple of really bad turnover games.”
However, LSU comes into the game off its first Southeastern Conference win after beating Texas A&M 58-54 on Wednesday behind 10 points and eight steals from Anthony Hickey, a former Kentucky Mr. Basketball from Christian County. (It was Texas A&M’s third straight loss after a win at Rupp Arena).
Hickey leads the country with 3.9 steals per game and has 22 steals in five league games. He also did not have a turnover in 35 minutes of play against Texas A&M.
The Tigers (10-6, 1-4 SEC) came up with a season-high 19 steals Wednesday, the fourth-highest total in school history. Many of the steals were the result of the full-court press that has become a staple in Jones' first season despite LSU’s lack of depth. The press enabled LSU¿to overcome an early 19-5 Texas A&M lead.
“One thing we have done well, and a bright spot for us, is that our press has continued to get better and create easy scoring opportunities,” Jones said.
Georgia coach Mark Fox said LSU¿had success with the press against his team, as well as limited success against Florida.
“It’s not like it caught us by surprise. We probably weren’t as organized as we would have like to have been. We had some poor passing and our young guys got rattled,” Fox said. “I think LSU’s speed and quickness are good. When they choose to do it (press), they are pretty good at. It’s hard to do for the whole game.
“I didn’t sense any fatigue on their part. I just think we were eventually able to become more stable in our attack against the press. I didn’t sense fatigue, but it is hard (to press) when you don’t have the depth to do that for extended periods of time. Few of us have great depth. But their team has great speed and quickness when they play certain lineups.”
South Carolina coach Frank Martin says LSU’s guards — Hickey, Andre Stringer and Charles Carmouche — can all cause problems.
“All three are a serious problem. They can all shoot it, drive it and pass it. All three makes plays on the defensive end. If you make a lazy dribble or pass, it puts two points on the board for LSU,” Martin said.
After leading LSU with three assists Wednesday, Carmouche has 17 in four SEC games and 58 overall to lead the Tigerss. Hickey was credited with two against the Aggies and has 16 in five games and 52 overall.
Junior college transfer Shavon Coleman leads the team in scoring (12.4 points per game) and is second in rebounding to center Johnny O’Bryant III, a former Kentucky recruit. Coleman had 17 points against A&M — his biggest scoring output since he had 18 points against Seton Hall 11 games ago.
O’Bryant made six of 10 shots against Texas A&M during a 14-point, 10-rebound performance, his second consecutive double-double and his fifth this season.
Jones likes the way his team is trying to do the things he wants.
“I am fortunate to have guys on the team that the style we play is good for. Hickey is good in the open floor and loves to push the basketball,”¿Jones said. “It suited Andre Stringer well and allowed him to play a little bit more in the open floor. I think playing an up tempo has really benefitted those guys.”
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ESPN’s “College GameDay” returns to Rupp Arena on Feb. 23 when Kentucky hosts Missouri in a 9 p.m. game. Tickets to attend the “College GameDay” telecast on the morning of that game will be available beginning at 6 p.m. Feb. 13 online at Ticketmaster.com and at Ticketmaster outlets.
GameDay tickets are free, and orders will have a minimal service fee attached. There is a limit of eight tickets per household.
Doors will open at 8 a.m., and the event begins at 9 a.m. Tickets to “College GameDay” are not valid for admission to the basketball game.