To ensure his team doesn’t overlook anyone, LSU basketball coach Johnny Jones looks at who a particular opponent has played and how it fared in those games.
Sometimes, it can be a real eye-opener.
Take, for example, South Carolina’s 68-45 blowout of Clemson on Dec. 19. When those intrastate rivals met, Clemson was 3½ weeks removed from a rousing 64-61 victory over LSU in the final game of the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands.
Quality wins over Oklahoma State and Iowa State, no doubt, will also be a focal point of the pregame scouting report for LSU’s matchup with South Carolina at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
Even though LSU (15-4, 4-2 Southeastern Conference) is tied for second in the league after winning four of its past five games, and South Carolina (10-8, 1-5) is at the bottom, the Tigers know they can’t take anything for granted.
It’s unlikely that Johnny Jones’ team needs further proof that South Carolina is capable of coming into the PMAC and winning, but the sting from a 67-64 home loss against Texas A&M on Jan. 17 remains burned in the Tigers’ minds.
“Coach (Jones) mentions it … he lets us know,” LSU guard Keith Hornsby said. “That’s his normal rap for each game. Teams coming in here, they don’t care who you are, and they’re coming in here to bust you up.”
That’s one of the reasons LSU can’t let its guard down for a second.
Despite winning three consecutive SEC road games, the Tigers let a game slip away the last time they played on their home floor against the Aggies, who were 1-2 in the league at the time.
“You can’t take anybody for granted in this conference,” Hornsby said. “You just never know; some teams blossom at random times during the year. Texas A&M is a good example of that; they have a good team, and they came in and played well together that day.”
Jones will make sure his Tigers know the Gamecocks can be that kind of team as well.
While South Carolina’s only league win came against Alabama, its last two losses were to No. 1 Kentucky and Tennessee, one of four teams tied with LSU for second place in the SEC entering Tuesday’s games.
“There are big challenges in getting ready for teams in our conference,” Jones said. “You can point to the success teams have had in our conference. That is what we really rely on (to know) how challenging and tough it’ll be — be it their scores or players they have.”
South Carolina has averaged 59.7 points in its six conference games to rank second-to-last in the league, but Jones said that doesn’t necessarily mean the Gamecocks, who allow just 60.8 points a game for the season, aren’t capable.
They crushed Oklahoma State, which is 13-6 and has an RPI of 36, by 26 points and defeated Clemson by 23 before shocking a 15-4 Iowa State team that has an RPI of 16 in its final game before league play.
Those are the things that have Jones’ attention.
“Certainly, with South Carolina, it’s the nonconference wins that they have,” he said. “They beat Clemson pretty handily. They beat Oklahoma State pretty handily. They beat Iowa State, a top-20 team, pretty soundly. When you’re able to point to those things, you know how capable a team is.”
Forward Jarell Martin said South Carolina is like Vanderbilt, which is 1-5 in the league after falling to LSU on Saturday night in Nashville, Tennessee. He and the Tigers had to rally in the second half to send the game to overtime before escaping with a 79-75 win.
“It might not show in (South Carolina’s) record, but that’s another team that will come out and play hard,” said Martin, who ranks third in the SEC in both scoring (17.0) and rebounding (9.0). “We definitely can’t overlook any team in this conference because it’s very tough … very competitive.”
That can be a problem no matter who the opponent is, Hornsby said.
“We’ve shown that if we come out and we don’t play to our full potential that we’re vulnerable like anybody else,” he said. “We understand the importance of that and how we have to play to win.”
Fans attending the game are reminded that sewer work on campus has closed westbound traffic at South Stadium Drive and Fieldhouse Drive, and alternate routes may have to be used to access parking lots surrounding the athletic facilities.
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter @MicklesAdvocate.