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GAMETHREAD: Basketball vs. UNC Greensboro, 7pm, SEC Network+

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#23 Tigers look to defeat another defending conference champion

Gus Stark \ LSUSports.net

After easily rolling over the 2018 Southland Champions 94-63 in the season opener, the Tigers will take on the 2018 Southern Conference Champions Friday night.

The UNC Greensboro Spartans, having won their own season opener Tuesday, finished 27-8 (15-3 Southern Conference) last season on their way to a SoCon title and an appearance in the NCAA Tournament. After five straight losing seasons with the Spartans, coach Wes Miller rallied his team to a 25-10 (14-4) record and a NIT appearance in 2017. They’re heavily projected to win the SoCon again this year.

What I’m trying to say here is, tonight will probably be a little more entertaining than Tuesday’s contest, save a 10 minute, 25 point performance by a garbage time sub.

“They have two tremendous guards in (Demetrius) Troy and (Francis) Alonso,” Coach Wade said to the media Thursday. “Their big kid, (James) Dickey, is phenomenal. Big time shot blocker. Elite level shot blocker. This is going to be a big test for us, a big step for us moving forward. They’re an elite offensive rebounding team. They were 35th in the country last year in offensive rebounding percentage. If we don’t get a little more physical and hit bodies and block out better than we did on Tuesday night, then we’re going to get bludgeoned on the glass. They had 19 offensive rebounds in their first game against North Carolina A&T who they beat on the road.”

James Dickey, as Wade mentioned, could prove to be the most important opposing player to watch Friday night. The 6-foot-10 junior snagged 10 rebounds and blocked an incredible 7 shot attempts Tuesday, and even recorded a double-double in the Tournament loss to Gonzaga this past March. His matching up against our forwards, namely Naz Reid and Kavell Bigby-Williams, could really help give some perspective of their current play and areas for improvement ahead of SEC play.

Hailing from Malaga, Spain, guard Francis Alonso led the Spartans last year with 15.6 points per game while shooting 86.9% from the free throw line and 40.1% from the arc. While Dickey should test our forwards, Alonso will prove to be a defensive task of his own for our point guard trio. If the game does eventually get out of hand like Tuesday, at least keep your eyes on #10 and #21 to see how our defense answers.

Tonight’s contest will tip off at 7pm and will be streamed on SEC Network+. You can also listen in on 98.1FM, follow my live tweets @marq113, or join the discussion in the comments below.

UNC Greensboro Spartans Projected Starting 5

#10 Francis Alonso: 23 points, 6 rebounds, 25 minutes

#2 Malik Massey: 2 points, 3 rebounds, 21 minutes

#11 Demetrius Troy: 0 points, 4 assists, 29 minutes

#14 Kyrin Galloway: 9 points, 9 rebounds, 29 minutes

#21 James Dickey: 7 points, 10 rebounds, 25 minutes

LSU Tigers Projected Starting 5

#0 Naz Reid: 17 points, 6 rebounds, 21 minutes

#24 Emmitt Williams: 12 points, 10 rebounds, 16 minutes

#4 Skylar Mays: 11 points, 2 assists, 23 minutes

#1 Ja’vonte Smart: 10 points, 5 rebounds, 27 minutes

#3 Tremont Waters: 9 points, 5 steals, 23 minutes