Hickey-less LSU men face Chattanooga looking to stay unbeaten

Point guard Hickey’s suspension leaves void for Tigers

When the LSU men’s basketball team took the floor Nov. 13 without Johnny O’Bryant, junior-college transfer Shavon Coleman filled in for the injured big man and went for 25 points and 10 rebounds in a blowout of McNeese State.

Coach Johnny Jones hopes one of his players, or a collection of them, can provide a similar performance Tuesday when unbeaten LSU (5-0) faces Chattanooga (2-6) at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center looking to continue the program’s fastest start in four seasons.

Standout point guard Anthony Hickey was suspended from the team indefinitely Friday for what Jones called a violation of athletic department and university policies.

“They certainly love having their teammates around, but when somebody is not there, it’s definitely an opportunity for someone else to step up and do something special,” Jones said.

Jones said Hickey hasn’t practiced with the Tigers in recent days but is still enrolled at LSU and is still part of the basketball program. He said he may have more information regarding the sophomore’s status later this week.

In the meantime, freshman Corban Collins will serve as Hickey’s primary replacement, with junior shooting guard Andre Stringer — the starter at the point his freshman year — to see time there as well.

Collins started against UC Santa Barbara in the opener after Hickey was suspended for an exhibition game against Arkansas-Monticello. Collins also started at point guard against Mississippi Valley State when Hickey was disciplined for another off-court misstep.

Collins averages 2.2 points and 1.2 rebounds.

Stringer has come off the bench in all five games this season after making 54 starts as a freshman and sophomore. He averages 9.6 points and is one of the team’s top shooters but has experience as a point guard going back to his freshman year.

Jones used a football analogy to express how having Collins, 6-foot-3 and 192 pounds, at point guard could change the flavor of the offense.

Hickey triggered LSU’s up-tempo attack with his speedy ball-handling ability. Collins is known more for being physical.

“You look at a Michael Vick-style player who likes to run it and tuck it and go, that might be more Anthony Hickey’s style,” Jones said. “You look at a Peyton Manning and someone who likes to stay in the pocket and read the defense, that might be more Corbin Collins.”

Collins is originally from High Point, N.C., but played his final prep season at Massanutten Military Academy in Woodstock, Va.

He said he hasn’t let the suspension of Hickey affect his approach.

“I’ve basically had the same mindset, trying to work hard every day, get better and give it my all,” Collins said. “Listen to everything coach says and learn as I go.”

Tuesday marks the last home game for LSU before the Tigers hit the road Friday at Boise State to begin a challenging three-game road swing.

Chattanooga opened some eyes at Kansas last month, taking a 36-28 lead into halftime before the Jayhawks rallied for a 69-55 win. But the Mocs have had few highlights since then.

Saturday’s home loss to Eastern Kentucky was the fifth for Chattanooga in its past six games.

Now comes the trip to Baton Rouge and a second shot this season at knocking off a BCS-level opponent on its home floor.

Jones expects Chattanooga freshmen Gee McGhee and Casey Jones to have some extra juice Tuesday, given that both players hail from Louisiana and both are starters. McGhee starred for Redemptorist last year, and Jones, from New Orleans, for Higgins.

“I think anytime guys come back home, there’s a different energy level there. Guys come in and want to make sure they want to play well in front of their friends and family,” Johnny Jones said. “They will come in and try to make sure they play extremely well.”

McGhee averages 9.9 points per game, tied for second on the team.