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GAMETHREAD: Basketball vs. Mississippi State (SEC Tournament), 6pm, SEC Network

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Tigers will try to best the Bulldogs twice in six days

NCAA Basketball: Mississippi State at Louisiana State Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off a weekend that saw the LSU Tigers beat the Mississippi State Bulldogs in one of their most sound, complete games of the season, the Tigers will have to do it again, but away from the friendly confines of the PMAC this time around. Saturday’s 78-57 victory over the Bulldogs was LSU’s sixth straight victory at home, but they haven’t won a game outside of Baton Rouge since January 10th.

In preparation of tonight’s game, freshman sensation Tremont Waters suffered a broken nose in practice, but as today’s Link Gumbo mentioned, we’ve had some pretty good luck when LSU guards from New Haven, Connecticut break their noses before the SEC Tournament. Can’t argue the facts, folks.

“He’s feeling fine,” said Coach Wade. “He’ll play with the mask. He practiced with it and shot it well. It’s just one of those freak things that happened Monday in practice. He was diving for a loose ball and had a little mix-up on the floor. We had a couple of guys going for the ball. The swelling is down. Our training staff and doctors have done a good job. We don’t expect it to affect him much, if at all.”

Normally I’d like to dive into some preview information about the opponent and highlight one of their better players, but since I did that literally five days ago, our time may be better spent talking about what went right for the Tigers Saturday, and how they can replicate that success. To me, that underrated key factor for the Tigers is freshman Brandon Rachal.

Measuring in at 6’5” and 215lbs, Rachal is listed on LSU’s website as a guard, but according to KenPom, he’s logged a majority of his minutes as a power forward. With a shooting total of 1-of-5 from beyond the arc, I’d say the power forward designation is a bit more accurate. Since LSU has two senior forwards and a few guards who can shoot the long ball very well, Rachal has yet to find himself in the starting lineup, and has only logged 20+ minutes in six of LSU’s thirty games. In LSU’s last two games, he’s earned himself 27 minutes apiece, and made good use of both opportunities.

Despite the loss to South Carolina, one of the best rebounding teams in the SEC, the Tigers actually managed to win the rebounding battle 39-33, a pleasant surprise that definitely helped to force overtime in the first place. Brandon Rachal snagged 13 of those rebounds, while the Reath/Sims/Epps rotation combined for only 9 rebounds. His defensive prowess became a lot more evident through this game and the win over Mississippi State as well, recording three steals from the Gamecocks and a career-high four steals this past Saturday.

Tonight’s contest between the Tigers and Bulldogs will tip off at 6pm and will be televised on the SEC Network. You can listen in on the radio at 98.1 FM, or follow along in the comments below or via my (internet-delayed) live tweets @marq113. The winner of this matchup will go on to face the #13 Tennessee Volunteers at the same time and channel tomorrow evening.