LSU vs. Auburn Preview
Tigers open SEC play on road
By CODY WORSHAM
Tiger Rag Editor
Frankie Sullivan is Auburn’s go-to scorer and one of the best guards in the SEC. Photo courtesy of Auburn Sports Information.
Johnny Jones, to quote him, “wasn’t sure.”
Taking the head coaching gig at LSU was never in question, but Jones didn’t know how good the 2012-13 Tigers could be, suffering the losses of one head coach, two starters, and three seniors.
But as the Tigers get set to start SEC play after racking up nine wins in the preconference schedule, Jones is surely impressed with his team’s early run.
“I’ve been impressed and pleasantly surprised by the transition that they were able to make and picking everything up so quickly,” Jones said.
Everything changes with the start of conference play, however, a truth Jones is well-aware of. The Tigers (9-2) open an 18-game conference slate on Wednesday against a hot Auburn team with better talent than its 6-7 record indicates. Tony Barbee’s men pushed No. 12 Illinois to the wire on the road, before beating Florida State 78-72 at home Jan. 2.
“It is really difficult to look at records and wonder how good a team we will play on Wednesday or when conference play starts,” Jones said. “But if it is any indicator of what they have done the last two games, it is impressive.”
Here’s what you need to know ahead of Wednesday’s contest.
- LSU (9-2) @ Auburn (6-7)
- Auburn, Ala. (Auburn Arena), 8 p.m.
- TV: CSS/Cox Sports Television
- Internet: ESPN3.com, GeauxZone.com
- Radio: Eagle 98.1
LSU SCOUTING REPORT
- Record 9-2
- Ranking N/A
- Last Game W, 79-63, vs. Bethune Cookman, 1/5/13
- Head Coach Johnny Jones
- Career Record 214-164 (13th season)
- LSU Record 9-2 (1st season)
- vs. AU: 0-1 (at North Texas)
G 10 Andre Stringer (Jr., 5-10, 178, Jackson, Miss.) 11.7 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 2.3 apg
- Stringer has hit for double figures in three of the last four games, including on the road with 19 at UCI (12/18) and 20 points at MU (12/22) … Had six treys at Marquette, first time since 2009 for an LSU player … Team best 27 treys, 42.2 percent (27-64) … First two years shot just 30.4% from arc … 13 treys shy of career top 10 in 3s made at LSU.
G 0 Charles Carmouche (Sr-Grad., 6-4, New Orleans) 9.8 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 3.7 rpg
- Carmouche gives LSU experience factor … First double figure assist gm (10) since Garrett Temple (2008) … 15 pts-10 assists vs. Marquette … Vs. Bethune-Cookman, 17 points on 6-10 shooting … Bright spot at free throw line, making 34-of-45 (75.6%)…Came to LSU under NCAA grad-transfer rules … 2 yrs at UNO, 1 yr at Memphis, received medical RS in 2012.
G 4 Corban Collins (Fr, 6-3, High Point, N.C.) 4.8 ppg, 1.7 rpg
- Returned to the starting lineup for the last four games … Scored 30 points combined vs. UTC (12/11) and at Boise (12/14), including five treys in a 19-point, 19-minute effort at Boise.
F 5 Shavon Coleman (Jr., 6-5, Thibodaux, La) 14.1 ppg, 8.6 rpg
- Moved into the starting lineup when JOB III has been injured, but has been a dominant player for LSU off the bench as well … Coleman has back-to-back double-doubles (11 pts-13 rebs. vs. HBU, 12/28; 14 pts-12 reb vs. BC, 1/5) …50.4% from field … 8-8 from line vs. BC (1/5) … 5 double doubles … Two games scoring over 20 points.
C 55 Andrew Del Piero (Sr, 7-3, 254, Austin, Texas) 5.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 1.7 bpg
- A great story as the former walk-on tuba player with LSU Golden Band From Tigerland turned scholarship player has started last seven games … Career high pts vs. BC-10 (1/5) … 24-37 (64.9%) from field … Top 10 in SEC in block average.
PG 1 Anthony Hickey
- Hickey returned to action after a game off against Bethune Cookman (1/5) and played 28 minutes, making 6-of-11 field goals with two treys as part of a 14-point, 3 assist and 4 steal night for the Tigers … He has played in nine games, starting three with a 10.7 points per game average, 4.0 assists per game and the league and nation’s best average of 3.6 steals a game …Hickey has had four steals or more four times in the season … He had two strong games on the road trip in December — 10 points, 2 assists, no turnovers and two steals at UCI (11/18) … Off the bench at Marquette (12/22), he played 32 minutes and had 18 points and 3 assists.
2 F Johnny O’Bryant III
- O’Bryant III returned to practice this past Friday and played five minutes against Bethune Cookman to help knock some of the rust off after being out since the end of the Dec. 22 Marquette game. He is expected to dress for the Auburn game. Highlighting O’Bryant III’s sophomore campaign has been his run of three consecutive double doubles: Mississippi Valley (11/24) – 11 points, 10 rebounds; Seton Hall (11/29) – 13 points, 11 rebounds; UTC (12/11) – 18 points, 10 rebounds; O’Bryant III is averaging 12.0 points and 7.6 rebounds and is tied for 6th in the league in rebound average … He is sixth in field goal percentage at 50 percent (46-of-92).
