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Virginia hosts LSU: Game Thread

What: Virginia Cavaliers (8-5, 1-0 ACC) vs. LSU Tigers (8-6, 0-0 SEC)

Time: 5:30 p.m. EST
Date: Sunday, January 2, 2010
Place: John Paul Jones Arena
Radio: Virginia Sports Radio Network

Spread: Vegas: Virginia -6. Pomeroy: Virginia -4
Last Meeting: NCAA Third Place Game, Virginia 78, LSU 74
Last Time Out: LSU 74, Rice 86

After an embarrassing loss to Seattle and a puzzling loss to 12-2 Iowa State, the Cavaliers look to ring in the new year by hosting LSU. The Tigers are coming off a few questionable losses of their own, including the most recent 74-68 loss to Rice and a 75-55 loss to North Texas just before Christmas. This is only the second-ever meeting between these two schools, with the last one coming in 1981, but the history goes deeper than that.

LSU head coach Trent Johnson was previously head coach at Stanford, the team that handed Virginia its first and only home loss during the inaugural season at John Paul Jones Arena, 76-75. Virginia head coach Tony Bennett is only 1-4 against Trent Johnson, when Bennett was at Washington State and Johnson was at Stanford.

In his first season at LSU, Johnson led the Tigers to the SEC Championship and a second-round NCAA tournament appearance, finishing the season with a 27-8 record. However, in his second season, he finished 11-20 (2-14 SEC), and last in the division. This season, despite a light out-of-conference schedule, the Tigers are struggling, and many fans are calling for a new head coach.

LSU's Probable Starters

G Andre Stringer Fr. 14.4 ppg 2.4 rpg 2.8 apg
G Ralston Turner Fr. 13.9 ppg 3.0 rpg 1.7 apg
G Aaron Dotson So.
8.1 ppg
2.7 rpg 2.4 apg
Storm Warren Jr.
7.5 ppg 6.8 rpg
Malcolm White Jr. 9.2 ppg 5.6 rpg

The Tigers lack a true inside presence and relies heavily on the three-point shot, making 12 of 28 in last week's losing effort against Rice. There, the 36 points from behind the arc accounted for more than half of LSU's total points. Though junior forward Storm Warren had started 44 consecutive games, junior Garrett Green got the starting nod in his stead last week, his second consecutive start, following back-to-back double figure games off the bench.

The LSU roster is young and is led by four juniors and no seniors. Freshmen guards Andre Stringer and Ralston Turner both get starting nods. Stringer has been the starting point guard since the third game of the season and averages 2.5 treys a game. He has led the team in scoring in eight games and has 11 double figure games under his belt this season. Turner has scored over 20 points twice this season and has had 10 games in double figures.

Virginia has guard the perimeter well against the Tigers - something that this team does only on occasion. Three of LSU's top 4 three-point single game totals this season has been o the road.

But more importantly, Virginia must improve its struggling offense. The Cavaliers have been held to under 60 points in each of the last three games - the last time Virginia was stifled as such was over a span of four games in 1994. Over the past three games, the Cavaliers have shot 32.5% from the floor, and 18.2% from 3-point range.

It's hard to tell which Virginia team will come out tonight. This, without a doubt, is a weak LSU team. The question is whether the Cavaliers will play like the talented Virginia squad that they are, or if they plan on playing down to LSU's level.