Will LSU catch No. 6 Tennessee at an opportune time and can the improved Tigers take down the Vols?

LSU Basketball vs Tennessee Preview & Scouting Report with former coach and radio analyst John Brady (Includes Full Audio Interview)

Will Baker led the Tigers in scoring with 16 points in LSU's 88-68 loss to No. 6 Tennessee. PHOTO By LSU Athletics

LSU is coming off one of its best performances of the season, a 95-74 win over a struggling Arkansas team, but now faces a difficult road test against No. 6 Tennessee.

The win against Arkansas saw LSU (12-9, 4-4 SEC) snap a three-game losing streak and score its most points in SEC play this season. LSU knocked down 12 three pointers in that game and has now made at least 10 three pointers in five straight games. LSU also finished the game with 17 assists on 29 made field goals.

LISTEN TO FORMER LSU COACH & CURRENT RADIO ANALYST ASSESS THE TIGERS CHANCES in KNOXVILLE TONIGHT

“In all areas they’ve improved,” former LSU basketball John Brady said about the team. “They’ve improved their rebounding. They take better care of the ball. I think they’re more efficient offensively and really one of the major improvements has been on the defensive end and their ability to rebound a little bit better. I just think this team has improved overall.”

The Tigers shot 54.7% from the field and 52.2% from three against Arkansas.

LSU star Jalen Cook started from the bench for the first time since his season debut against Texas but still put up one of his best performances of the season.

“I really think Jalen Cook is one of the top four or five guards in the league when he approaches the game the right way and doesn’t try to do too much,” Brady said.

Cook is tied with Jordan Wright as the team’s top scorer with both players averaging 15.5 points per game. Wright also leads the team in rebounds per game, assists per game and steals per game.

Senior forward Will Baker is also coming off one of his better performances of the season. He scored 25 points against the Razorbacks while shooting an efficient 81.8% from the field. Baker is averaging 11.7 points per game this season and shooting 52.4% from the field.

Trae Hannibal, the player who replaced Cook in the starting lineup, contributed on defense and recorded six rebounds to go along with scoring six points. He made both of his field goal attempts and played his most minutes of the season with 29.

“When you want to guard somebody and put some pressure on people, [Hannibal] is a great alternative,” Brady said. “Not a great scorer, but when you have Cook and Wright in the game you don’t really need another great scorer.”

Tennessee (16-5, 6-2 SEC) is coming off a big rivalry win over No. 17 Kentucky. Tennessee’s offense put up 103 points against the Wildcats thanks to a career-best performance from junior guard Zakai Zeigler. Zeigler tied his career-high in points with 26 and set a new career high in assists with 13. He also pitched in three steals on the defensive side of the court.

Tennessee has won its last two games against LSU and is giving up just 60.4 points per game this season when at home. LSU’s offense scores 77.5 points per game, good for 92nd in college basketball.

Tennessee is fifth in the SEC in scoring with 79.6 points per game and has scored 85 or more points in six of its last nine games.

“I think the scary thing about Tennessee is they have a good balance of inside and out play,” Brady said. “The reason they played as well against Kentucky is their perimeter really played well. They really shot the ball well from the three-point line. 

Dalton Knecht is the leading scorer for Tennessee averaging 19.9 points per game, the second most of any player in the SEC this season behind only Alabama’s Mark Sears. He’s currently averaging 29.6 points per game in his last seven games.

“[Knecht] could be the most valuable player in the Southeastern Conference next to Sears at Alabama,” Brady said. “Those two guys are having phenomenal years. Tennessee is going to be really good defensively, they’re going to execute offensively.

Maybe, just maybe, we may catch them at the right time having just played their best game of the year with a big win at Kentucky. Can they come down to earth and focus on the LSU team that they probably in the back of their mind think that they can beat?”

The game is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. from Thompson-Boling Arena.

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Will Nickel

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