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November 27, 2012

A step up in class for Tigers

The Seton Hall basketball team which visits the PMAC on Thursday night is unranked.

However, LSU will undoubtedly be facing a stronger opponent than what it faced in the previous four games. The Pirates have won five of their first six games with the one defeat coming in overtime against Washington. The Huskies are the only BCS conference team to have played Seton Hall this month.

"This week we get a challenge from a Big East team," said LSU coach Johnny Jones at his pre-practice press conference Tuesday afternoon. "They have size and they have depth. They can push the ball and attack the rim. We are looking at a team compatible to what we will look at in conference play."

The Tigers have knocked off their first four opponents, all from mid-major leagues or lower, by an average of 18 points. The only team to lose by less than double digits was Northwestern State, which dropped a 102-95 decision to LSU.

Seton Hall starts just one player taller than 6-foot-6 - Eugene Teague, who is averaging 13 points and nine rebounds per game. Teague, a junior, is 6-9. The Pirates do have three players, who are at least 6-9, who come off the bench.

The top performer for Seton Hall is 6-6 wing player Fuquan Edwin, who is averaging 20 points and six rebounds per game. Brian Oliver, a 6-6 transfer from Georgia Tech, starts in the post next to Teague.

"The key to handling Seton Hall's size is keeping them off balance," Jones said. "We have to do a great job of getting them off the block. We have to have good ball pressure on the passer. We need to make them take difficult shots.

"We have to use (Anthony) Hickey's speed. I like the way Andre (Stringer) is shooting the ball. I like the way our freshman wings, Shane (Hammink) and Malik (Morgan) have played."

Hammink, who made his first start last Saturday against Mississippi Valley State, will be back on the court for the opening tip Thursday. Hammink contributed 12 points and three assists in 25 minutes against the Delta Devils.

"We are going to utilize both Shane and Malik at the three (small forward)," Jones said. "We hadn't given Shane a start. We wanted to rotate these guys and see what happens. I thought Malik came off the bench and played well."

For the second time this season, Hickey was not in the starting lineup for disciplinary reasons. Hickey didn't start the opener against UC Santa Barbara after missing a class. He wasn't in the starting lineup against Mississippi Valley for a similar type of rule-breaking.

"He was just doing 'the Hickey,'" Jones said. "It's nothing bad. We are just trying to keep him on point. Anthony embraces what we are doing."

In the both of the two games Hickey didn't start, he played 28 minutes. He is averaging ten points, six assists and four steals. The one disappointing number is Hickey's four turnovers in each of the last two games. LSU had more than 20 turnovers in both of the last two games.

"The turnovers are a reason to be a concern for us," Jones said. "At least some of them are because guys being unselfish. We are making the extra pass and making a turnover. That's a positive."

Following the game against Seton Hall, LSU will have a 12-day break due to semester exams. The Tigers will conclude their season-opening six-game homestand on Dec. 11 against Chattanooga.

"The good thing about our schedule so far is that we have gotten through the games and made some mistakes," Jones said. "At the same time, we have finished the games up strong. We have had the ability to go look at tape and clean things up.

"There are a lot of areas we have to continue to work on. We have some young guys who are playing valuable minutes. The guys have done a tremendous job in doing what they have to do. I like the type of challenge a team like (Seton Hall) presents us. We have to play better than we have in our other games."



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