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March 14, 2013On Tuesday, the Southeastern Conference basketball coaches named Georgia's Kentavious Caldwell-Pope as the league's Player of the Year.
That accomplishment was a pretty significant one. The Bulldogs didn't have a winning SEC record as they split their18 games. In fact, Georgia will enter the SEC tournament Thursday with a losing overall record at 15-16.
So, Caldwell-Pope was honored by the coaches as the best player in the league as a member of a team with a losing overall record.
If LSU is going to keep alive its chances of gaining a NIT berth, it must defeat Georgia in a second-round SEC tournament game at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. That statement means that the Tigers must control Caldwell-Pope.
Caldwell-Pope, a 6-foot-6 sophomore wing player, averaged 18 points and seven rebounds per game during the regular season. He shot 43 percent from the field, including 37 percent on 3-pointers, and 81 percent at the foul line. Caldwell-Pope also contributed two assists and two steals per game.
In LSU's one regular-season meeting with Georgia, it suffered a 67-58 loss at Athens. As would be expected, Caldwell-Pope was a factor with 22 points, five assists and six steals. He made seven of his 14 field goal attempts, including 2-of-6 on treys, and all six of his free throws.
Now, Caldwell-Pope did his damage against the Tigers with their defensive stopper on the sidelines. Charles Carmouche missed the Georgia game with a knee injury. Carmouche is ready to go for Thursday's game.
"(Caldwell-Pope) is an excellent player," Carmouche said. "He is a big part of their team and the success they have. I'm sure I'll start off on him. You have to stay disciplined against guys like that. You can't reach against him.
"He is real athletic and he can get to the basket. But, he can also take the jump shot. You have to have a hand in his face. You have to contain him and keep him in front of you. He can easily break you down."
Caldwell-Pope is the only Georgia player, who is averaging double-figure points. LSU coach Johnny Jones knows that Caldwell-Pope is the Bulldogs player who must be kept under control.
"Caldwell-Pope is a tremendous scorer," Jones said. "You have to keep him out of his comfort zone. We have to make adjustments from the first time to contain him.
"KCP is crafty. He is excellent with the basketball and he is a good passer. He is just a tough matchup. Having Carmouche this time will help us. We will be able to show him different looks which we didn't do the first time we played them."
Georgia finished tied with LSU for eighth place in the conference standings. The Bulldogs closed the regular season with victories against Tennessee and Kentucky in their final three games. Georgia's one loss in that stretch was the result of a half-court shot by Alabama's Trevor Releford.
Defense has not been a strength for the Tigers in the past three weeks. During each of its three losses, LSU allowed more than 80 points let the opponent make more than 50 percent of its field goal attempts. Both Missouri and Ole Miss had their way in the paint against the Tigers.
"We have to do a much better job slowing down guys in the post area," Jones said. "There have been some tough rebounding wars for us. The last few teams have exploited us down there."
Point guards have also had good offensive games recently against LSU. Tennessee's Jordan McRae had 20 points and eight assists. Missouri's Phil Pressey had 15 points and eight assists. Ole Miss' Jarvis Summers had 15 points and six assists.
Anthony Hickey leads the SEC with three steals per game. However, Hickey acknowledged that it may be time for him to play more conservatively on the defensive end. In those three losses, Hickey had a total of just five steals.
"I have been going for steals and that has been hurting me," Hickey said. "Coming off ball (screens), I have to get back to my man. I have to not gamble as much and play more solid defense."
Many of Hickey's steals have come on the press or in situations where he takes the ball from someone else's man.
"A lot of Hickey's steals come from the blind side or when he is in a help position," Jones said. "Anthony has to do a better job of containing the basketball. He gets out of position sometimes trying to make steals. Good teams make you pay."
LSU defeated Arkansas in the same 8-vs.-9 game last March at the New Orleans Arena. Then, the Tigers played competitively before losing to SEC champion Kentucky. If LSU defeats Georgia on Thursday, it must meet Florida, this year's regular-season champion, on Friday.