Massachusetts senior guard Chaz Williams, a back-to-back All-Atlantic 10 Conference pick, leads the Minutemen in their season opener against LSU on Tuesday.
It’s here. Or at least 2oish hours away.
LSU left Baton Rouge for a flight to the East Coast and a season-opener at 10 a.m. against Massachusetts in ESPN’s 24-hour Tip-Off Marathon.
To adjust to the earlier start, practices went off in the morning this week. On Saturday and Sunday, that entailed working out as early as 8 o’clock in the morning.
“We’ve been moving around a little bit earlier than normal as a group,” LSU coach Johnny Jones said.
The Minutemen (1-0) got an impressive 86-73 victory on Sunday against Boston College in a cool tip-off event featuring a triple-header among six of the state’s seven Division I programs in Boston at the TD Garden.
The gist: UMass, a potential bubble team for the NCAA Tournament, rallied back from a four-point deficit at halftime – a rally spurred by point guard Chaz Williams‘ five three-pointers en route to 20 points and a dominant performance inside by Cady LaLanne.
Further down, you’ll see LSU coach Johnny Jones’ thoughts on Williams and LaLanne, who had 27 points on 12 of 16 shooting to go with 12 rebounds. The latter battled foot injuries and off the court issues, but appeared primed for a big season that will be necessary to put UMass in the NCAA Tournament field.
I’ll leave it to Boston College coach Steve Donahue to describe what LaLanne did to the Eagles on Sunday.
“He just kind of bull-rushed us and took the ball off us like he should and put it in the basket … he plays hard as heck, and he smelled blood and he took advantage of it. I give him great credit for that.”
On Tuesday morning, Jones addressed the LSU contingent of reporters for roughly 10 minutes, and snippets are provided below for your to peruse. There are updates on Shavon Coleman’s availability, defending LaLanne and how freshman Jarell Martin settled in at the small forward spot.
Q: Can you update us on Shavon Coleman’s health?
Johnny Jones: Shavon is ready to go. He’s had a couple of good practices the last two days, and we’re excited about him. He’s back to what I’d say is full speed, and we look forward to his contributions tomorrow.
Q: You mentioned briefly their center (LaLanne), did you see that kind of performance coming Sunday?
JJ: Absolutely. He’s been around those guys. He’s really been a focal point for them — tremendous in terms of catching the ball on the low block. He’s a serious low-block presence for their team, shooting an extremely high percentage from down there as well. At 6-10, about 250 (pounds), he’s a load inside.
Q: Is this is a game where you might look at them and adjust your line up? They have a smaller point guard (Williams) and put (Anthony) Hickey on him and (use) (John) Odo to match up with their center? Or do you stick with what you did the other night?
JJ: We’ll see, but I’m hopeful they’re switch their line-up up and put a bigger guard in [Laughter]. It’ll be a good challenge for us. I think both of those guys are going to have to see quality minutes. We’ll definitely have a rotation at our point guard. It’s going to really have to be by committee to slow him down. Both guys, Hickey and (Tim) Quarterman will have a chance to see him.
Q: I would imagine that with a good offensive post player, whenever possible you’re not going to have Johnny (O’Bryant III) guard that guy. You’re going to let the other guy guard the offensive threat in the post?
JJ: The good thing for us is our team is what it is, and Johnny is our center. I think Johnny has done a great job improving defensively. He would certainly have to draw that assignment, and as the game progresses we can show (LaLanne) some different looks with our team and with our lineup. But Johnny will certainly see some time in terms of defending their post man.
Q: So you intend to start with him on him?
JJ: I’m not giving out any scouting reports or anything for them. I can tell you that’s the way will start, but you don’t have to write it.
Q: Whether you start three freshmen or not, what’s your approach?
JJ: That’s what so great about your preseason and nonconference schedule, you play the type of schedule that prepares you for league. All these guys have been in big games; they’ve been in really good environments from their high school teams to championship games as well. College is certainly a different intensity level, and they’ll have to go through it. That’s one of the things that’s been good for us.
Q: What’s going to be Jarell’s adjustment period playing out on the perimeter. He looked OK the other night, but certainly it’s a different experience.
JJ: I thought he played well. He might have missed a couple of shots, which is normal for anyone. As the game progressed, I thought he played exceptionally well: Came down off a fastbreak finished at the rim and came right and hit another jumper, rebounded the ball well. We thought he played well. He has the ability, really, with his basketball IQ to pick things up so well to go from the perimeter to inside. That’s something that’s really hard to at times — play multiple positions like that. But he’s picked it up fairly easily. We think he has the ability to be really effective from both spots.
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