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December 19, 2013

Tigers must improve the process

LSU survived its trip to Texas Tech on Wednesday night.

The Tigers failed to score on their final five possessions and watched almost all of a nine-point lead disappear. LSU needed two defensive stops to hold on for a 71-69 victory against the Red Raiders.

Tigers coach Johnny Jones was satisfied with the result, but not the process in his team's latest game.

"Wednesday was a fitting game for us," said Jones at his pre-practice press conference Thursday afternoon. "Getting back on the road on the opponent's home floor, I knew it would be like (Southeastern) conference play. That held true.

"We had a tremendous start and then got in foul trouble. We had to use a different rotation and the guys off the bench did a good job. We played well in stretches in the second half. We have two big defensive stops at the end of the game. We made enough baskets to get out of there with a victory."

Jones was not fooled though by the final score. The Tigers were outrebounded 28-27 and had more turnovers (18) than assists (15). LSU committed too may fouls (27). Then, there were those empty possessions during the game's final three minutes.

"We were trying to shorten the game at the end," Jones said. "There were not going to be too many more opportunities for Texas Tech which wasn't shooting well.

"We wanted to get the shot clock down. Our problem was that we didn't execute plays late in the shot clock. So what happened is that we missed those shots. Then, we didn't get back and balance the floor after the turnovers we had. Texas Tech came down and made shots."

Anthony Hickey had a team-high 16 points with four assists and no turnovers. But, he was unable to get the job done as a point guard down the stretch. Hickey had the ball in his hands when the shot clock ran out on his air ball on the last possession.

"That last possession was my fault," Hickey said. "I made the right play driving to the goal. But, I lost focus with the shot clock and I couldn't make the shot. That was a learning point for me. We have to stay aggressive at the end of the game. We were too busy running out the clock."

Texas Tech stayed in the game on the strength of its work at the foul line. The Red Raiders made 31 of 39 foul shots while connecting on just 16 field goal attempts. Six Tigers players had either three or four fouls at the end of the game.

"We have to do a better job moving our feet," Jones said. "We want to make teams play over us. Jordan Mickey has been blocking a lot of shots, but he got in foul trouble. Their guards were allowed to penetrate deep and get into his body. We must do a better job on the perimeter containing the ball."

Turnovers continue to be a problem. LSU is averaging more than 16 turnovers per game. Jones has stated on more than one occasion he would like the turnover number to be about 12 each game. Almost half of the Tigers' 147 turnovers have been committed by Johnny O'Bryant (37) and Mickey (24).

"We have to try to eliminate turnovers especially in key moments," Hickey said. "We have to settle down as a team. I have to be the quarterback. I must sacrifice for the team. I have been a scoring guard all my life. Now, I am a run-the-show guard."

LSU has not rebounded the ball well in the past three games. The Tigers were outrebounded by 12 in their overtime victory against Butler. Then, LSU had just a two-rebound advantage against Louisiana-Monroe.

UAB, the Tigers' opponent at the PMAC on Saturday afternoon, grabs more rebounds per game than any team in the country. The Blazers are outrebounding their opponents by 13 boards per game. Four UAB players are grabbing at least 6.7 rebounds per game.

"UAB is tenacious on the boards," Jones said. "They try to get every ball and keep the ball live. We have to block out more than crash the boards. We can't allow them to have lanes to the basket.

"We have to be more committed in rebounding. We didn't do a good job rebounding (Wednesday) night. We don't want to give up too many second-chance shots to this group."

UAB, which has won nine of 11 games, has no player in its six-man rotation shorter than 6-foor-4. The Blazers' leading scorer is 6-4 point guard Chad Frazier, who is averaging 19 points per game.

The Blazers have victories against three BCS conference teams - Rutgers, Nebraska and North Carolina. UAB defeated North Carolina in Chapel Hill. The Blazers were beaten by New Mexico and Temple.


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