AUBURN SCOUTING REPORT
- Record: 6-7
- Ranking: N/A
- Last Game: W, 78-72, at Florida State, 1/2/13
- Head Coach: Tony Barbee
- Career Record: 114-95 (7th season)
- AU Record: 32-43 (3rd season)
- vs. LSU: 2-2
F 2 Allen Payne, 6-6, 215 Jr. 7.9 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 1.5 spg (13.5 ppg, 8.5 rpg last 2 gms)
C 41 Rob Chubb, 6-10, 250 Sr. 9.4 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 1.0 bpg (10.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg last 2 gms)
G 5 Shaquille Johnson, 6-5, 210 Fr. 4.3 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 1.3 apg (8 pts, 2 reb vs. Florida State)
G 11 Josh Wallace, 5-10, 170 Sr. 3.2 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 3.2 apg, (7.0ppg, 5.0apg, 4.0rpg, 3.0spg last 2 gms)
G 23 Frankie Sullivan, 6-1, 206 Sr. 17.8 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 3.4 apg, (2nd in SEC ppg; 8 20+ point gms)
F/C 0 Asauhn Dixon-Tatum, 7-0, 230 Jr. 4.4 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 1.3 bpg (8 rebs vs. FSU)
F 32 Noel Johnson, 6-6, 205 Sr. 6.5 ppg, 2.9 rpg, (SEC-hi 49% 3s [18-34] last 8 gms)
Star Player: Frankie Sullivan
As Sullivan goes, so goes Auburn. No single player in the SEC is as important to his team’s offensive success as Sullivan. Nearly 30 percent of Auburn’s possessions when he’s on the floor end in a Sullivan shot or turnover, and another 30 percent end in a Sullivan assist. And he rarely leaves the floor. Last year, Sullivan torched LSU for 20.5 ppg in two contests, including a nice 48 percent from the floor. He’s not a high percentage shooter from behind the arc at just 29 percent, but he shoots nearly seven a game.
X-Factor: Rob Chubb
LSU shuts down Auburn by shutting down Sullivan, but Chubb could give the Tigers problems inside. Last year, the senior center had his only double-double of the season in an overtime loss at LSU, bringing down 12 boards to go with 15 points. LSU’s lack of size without a fully-healthy Johnny O’Bryant could spell more success for Chubb.
Experience: Auburn’s lineup is full of juniors and seniors, making them the second-most experienced team in the conference behind Florida. Said Johnny Jones: “Defensively, they are going to have their rotations down late in ball games. They are going to have the ability to execute because they have been there before. Playing them at home will be somewhat of an advantage to them along with being an experienced basketball team. Those guys understand, they know and you know what you are going to get from them a day in and day out. It is not a learning experience for the coach.”
Rebounding: Auburn grabs a ton of offensive rebounds, and they don’t allow opponents to do the same. Chubb and Payne are as good as anyone in the SEC at creating second chance opportunities, and Shaquille Johnson leads all SEC guards in offensive rebounding percentage. Meanwhile, LSU ranks 10th in the SEC in percentage of offensive rebounds allowed. A shooter-in-mass like Sullivan thrives on second chances and kickouts, something LSU can’t allow on the road.
Forcing Turnovers: Auburn ends exactly 25 percent of defensive possession with a block or a steal. Chubb is a presence near the rim, while Wallace ranks sixth (behind Anthony Hickey, Charles Carmouche, and Malik Morgan) in the SEC in steal percentage. For a team that’s as streaky offensively as Auburn, steals and blocks that lead to easy buckets are like manna.
Committing Turnovers: Auburn ranks 10th in the conference in turnover percentage (one spot ahead of LSU). Considering how many turnovers Johnny Jones’ team has forced this season — LSU is third in the SEC in percentage of turnovers forced — the visitors can really spark their fast-break offense by creating steals in the half court. Point guard Wallace is among the most turnover prone players in the conference, giving the ball away on over a quarter of Auburn’s possessions. National steal leader Anthony Hickey must be drooling over the matchup.
Health/Depth: Auburn’s had a bad injury bug of late. Guards Jordan Price — who hit 11 straight threes at one point this season — and Chris Denson, the team’s second leading scorer, are both out for a few weeks with stress fractures. If anyone of Auburn’s starters get in foul trouble, there’s little depth on the bench. Noel Johnson is a fantastic shooter, and Dixon-Tatum is a big body, but for perhaps the only time in conference play this season, LSU might have a depth advantage.
LSU will look to push the pace, while Auburn would prefer a half-court game. Whichever team takes care of the ball best — neither has been particularly careful with the ball all season, and both are excellent at creating turnovers — will hold the advantage. Because of LSU’s advantage at point guard on both ends of the floor, as Hickey is both a better defender and creator than Wallace, and because LSU can rely on scoring from more than just a single source, the Bayou Bengals will come away with a tight win in the first SEC game of the Johnny Jones era. Sullivan will struggle, Chubb will play well, but double-figure efforts from Coleman, Stringer, and Hickey will tilt the scales in LSU’s favor.
Score: LSU 71, Auburn 68