LSU basketball’s Anthony Hickey and Johnny O’Bryant were sidelined for Friday night’s game against Houston Baptist, but coach Johnny Jones sounded optimistic the standout sophomores would be back in action for the Tigers after their seven-day break.
Without disclosing the nature of an injury O’Bryant suffered in a pre-Christmas loss at Marquette, Jones said X-rays on the injury were negative.
Jones did not play O’Bryant in the 75-58 victory over Houston Baptist after watching him attempt to practice Thursday and again Friday afternoon in LSU’s game-day workout.
“I didn’t think he was up to speed to go out there tonight and be effective,” Jones said after the game. “Even if we had a conference game or whatever, he wouldn’t have played tonight, because I didn’t think he was able to go at a high enough percentage to be effective defensively or offensively for us.”
Jones said O’Bryant likely wouldn’t practice with the team Friday, but he indicated the 6-foot-9 forward would probably play next Saturday against Bethune-Cookman at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
Hickey was held out Friday because of disciplinary action, marking the fifth time this season the point guard’s status with the Tigers was publicly affected by off-court issues.
Jones has taken Hickey out of uniform for three games (including an exhibition contest against Arkansas-Monticello) and limited his playing time in two others because of conduct not related to basketball.
But he allowed Hickey to practice with the team Friday and sit on the bench with his teammates for the game that night.
Jones said Hickey would practice with the team again Saturday.
“We’re hopeful we’ll have him back in uniform on Saturday,” Jones said. “He’s just got to stay the course. When he’s focused, I think he’s one of the better players on our team. We just got to make sure we can get him to where he’s a focused individual and can be a help for us.”
When the Tigers opened a three-game road swing at Boise State earlier this month, Andre Stringer had his worst performance of the season, connecting on one of 10 shots from the field and finishing with just five points.
Such performances may have affected the junior guard’s confidence in years past.
Stringer led LSU in scoring the following two games, scoring 19 points in a win at UC Irvine and finishing with 20 in a narrow loss at Marquette. He took 14 shots against Irvine and 12 more against Marquette.
“In a couple of games at the start of the year, I wasn’t shooting like I am now, but I stayed confident because I put the time in in the gym and after practice,” Stringer said. “Shots go down for me, and I like to see them go in. I think that’s what keeps me confident.”
In the victory over Houston Baptist, Stringer was 5-of-8 for 11 points in the first half, helping LSU build a 36-25 lead.
Although he did not score (and attempted only two shots) in the second half, his 11 points matched Jalen Courtney and Shavon Coleman for the team high.
It marked the fourth time in five December games Stringer either led the team in scoring or matched its the high-point total.
O’Bryant and Hickey weren’t the only Tigers who watched Friday’s game in warmup gear.
Also on the bench was John Odo, a 6-10 junior-college transfer who arrived on campus the day after Christmas and began practicing with LSU late last week. He won’t be able to suit up for the Tigers until next fall, but Jones believes Odo will have an impact on the team regardless.
Odo will enroll at LSU next month and continue practicing with the Tigers for the remainder of the season.
“When you add someone like John Odo, it’s going to really help us,” Jones said. “I think it’s going to help Johnny get better. At the same time, Andrew (Del Piero) and all of them will get better because of his presence out there on the floor and what he’s capable of doing.”
Odo signed with LSU in the fall as part of the 2014 recruiting class.
A starter for LSU the first four games of the season, senior forward Eddie Ludwig had gone six straight games without seeing double-digit minutes.
He played 22 minutes against Houston Baptist, scoring a season-high nine points to go with four rebounds.
Jones said Ludwig, the only player on the roster who has been in the program four seasons, has done a good job of being patient and waiting for his turn to come.
“I think all those guys would like to play more, but I think Eddie has done an exceptional job of coming to practice every day, working hard and continuing to get better,” Jones said. “By the end of the season, I think some great things are going to happen for him and to us.”
The Tigers blocked 13 shots Friday night, the first time LSU has finished with double-digit blocks since blocking 12 shots Feb. 4 against Arkansas.
Del Piero and Coleman each had four blocks to lead the way.
The Tigers came only two blocks shy of reaching 15 in a game for the first time since the 2008-09 season.
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