In the little time the LSU men’s basketball team had following Thursday night’s disappointing home loss to Auburn, the Tigers had a lot to think about.
None of it was more important than the word “edge,” which coach Johnny Jones mentioned several times in his postgame news conference after the 81-77 setback to Auburn in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
An Auburn team that had lost four Southeastern Conference games in a row played with an edge and applied pressure all night, handing Jones’ team a crucial loss that kept the Tigers from climbing into a second-place tie in the standings at the halfway point of the league schedule.
Getting the edge back was a major focus for LSU (16-6, 5-4) when it returned to practice Friday to prepare for a quick turnaround — a 5 p.m. Saturday matchup with Alabama (14-8, 4-5) in the PMAC.
Jones strongly indicated Thursday that lineup and/or rotation changes could be coming, but they will remain under wraps until game-time against Alabama because the Tigers hadn’t practiced yet when he met with reporters Friday.
“We’ll have an opportunity to look into that today at practice,” Jones said, “and find out exactly what we need to get off to a better start in our games.”
Playing with an edge, especially on its home floor, would be a good starting point after an Auburn team desperate for a win outplayed LSU.
It was the first time LSU, which lost at Mississippi State last Saturday, had dropped back-to-back games this year.
Making sure they don’t lose three in a row is critical as the Tigers enter the final nine-game stretch of the regular season, starting with the game against the Crimson Tide.
“Our job is not necessarily to try to match other people’s intensity level; it’s really to try to exceed it,” Jones said. “When you don’t, some bad things can happen for you. The team we play on Saturday, they will come out with a certain level that you have to either maximize or exceed. If you are not prepared or ready for that, it’ll be a long night for you.”
Possible changes could have reserve guards Tim Quarterman and Jalyn Patterson starting or perhaps getting more minutes earlier, although Jones seemed comfortable bringing Quarterman off the bench.
“We are probably going to have to put our energy and worries elsewhere,” Jones said of Quarterman, who plays starter’s minutes and averages 12.1 points and 5.3 rebounds. “I’m not sure if anybody can give us that same pop off the bench Tim does.
“We are going to have to make sure that we try to figure out other roles that we are going to have to play, or other adjustments we may have to make if, in fact, we wind up moving Tim to the starting lineup.”
“This game is very important for us,” Quarterman said. “We have to go out with the mentality we had during our (three-game) winning streak, when we came out and played determined and focused. If changes have to be made, they will, but we’ve got to get back to winning games. This game will be a challenge to see where our heart is.”
Guard Keith Hornsby said he didn’t know whether any lineup changes would be made, saying that was Jones’ decision and that he’ll do whatever he feels the team needs to get back on track.
“The coaches are giving us everything we need in practice; that’s what they’re stressing,” Hornsby said. “But it’s got to be our mentality. The coaches can say all they want; it’s up to us to get it done.”
Jones pointed to the Tigers’ low-post duo of Jordan Mickey and Jarell Martin, who combine for 32.7 points and 20.2 rebounds, needing to play with an edge when they get into foul trouble.
“They don’t play with the edge that they need to throughout,” Jones said. “You have to play and allow the refs to officiate. You have to play smart. That can put us in a bind, because people will go at you a certain way and have some easy scoring opportunities. You can’t save yourself out there.”
It’s more important, Martin said, after Thursday night’s loss.
“We have to play with an edge now because we’re on a losing streak,” he said. “We have to go into each game knowing what a tough matchup it will be if we don’t play with an edge.”
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter @MicklesAdvocate.