Even though it has won seven consecutive games, the longest streak of coach Johnny Jones’ three-year tenure, the LSU basketball team has some work to do.
With their Southeastern Conference opener at Missouri just five days away, the Tigers know a strong showing in their final nonconference tuneup at 6 p.m. Saturday against Savannah State is a must.
When LSU (10-2) goes against Savannah State (3-9), the focus will be on extending the streak. But, just like in the Tigers’ last outing Monday night against Southern Miss, Jones wants to work on things that will benefit his team when it gets deep into the league schedule later this month and in February.
As was the case in an 87-67 blowout of USM, Jones hopes to experiment with some different lineup combinations and get some of his top players who have logged a lot of minutes a little rest.
“I thought we had some good moments in the Southern Miss game, especially with the different lineups we tried to go with as we tried to find out how we can maximize the bench and utilize them prior to conference play,” Jones said of trying to get more players into the rotation.
“This game is an opportunity for us to look at some other guys in other positions to see how we can best look at ourselves moving forward,” he added. “I’m very encouraged by the things that we have been doing -- scoring, defending, a lot of guys on this team showing the ability to score.”
Of course, much of that is being done by twin forwards Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey.
Martin is averaging 17.5 points and 9.0 rebounds per game, while Mickey is averaging 15.6 points and 9.9 rebounds. Mickey also averages 3.5 blocked shots a game -- which is comforting to Jones and his coaching staff.
“Jarell and Jordan have been leading this team in a lot of areas,” Jones said. “They have really impacted us on both ends of the floor, so that’s really encouraging night in and night out.”
Continuing their solid play against a Savannah State team that is 0-9 on the road and lost by 61 points at Louisville, 46 at Indiana and 31 at Miami will be the main goal.
“We want another win. … We have won seven in a row and our momentum is running high right now,” said shooting guard Keith Hornsby, who is the team’s third-leading scorer at 13.3 points a game. “To have an eight-game streak going into conference play is huge for our team.
“With that being said, we still have some things to work on but I think we are in a good place right now.”
Guard Tim Quarterman said trying to move some players around in the rotation is important, but staying focused on the task at hand is the main thing.
“That’s been very important going into this last nonconference game and the conference schedule,” he said.
“We have a lot of players who can play a lot of positions, and that means chemistry is there all the time because guys can move between spots.
“But this is the most important game on our schedule right now.”
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter @MicklesAdvocate.