The LSU men's basketball team has one of the toughest stretches of games in a condensed time period in many years beginning Thursday night against South Carolina.
LSU needs a big night from Anthony Hickey
The Tigers must play three games in six days - including two on the road - starting at c p.m. CT at the Colonial Life Arena against the Gamecocks with ESPN2 carrying the broadcast.
That will be followed by a 4 p.m. game Saturday at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center against Mississippi State and a road game next Tuesday at Tennessee.
LSU is 13-8 and 4-6 in the league, while South Carolina is 12-11 and 2-8, with one of those wins an 82-73 overtime win in January over the Tigers at the Maravich Center.
In LSU's final eight games, the Tigers will play the five teams on the schedule that are home-and-home contests. LSU was 3-2 the first time with those teams.
Coach Johnny Jones’ first concern, however, is the three contests and how to keep his team fresh for the run of games.
"I think you have to be smart about practice," said Jones. "... Play the game and then get back in here on Friday. Same thing, it will be more about scouting report at that time, then a practice because you've got an early turn around and play at about four o'clock on Saturday. Generally, we're off on Sundays, but we'll have to come back this Sunday. Because of the two games, it will be more about film and attention to detail, getting better.
“We have to sharpen that on Sunday and the same on Monday because it's a quick turnaround. You're definitely going to need their bodies, legs and all those things for those three days, and turning around and playing that game on Tuesday as well. I try to tell them what you usually get done (Tuesday) and (Wednesday) will dictate how you feel about going into those games and winning them, because those next few days is just about attention to detail."
In the first meeting with South Carolina on Jan. 16, LSU lost a four-point lead in the final two minutes as the Gamecocks forced overtime and then made 9-of-10 free throws in the extra period to win, 82-73. Anthony Hickey had 18 points with four treys, seven rebounds and four assists, while Charles Carmouche added 13 points with five assists.
Michael Carrera, off the bench, led USC with 23 points and 10 rebounds and Brenton William added 16 points. Both were 9-of-10 from the free throw line. Lakeem Jackson had 11 points and 11 rebounds, and as a team, South Carolina made 28-of-37 free throws.
"Competing or executing at a high level and making big-time plays at the end, in those last two minutes of the game, I think is huge," Jones said. "Not just offensively, but defensively. We lost some games because we gave up some tough rebounds, we were out rebounded, or out toughed at times and gave up some tough offensive rebounds on the other end of the floor allowing teams to keep alive an additional possession.
“South Carolina was one of those. I thought late in the game we had a chance to get some big rebounds. We didn't, and they got put backs or fouls stopping the clock. I think that's how they got back in the game after we were up about four with two minutes to play, instead of closing them out."