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February 14, 2014

Jones has no excuse for poor defense

Just two weeks ago, there was nothing but positive vibes surrounding the LSU basketball program.

The Tigers had won four of five games, including a victory against nationally-ranked Kentucky. LSU had a 5-3 Southeastern Conference record with its next three games against Georgia, Auburn and Texas A&M - none of which had a winning league mark at that time.

But, the Tigers lost two of those three games. With its next game against Arkansas at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville on Saturday afternoon, LSU is quickly reaching a point of desperation as regards its NCAA tournament hopes.

It is pretty simple as to why the Tigers are now just one game over .500 in the SEC with seven games remaining. First, there is a 1-4 record on the road in the SEC. Second, there is a defense which is last in the SEC in allowing points and allowing 3-point field goals in conference games.

LSU coach Johnny Jones knows his team's chances of building its body of work are dwindling.

"As each game passes, there is one less chance for us," Jones said. "We have another road game Saturday at Arkansas. We have to put the game at Texas A&M behind us. To get wins on the road you have to be really good. We're trying to get there."

Undoubtedly, poor defense is hindering the Tigers away from home. In road losses to Ole Miss, Alabama, Georgia and Texas A&M, LSU has allowed at least 82 points. The Tide, Bulldogs and Aggies are all averaging fewer than 70 points per SEC game. The Rebels are averaging 74 points.

"I thought we'd be better on defense because of our strength and quickness," Jones said. "There are no excuses for us not to be better on defense. We should be better because of the guys on the floor."

There does appear to be some poor defensive matchups on the wings. Nearly all of the time, the Tigers have either a 5-10 player (Andre Stringer) or a 6-10 player (Jarell Martin) at one of the wing spots. Their size leads to matchup problems.

Stringer has had his difficulties against taller guards from Tennessee and Missouri. Opposing wings can shoot over Stringer. Then, Martin is not quick enough to defend smaller wings. So, opposing small forwards drive past Martin and get into the lane.

With Malik Morgan out with a knee injury, Shavon Coleman is the lone wing with typical size. Jones believes this issue is not the only one.

"It is hard with certain matchups," Jones said. "But, it's not all one-on-one out there. Guys have to be comfortable that their teammates will be where there are supposed to be on the floor. Some of our guys wait for somebody else to do it.

"There is a combination of things, but we still have to be able to contain. We have to keep guys in front of us. Defense is one of those things we really have to improve continually. We have to keep guys in front of us."

Statistics show LSU's strengths on defense may result from gambling. The Tigers are No. 1 in blocked shots and No. 2 in steals in SEC games. LSU doesn't do the job when it comes to basic defense. Opposing SEC teams are shooting 43 percent from the field, including a league-worst 39 percent on treys.

"We are who we are," Jones said. "We play man sometimes. We implemented a zone to help with matchups and get certain people on the floor. There are not a whole lot of changes we can do now. We can improve our attitude and sense of urgency. That's an area we've got to work on."



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