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Tigers tangle with Vols

The LSU men’s basketball team worked out at Thompson-Boling Arena Monday night going over the Tennessee scouting report in preparation for two improving teams to meet looking to improve their position in the Southeastern Conference race.

LSU hopes to continue run and keep post-season hopes alive

Tipoff is slated for just after 6 p.m. CT between the Tigers and the Volunteers with the game airing on ESPNU.

LSU is 15-8 on the year and 6-6, winners of the first two games of the Thursday-Saturday-Tuesday gauntlet the Tigers are trying to sweep. The Tigers are also winners of five of the last six and six of the last eight after starting 0-4 in the SEC.

Tennessee is 14-10 overall and also 6-6 overall and on a three-game win streak.

Venturing into Thompson-Boling arena is no easy task, but LSU head coach Johnny Jones feels the Tigers have had some good preparation for tonight’s battle.

“I think the good part that this team has had an opportunity to experience that at Rupp Arena (at Kentucky), a huge arena, and it was obviously filled there with a great atmosphere,” Jones said. “I think Thompson-Boling arena presents the same type of task there with the big open space. But I think it’s great that our guys have had an opportunity to play in that type of venue already.”

The Tiger and Vols are tied with George for seventh in the league entering the final three weeks of the regular season. After the UT game, LSU will return home for two consecutive home games against Alabama and Arkansas.

LSU is coming off wins at South Carolina, 64-46, last Thursday and then returned home Saturday for an 80-68 win over Mississippi State in which LSU had as much as a 20-point lead before the Tiger starters were removed.

Johnny O’Bryant had two double-doubles in the games, including a career high 30 points at South Carolina, to become the league leader in double-doubles with 11. O’Bryant flirted with a triple double against State as he had eight assists.

Jones credits O’Bryant’s success with coming of age and realizing how hard he needs to go every day.

“I think that’s what has happened the last few games, the success he’s had with the double-doubles and the high percentage that he’s had in the last few games, I think it’s because of just the mentality and understanding,” said Jones. “It’s a part of his growth. Credit goes to him that those lights have somewhat come on, and he’s been able to play that way.”

Speaking of assists, the Tiger offense has had good success recently in getting baskets off passes as in the last two games. LSU has had 40 assisted baskets out of 56 total baskets over that span, including 24 of 30 against Mississippi State.

Senior Charles Carmouche hit five treys in the State game, scoring 21 points as LSU topped 70 points for the 14th time this year.

LSU also had 12 three-pointers in the Mississippi State game which was the most this year and the fourth time the Tigers have had at least 10 treys in a game.

“One of the things we write on the board prior to coming out every night is H-I-T,” Jones said. “We play with the H-I-T philosophy. That means hard, intelligent and together. I think when guys understand it, we come out and play that way and playing together means a lot and implies a lot. We don’t try to come out and get things done individually.”

The Tigers are expected to keep the lineup they have settled into in the last few games with Anthony Hickey (11.7 ppg, nation’s leader in steal at 3.3 a game), Andre Stringer (10.7 ppg) and Malik Morgan (5.4 ppg) at guards, with O’Bryant III at forward (13.0 ppg) and Andre Del Piero (4.3 ppg) at center.

Tennessee is coming off a dominating 88-58 win over No. 25 Kentucky here on Saturday and also has defeated South Carolina and Vanderbilt on the road in their present win streak.

Three players – Trae Golden (11.0 ppg), Jordan McRae (13.8 ppg) and Jarnell Stokes (12.5 ppg) average in double figures. Stokes is right behind O’Bryant in double-doubles in the league with 10.

“He’s just a grown man,” Jones said of Stokes. “He’s very physical. He’s strong and probably about as physical and strong as a person that we’ve seen this year outside of probably (Patric) Young from Florida. He has great ability around the basket. I think he’s shooting around 50 percent from the field, and that’s a great number.

“He’s averaging about eight rebounds, so he’s a big load to really have to deal with. This guy is very mobile, extremely strong and has a great motor. He has a really good ability to play and play with a sense of urgency so it’ll be a great challenge for out post guys tomorrow night.”

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