Though he played only 33 seconds thanks to a high ankle sprain on his first collegiate possession, LSU’s Jarell Martin recalled UMass’ tendencies with ease on Monday.
“They push the ball up the floor,” Martin remembered of LSU’s 92-90 season-opening loss to the Minutemen last season. “They play a fast, up-tempo game.”
Five of the 10 starters from that game are gone, not counting former LSU guard Anthony Hickey and forward Shavon Coleman, who each came off the bench to play 29 and 21 minutes, respectively.
UMass’ speedy, sparkplug point guard Chaz Williams, who dropped 24 points and dished nine assists in the win, is also gone to graduation.
Though there are new faces abound, the mirroring styles of the two teams who square off Tuesday at 6 p.m. in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center haven’t changed.
“We’d like to ‘go, go, go’ as well,” LSU coach Johnny Jones said when asked of UMass’ tempo. “Both teams like to get out and run ... Both will try to press at times. I see a lot of similarities.”
Now without Williams, the Minutemen run through 6-foot-10 senior center Cady Lalanne, who was saddled with foul trouble in a 16-point performance against the Tigers last season.
To contend with the Minutemen’s leading scorer and rebounder, Jones will welcome Tiger sophomore Jordan Mickey back to the lineup, three days after he dressed out but did not play in an 83-72 victory against McNeese State with a minor ankle injury.
Deeming himself fully healed, Mickey said Lalanne presents a unique challenge for he and Martin in the post, but it’s one the duo is prepared to aggressively encounter.
“(Lalanne) does an extremely good job using his body getting around defenders,” Mickey said. “He’s able to split a lot of double teams, a big-bodied guy and strong. Extremely skilled guy. He’ll be a good test for us down low.”
Martin, who poured in 26 points and grabbed 10 rebounds without Mickey on Saturday, said after the game he was initially overwhelmed at the thought of shouldering the load in the post with double teams sprinting toward him from each direction.
The apprehension wasn’t visible to Mickey.
“It was big just to see him carry the team himself,” Mickey said. “I wish he didn’t have to do it himself. I wish I could have contributed. I was happy to see him able to get some points on the board early to get his confidence going. Hope that carries over.”
With Mickey’s insertion back into the lineup, sophomore guard Tim Quarterman said he expects to return to the bench, where his defensive aggression and transition game has provided a sixth-man spark for the Tigers.
Quarterman said the onus is on he and junior guards Josh Gray and Keith Hornsby to play tight perimeter defense, get their hands in passing lanes, and make any passses inside to Lalanne difficult.
After a 1-2 Paradise Jam outing, LSU players re-emphasized the importance of this four-day swing, which starts against the Minutemen and ends with a road trip to No. 16 West Virginia on Thursday.
And even in losses, Hornsby said the Paradise Jam prepared the team for crucial stretches like these.
“It prepared us, but also due to the fact that we didn’t play quite how we wanted to, it made us realize we had to prepare a little differently for this game,” Hornsby said. “They’re coming in here, they’re going to be fired up, so we have to match their intensity, which I don’t think will be a problem.”