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March 8, 2012

Anthony Hickey

Trent Johnson

Johnny O'Bryant

Storm Warren


LSU – 70
Arkansas - 54

CLAUDE FELTON:  We're joined by LSU coach Trent Johnson, and student‑athletes Anthony Hickey, Johnny O'Bryant, and Storm Warren.  We'll start with an opening statement from Coach Johnson and then take questions for the student‑athletes.
COACH JOHNSON:  Well, to start with, it was ‑‑ we looked like the same team in the previous two weeks.  We didn't do a very good job of handling the pressure.  I thought we had about eight turnovers in the first 10 minutes.  But to their credit, they regrouped and made some adjustments and did a very good job of taking care of the ball and we established a post presence, which I thought was huge.  And we made good decisions on the perimeter.
Arkansas puts a lot of pressure on you by how they defend and also how they attack you off the bounce and transition offensively.  So it's a good win for us, no question about it.  New season.  So we came out, and in the second half, I thought we played pretty good basketball.
CLAUDE FELTON:  All right.  We'll take your questions just for the three student‑athletes.

Q.  What did you guys do in the second half to take the inside game away from them defensively?
STORM WARREN:  We put emphasis on not giving up the middle, because that's the way our defense works.  And we pretty much just kept our hands to ourself and stayed in position and gave them one look and one opportunity.
JOHNNY O'BRYANT:  We just tried to take away the middle, keep a body on them, box them out, and rebound.

Q.  I think the big question everybody had even, coach too, was that after what had happened the last couple of games, how you guys would bounce back and come out here.  What was the key to coming back and putting all that behind you and then being strong today?
STORM WARREN:  It was from really a mental standpoint.  I mean, you can't necessarily dwell too much on the past and on the mistakes that you made.  Only thing you can do is get in the gym and work on it.  And when the lights come on and it's time to play, just put it behind you.  And just have fun playing the game.

Q.  What do you think got you going in the second half and do you feel like that was one of your better games?
JOHNNY O'BRYANT:  It was definitely great game for me.  Second half, I just tried to stay with it and continue to knock down free throws and take it to them.  So it was definitely great game for me.

Q.  To follow‑up on that, in what ways do you think you've improved the most since you've come back from the injury?
JOHNNY O'BRYANT:  When I was injured, I was just able to watch the games, I watched the angles people score from, just watch the game.  And when I came back, I just tried to play way harder, keep a body on people, rebound more, be more aggressive.

Q.  Could you guys just talk about the challenge tomorrow facing Kentucky, obviously a team you saw once before this year and a team that was really dominant all season.
ANTHONY HICKEY:  We got the number one team coming back, and it's in our backyard this time.  We're going to execute more, adjust to what we messed up on the last game, and it's going to be another great game.
STORM WARREN:  We're looking to fight from beginning to end.  And everybody knows Kentucky is a tough one and we're looking to compete and just try to just hold it out.

Q.  From your perspective, getting the ball inside to Johnny and Justin in the second half, what kind of things did y'all do differently or what worked better?
ANTHONY HICKEY:  Playing inside out.  That's what our offense is based on.  I tried get my bigs going because it opened it up for the perimeters and they were able to knock down shots.

Q.  How key was it for you guys to not just give up points to Wade and Young, but for the guards to make it hard for them to get shots in that second half?
ANTHONY HICKEY:  Defense end, you know, it wins games.  Before we played 40 minutes of basketball, like coach said, and 20 minutes it was tied up at the first half, and so it was about who was going to win the second half.  So we tightened up on our defensive end and shots was falling our way, and we were able to pull out the win.

Q.  Do you think that y'all deserve an NIT bid right now regardless of what happens tomorrow?
STORM WARREN:  I'm not the person that should answer that question.  But we would with like to continue playing our season.  I know I would like to continue my season.  As a senior, I'm not looking forward to it ending regardless of tomorrow.  So I'm not necessarily the person to just sit here and say, Yeah, we deserve it.  But we would love to be competing at the end of the day.
CLAUDE FELTON:  We'll excuse the three student‑athletes and take questions for coach.

Q.  You mentioned yesterday about how you guys had struggled shooting the ball recently.  What made the difference today?
COACH JOHNSON:  Well, kids aren't always trying to miss them, so the ball just went down.  I wish ‑‑ I think any coach would say this, the big emphasis is always just to make sure your guys try to stay confident, they execute.  And the past week and a half, it's just been one of those times where the ball didn't went down for us.
But I thought they played with a level of confidence, and I thought more than anything, I thought we let our defense dictate more than anything.  Because again, we got off to a horrible start in terms of our inability to take care of the ball, and they were very aggressive.  They were getting to all the 50/50 balls and they were beating us on the glass the first 15, 10 minutes.  So I thought defensively we kept getting stops and then the ball went down for us.

Q.  You kind of had a little change of attire today.  Was there any reason why you switched from the normal look you guys have on the sidelines?
COACH JOHNSON:  Yeah, well, we're not very superstitious in the coaching profession, so those damn sweater vests weren't working the past two week, so we thought we would just wear a suit.  That had a lot to do with it.  Don't put damn on the paper report, please.

