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Men's Hoops Dumps UC Irvine, Wins Fourth Straight


BATON ROUGE - Justin Hamilton turned in 14 points to go along with a career-high 11 rebounds, his first career double-double in an LSU uniform, as the Tigers posted a 66-59 victory over UC Irvine Thursday at the Maravich Center.

LSU (7-3) collected its fourth straight victory and also held its opponent to under 60 points for the fourth consecutive time. During the streak, the Tigers have limited the opposition to a 34.9 shooting percentage from the floor.

UC Irvine (2-8) trimmed a 12-point halftime deficit down to 50-46 on a Michael Wilder three-pointer with 6:24 remaining in the second half.

After a LSU timeout, Hamilton strung together a jump hook off the glass on a solid pass from Anthony Hickey followed by a pair of free throws to push the Tiger advantage back to 54-46 at the 5:15 mark.

Wilder buried another triple, but Hamilton powered home a dunk from the left baseline to vault the Tigers ahead 56-49 with 2:15 left. LSU, the SEC's best free throw shooting team entering the tilt, converted 8-of-10 at the charity stripe over the final 1:59 to secure the 66-59 win.

Hamilton poured in 12 of his team-high 14 points, while Wilder countered with 16 of his game-best 19 points all during the second half. 

All 10 players who saw action for LSU scored a point and grabbed a rebound.

Eddie Ludwig equaled a career-high 12 points on 4-of-7 from the floor highlighted by a pair of three-pointers. His previous 12-point effort came at Tennessee on Jan. 26, 2011. Ralston Turner chipped in nine points despite being held to a 2-for-17 shooting performance.

LSU also received a trio of solid performances from the bench. Returning to action after missing the Boise State contest, John Isaac added six points. It was Isaac's highest output since he tallied 13 points against Nicholls State during the season opener. 

Jalen Courtney matched a career-high with five points, all in the first half. Chris Bass came away with a solid all-around effort with three points, four rebounds and four assists. Over the last two games, Bass has dished out nine helpers against zero turnovers.

The Tigers built a 28-16 halftime advantage behind suffocating defense. UCI shot a blistering 7-of-32 and missed 13 of its 14 three-point attempts during the opening stanza.

LSU will face its toughest test of the season to date Monday as No. 11 Marquette visits the Maravich Center. Tip-off is slated for 8 p.m., and the game will be televised by Fox Sports Network.

The LSU Sports Radio Network also will carry the game live on 100.7 FM (The Tiger) in the Baton Rouge area. Jim Hawthorne, Kevin Ford and Ricky Blanton will call the action.


Opening Statement...
"We were fortunate enough to win. I thought our bench did a good job. I was very pleased with Jalen Courtney's play. It gave us a spark. Storm (Warren), Malcolm (White) and Chris (Bass) also played very well. I don't want to take anything away from Cal Irvine. I thought they competed, and that is what college basketball is all about. You can throw your won-loss record out the window. I thought they were competing. They beat us to a lot of loose balls, which I thought was very disturbing. But in the end, we found a way to win; we found a way to win. Good thing about it is we won a good basketball game. We had a lot of open shots and balls just were not going down for guys. We have to continue to shoot them. I have not looked at the tape, but I have to believe for the most part when they went to the zone, we probably had 15 or 16 open jump shots that we usually make in rhythm.

"We will practice (Friday) and watch some extensive video on Marquette. We will come back Saturday morning and practice long and hard. On Sunday, we will practice in the afternoon or sometime in the evening."

On keeping guys confident with shooting...
"We have shot the ball more in the last three days than we have all year with this team. If they were bad shots it would be one thing, but we are getting good shots. I don't talk about it. I just always tell them to stay aggressive and if it a mechanical problem, we will work on it. For the most part, without looking at the tape, guys had open shots that were in rhythm so we will go from there. Bottom line is everybody has an opportunity."

On the challenge a caliber team like Marquette brings...
"Well there are a lot of teams of that caliber coming here. The thing that is impressive to me is that they are talented, but they are also tough and they compete. Everything is action off the dribble for them. They are aggressive and are really talented. They have had a lot of success.

"From a basketball prospective, Marquette is one of the premiere programs in the country over the last 15 years or so. This team is a very good ranked opponent, and it will be a good gage of where we stand as a team."

Eddie Ludwig

On letting UC Irvine come back in the second half -
"Coming out in the second half, we really wanted to extend our lead, but you have to give them credit, they came out and fought us all the way through the second half.  It really came down to the hustle plays, the 50/50 balls and it seemed like more times than not, they were the ones getting the ball.  The coaches weren't happy about that, we aren't happy about that, but at the end of the day we did get the win and that's the most important thing.  There are a lot of little things that we have to correct and get better at."

Ralston Turner

On if the offense needs to improve going forward -
"Yes and no.  I say no because we are so focused on defense and that's pretty much our M.O.  And I say yes because there is going to come a point in time when we might have to knock down a shot or two.  With that being said our M.O. is defense, it's always been defense and it's going to always be defense and we feel like as long as we do that, we'll always have a chance."

Justin Hamilton

On hitting some big shots after UC Irvine cut the lead to four -
"The whole game they were playing tough and I was just trying to be aggressive.  Finally I got the ball in a spot I needed to get it in and I was able to make a couple of plays, but I think our defense in that stretch was really good and we just need to finish it."

Chris Bass

On making some plays in the first half -
"Coach always tells us to always stay ready as a backup.  We were kind of flat a little bit, but we got it turned around.  You have to extend and keep playing well."

UC Irvine Head Coach Russell Turner

Opening statement...
"We have had a number of games where we have struggled to adjust to what our opponents have been able to do to us early in the game. We have had rough first halves. We have to take responsibility for that as coaches and players. We have to start games better. I am proud of our team's effort, but we have to play better to win. We gave ourselves a chance coming down the stretch to make a few plays and win the game. We just didn't make enough of those plays. That has been the story of our start. We have a tough schedule, we are getting better and are going to be really competitive in the Big West when we start conference play."

On the improvements needed...
"Mike Best and Marcus Bradley are going to be good players for us. The issue is that we have Michael Wilder playing the four. He is playing excellent basketball. It is hard to get enough time for the younger guys. I need to figure out a way for us to be more effective with two big guys on the court. Mike Wilder has to be more effective as a three but most of the success he has had is at the four. We are going to have to get stronger in the weight room and have to get smarter in drawing fouls against big physical teams. We are going to have to keep working to improve as a team."

On the defensive performance...
"We have spent a lot of time focusing on our defensive performance as a team. That is going to be the key to us long term for being good. That has shown up in our offensive performances, our guys are smart and do a good job with the game plan. Our players are putting in the time, and we have played good defensively against good teams. We are going to start winning games if we continue to defend this way. We still need to develop continuity and flow on offense. This experience with our non-conference schedule will help us be better this year in the Big West."



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