When the LSU men’s basketball team faces UC Irvine on Tuesday to continue its pre-Christmas road swing, the Tigers will find themselves coming off a loss for the first time during the young Johnny Jones era.
Jones said his team just needs to rebound.
Rebound from the setback? Of course.
But Jones will pay closer attention to how the Tigers hit the glass and secure missed shots.
“We have to make sure we’re warriors on the boards,” he said.
LSU entered Friday’s game at Boise State having outrebounded five straight opponents since being clipped by UC Santa Barbara on the glass 41-40 in the season opener. The Tigers rank 20th nationally in rebounds at 41.7 per game, but Boise State pounded LSU underneath, securing a 44-27 edge on the boards en route to an 89-70 victory.
Now the Tigers (6-1) face a UC Irvine (5-6) outfit that averages 44.5 rebounds, which ranks fifth nationally.
“This will be a good game for us to see if we’ve gotten better in that area,” Jones said.
Adam Folker, a 6-foot-9 center, and Will Davis II, a 6-8 forward, both average more than six rebounds, but UC Irvine’s success on the glass is mainly a team-wide initiative, with three more Anteaters averaging more than four. That will make it all the more important for LSU big man Johnny O’Bryant to stay out of foul trouble.
O’Bryant played only 22 minutes against Boise State before fouling out with 8:58 to play. He finished with 15 points and five rebounds, snapping the sophomore’s streak of three straight games with a double-double.
“We were disappointed in the type of fouls he picked up. It was unfortunate, but I think he’s done a good job of playing good, solid defense,” Jones said. “The fouls he picked up were on the offensive end, mostly away from the ball. Just some cheap things that happened.”
Jones said he likely will reward freshman point guard Corban Collins, who came off the bench Friday to score a team-high 19 points, with his third start. Andre Stringer started the past two games at point as sophomore Anthony Hickey was punished for disciplinary issues.
Hickey played 13 second-half minutes Friday after being suspended for the game against Chattanooga last week. Jones said Hickey will play Tuesday, but he will continue to come off the bench.
“If he continues to make strides, he could be back in (a starting) role soon enough,” Jones said.
“We’ve got to reward the guys who have done what they’re supposed to be doing on a daily basis.”
The Tigers, who left town Thursday for the first two legs of their three-game road swing, will return to campus Wednesday before hitting the road again to face Marquette on Saturday afternoon.