Q.  Same question I asked Anthony, what did you guys do better or differently to take away their perimeter in the second half and how big a key was that for you?
COACH JOHNSON:  Well, I think it was a huge key.  And obviously, when we're defending well, we're really exerting a lot of energy and keeping the ball out of the middle.  I think that when you look at us defensively, Ralston had eight rebounds.  He took a charge, Justin had a charge, Storm had a charge.  So that speaks volume to us getting back to, I don't want to use the word desperation, but a sense of urgency defensively.
But any of the perimeters that we face in our league, if you let them bounce it and get to the middle and go where they want, you're going to have problems.  And I think our kids understood that tonight‑‑ or this afternoon.

Q.  After the last game, was it hard from a coach's end, to bring them back up and did you do anything like ‑‑ you're not a baby‑them‑along kind of guy, but on the other hand...
COACH JOHNSON:  Well, they know.  I said this about this group to start the year: they're great kids and all that, but they know.  And the only thing I told them, I says, We put ourselves in this situation, it's our responsibility to get out of it, and if you want to continue to play, it's on you.  And it's not about anything a coach can say or do.  It's about you being mentally tough enough to go out and do the right things all the time, which is put a body on somebody, box out, rebound, make shots.
It's just that simple.  But it's hard to do.  For us to get to the next step, if it is post season, none of these guys have been there, and so it's really hard.  We just got to keep grinding.  But I'm not a Rah‑Rah guy, so the credit goes to them.

Q.  Would you talk about how much Johnny has improved and what worked for him getting open underneath in the second half?
COACH JOHNSON:  Well, his biggest improvement tonight, contrary to the points, is he only had two turnovers.  Johnny leads our team in turnovers and he's about our fourth leader in minutes.  So I think the biggest adjustment tonight versus their pressure and on the half court, he did a good enough job of taking care of the ball.
And again, no disrespect to Arkansas, but we have a size advantage, so we should be able, if we're playing well, be able to get something done productive in the post.  But the biggest improvement for Johnny was he didn't throw the ball way a lot tonight or this afternoon again, excuse me.

Q.  You mentioned Monday at the teleconference how this team reacted to pressure and expectations in the last three games, I mean, do you guard against that?  Do you try to de‑emphasize any kind of post season talk going forward?
COACH JOHNSON:  I never dwell on that, never talk about it, I never will.  Because if you do everything else that you're supposed to do ‑ defend, rebound, focus on practice, focus on getting better‑ at the end of the day, post season, wherever that may be, is going to take care of itself.  It really is.
I mean, I'm so big on just competing and not worrying about all this other stuff.  That's just the bottom line.  And that's what's really special about this group we're going to play tomorrow.  They compete like the living dickens.  And you got a bunch of guys that are highly ranked and all that, but they play for each other and they play extremely hard.  And so that's a big challenge in itself.  Forget their talent level and how well they're coached, they're a competitive group.

Q.  Trent, you referenced the struggles with turnovers early in the game.  Were there adjustments that you made or was it just a matter of fundamentally taking care of the ball better?
COACH JOHNSON:  I think it was a matter of just fundamentally taking care of the ball and being strong with the ball.  At the start of the game, we went into the post and they double‑teamed Justin and he bounced and dribbled out 15 feet, and he's seven foot.  I mean turn and face and be aggressive.  And then we inverted versus their pressure.  We had Ralston down the floor, because Ralston when he takes it out, he'd be the middle guy open there, and a couple times he traveled when guys would come from behind him.  So we just inverted the key positions and made simple adjustments.  But the kid's made some good plays.

Q.  Do you think you've earned a NIT bid right now?
COACH JOHNSON:  Um, I'm going to say exactly what Storm said.  I'm not the one to talk, that's not my decision.

Q.  How do you see this game tomorrow as far as an opportunity, Cinderella story, number one team at this stage?
COACH JOHNSON:  I'm not caught up in Cinderella.  I just know the challenge for us is huge.  We have to play well, and they have to help us by not playing as well as they have been playing.
But Cinderella and all that kind of stuff, I'm not caught up in all of that.  And I'm not being disrespectful by no means.  And I don't worry about the NIT, because there's a lot of basketball to be played.  And again, you control your own destiny in how well you play and if you're able to win games, so...

Q.  One could say, looking at today's game, that both teams knew the difference of an important game, and tomorrow there's no expectations on your team.  Is there any kind of freedom for your team to go out there and just play and just try to do their best?
COACH JOHNSON:  I guess if you're asking are they going to just relax and are we going to go back to the video room and just sort of like call it a day, no.  Preparation's going to be as it's always been.  Coming out tomorrow, I'm going to be the same person I've always been.  I expect them to be the same group of guys they always are.  And I know you guys get tired of hearing it, but it's competition, it's how competitive are you going to be, and that's pretty much it for me.
CLAUDE FELTON:  Thank you very much.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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