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GAMETHREAD: #13 LSU vs. #5 Tennessee, 11am, ESPN

The Tigers prepare for the first Top-15 matchup in the PMAC in 35 years | Gus Stark

Coming off a tough overtime loss to Florida, the No. 13 LSU Tigers (21-5, 11-2 SEC) will play host to the No. 5 Tennessee Volunteers (24-2, 12-1) this morning with the chance to force a three-way tie at the top of the SEC standings. This will be the first Top-15 Men’s Basketball game played in the PMAC since January 7th, 1984 when No. 9 LSU lost to No. 2 Kentucky.

With a 12-1 conference record, the Volunteers hold a one game lead over 11-2 LSU and Kentucky. The Wildcats will host the Auburn Tigers at 12:30pm this afternoon on CBS.

The Tigers were forced to play Florida’s game Wednesday night, succumbing to a rough, fantastic defense and a crawling pace of play that led to LSU’s fifth overtime period of the season. The Gators recorded 22 personal fouls on the night to send LSU to the line plenty of times, but the Tigers answered with their worst free throw performance in their thirteen SEC games.

Granted Florida seemingly had a TON more balls bounce their way, figuratively and literally, making only one more of the nine missed free throws would have won the game in regulation. I understand it can be called just an off-night for most of the team, but 64% from the charity stripe on your home court is never a good look.

After the last time LSU missed at least nine free throws, Coach Wade kept every player at practice until they made a hundred free throws each. They answered by converting 32-of-35 against South Carolina. While Tennessee doesn’t foul quite as much as the Gators or Gamecocks, keep an eye on this stat throughout the game.

If you’ve watched little to no basketball this year, Rick Barnes has built quite a team in Knoxville and could possibly improve upon their 3 seed bid from last year’s tournament. Their only two losses of the season are to Kansas and Kentucky, granted the 86-69 shellacking by Kentucky knocked them down from first to fifth in the AP poll.

The Volunteers are led by two of the best players in the SEC in Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield, averaging 19.1 and 16.5 points per game respectively. Will Wade spoke with the media yesterday, addressing Tennessee’s loaded roster.

“Well (Jordan) Bone is really good too, their point guard gets them going. (Kyle) Alexander’s a game-changer down low. They’ve got a very good team, a very, very good team. They’ve got everything you want,” Wade said. “They can pound the paint, they’ve got efficient three-point shooters with (Jordan) Bowden and Lamonte Turner. Then Bone’s a kid – we were a finalist for him at VCU. I did an in-home visit with him when I was the head coach at VCU. I wanted him bad. He’s just an ultimate competitor and he’s really, really improved and gotten better. Obviously Williams is the odds-on favorite for player of the year in the league. Schofield is just an animal. They’ve got good pieces and elite coaching. That’s a pretty good combination.”

Today’s Top-15 matchup will tip off at 11am, and if you’re not one of the lucky 13,215 to already secure a seat, the game will be televised on ESPN. You can also listen in to the game on 98.1FM and join the discussion in the comments below.