PREVIEW: LSU vs. Ole Miss

LSU PF Johnny O'Bryant

There's a lot on the line Saturday afternoon in the PMAC as LSU and Ole Miss fight for SEC Tournament seeding and try to secure postseason appearances.

February 24, 2009

That's the last time the PMAC saw a men's basketball game as meaningful as the one that will be contested Saturday afternoon with Ole Miss (22-8, 11-6) in Baton Rouge.

Back in February 2009, Trent Johnson's first Tiger team held on to beat Florida, 81-75, that day in front of the home faithful to clinch a share of the conference regular-season title and move to 12-1 in league play.

On Saturday at 12:30 p.m. (SEC Network), Johnny Jones' first LSU team, 18-10 overall and 9-8 in the SEC, looks to do what seemed near-impossible as recently as seven weeks ago – reach double-digit wins in the conference.

Should the Tigers pull off the win over the Rebels, tied for second in the SEC, they would likely secure a seven seed in next week's SEC Tournament, putting them opposite Florida's bracket and earning an early-evening game on the first night, a comfortable start time compared to last season's tip times in New Orleans.

LSU would also all but guarantee itself a place in the N.I.T.

Andy Kennedy's Ole Miss team will be hunting for its 23rd overall win and a bye in the conference tourney as it tries to get back on track for the Big Dance following bad losses at South Carolina and Mississippi State in the last 17 days.

Here are the projected starting lineups for Saturday's contest.

LSU (18-10, 9-8)
G Anthony Hickey (So., 5-11, 178) – 11.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 3.9 apg, 3.2 spg
G Andre Stringer (Jr., 5-10, 182) – 10.1 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 2.1 apg, 39.9% 3s
G Charles Carmouche (Sr., 6-4, 187) – 10.9 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 3.6 apg, 1.9 spg
F Johnny O'Bryant (So., 6-9, 258) – 13.7 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 1.7 apg, 49.1% FGs
C Andrew Del Piero (Sr., 7-3, 254) – 4.4 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 1.1 bpg, 58.0% FGs

Key Rotational Players: G Malik Morgan (Fr., 6-4, 188; averages 5.5 ppg, 3.0 rpg and 1.4 apg) and F Shavon Coleman (Jr., 6-5, 195; averages 10.5 ppg, 6.3 rpg and 1.4 spg)

Ole Miss (22-8, 11-6)
G Marshall Henderson (Jr., 6-2, 175) – 19.6 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 1.7 apg, 1.3 spg
G Jarvis Summers (So., 6-3, 184) – 9.0 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 3.8 apg, 1.0 spg
G Nick Williams (Sr., 6-4, 212) – 8.4 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 1.6 apg, 38.3% FGs
F Murphy Holloway (Sr., 6-7, 240) – 14.6 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 1.5 spg, 54.8% FGs
F Reginald Buckner (Sr., 6-9, 235) – 9.4 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 2.8 bpg, 59.8% FGs

Key Rotational Players: G Ladarius White (So., 6-6, 210; averages 6.8 ppg, 2.6 rpg and 40.0% 3s) and G Derrick Millinghaus (Fr., 5-10, 170; averages 5.8 ppg, 1.4 rpg and 1.9 apg)

Ole Miss is just one of those teams that can be a bully when it's on top of its game.

The Rebels are fifth in the nation (first in the SEC) in scoring at 79.1 points per game and 21st in the NCAA (second in the SEC) in rebounding, pulling down 38.9 boards per game. They also block 5.4 shots per game, the second-highest average in the conference.

Individual numbers are there, too. Marshall Henderson is the league's leading scorer (19.6 ppg). Murphy Holloway is the leading rebounder (9.6 rpg). Reginald Buckner is second in blocks (2.8 bpg), and Jarvis Summers is fifth in assists (3.8 apg).

But, like most SEC teams, Ole Miss can struggle on the road in conference play, having dropped its last five contests away from Tad Smith Coliseum after starting off 3-0 in road SEC games. (By contrast the Rebs finished their home SEC slate with eight wins to only one defeat.)

So LSU does bring the advantage of a home crowd on Senior Day into Saturday's tilt. The Tigers will also benefit from bringing red-hot senior Charles Carmouche into the fray.

Carmouche has notched 20 points or more in four of the team's last five games while also taking the challenge of defending the opposition's best perimeter player. Against Hoddy Toddy, that would be Henderson, a player who gets his by volume, putting in just shy of 20 points a night, but doing so on 37.8% shooting from the field on a whopping 14.8 shot attempts per outing.

Here's what Jones had to say about defending Henderson, a JuCo transfer.

"I think just the intensity level has to be there all the time," explained Jones. "You just can't have any down time. We refer to playing every second, every play all the time. I think when you talk about guarding or defending someone like him, that's ideally the way that you have to play. He just has no limitations on what he will do or where he will do it from, so you have to really guard against that."

The Tigers will definitely have their hands full in the post, too, needing occasional run from Shavon Coleman and Jalen Courtney to help bolster the efforts of LSU's starting front line – Johnny O'Bryant and Andrew Del Piero – in defending and rebounding with the beefy Rebel duo of Holloway and Buckner.

"I think they're really good," said Jones of the Ole Miss big men. "I think they complement each other really well, because they're some of the guys that primarily set screens for (Marshall Henderson). When you come off of it, normally you try to hedge with your post guys and stop guys from catching it in their comfort zone. Anytime those guys get open you can throw that thing back in there to them, and they're very capable of finishing.

"They are physical inside, and they're very capable scorers in there. I think they're their second and third leading scorers, if I'm not mistaken. That puts a lot of pressure on you inside, and then knowing that you have an outside threat like that."

Both teams are playing for a lot in terms of the postseason, and in turn, for the first time in a while, there's a lot on the line Saturday in the PMAC.

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