POSTED: Wednesday, March 7, 2012 - 8:30pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, March 7, 2012 - 8:34pm
New Orleans, La — The LSU men's basketball team went through an hour practice late Wednesday morning to conclude preparations for the Tigers' Southeastern Conference opener against Arkansas that opens the event's third trip to New Orleans Thursday at noon at the New Orleans Arena.
The Tigers, 17-13 and 7-9 in the SEC, are the eighth seed while Arkansas, 18-13 and 6-10 in the league, is the ninth seed. The winner stays alive and meets top-seeded Kentucky Friday at noon.
The game will be seen on the SEC Network (Baton Rouge -WBRH; Lafayette - WLAF; Monroe - KARD; New Orleans - WUPL; and, Shreveport - KMSS) with Brad Nessler and Jimmy Dykes. The broadcast will be on the affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network (New Country 100.7 FM The Tiger in Baton Rouge) including the Geaux Zone at www.lsusports.net/live  and on the LSUsports Mobile+ apps for iPhone, iPad and Android (www.lsusports.net/apps ).
The Tigers appeared relaxed and confident as they went through a nearly 55 minute session on the floor of the Arena, before meeting with the media both at the formal podium setting and in the dressing room. LSU and Arkansas are meeting for the third time this year with the teams having split their games - Arkansas winning in Fayetteville, 69-60, and then LSU winning in Baton Rouge, 71-65.
Justin Hamilton led LSU in the first meeting with 20 points, while Anthony Hickey had 12 points for the Tigers in Fayetteville. Ralston Turner led the Tigers in the Baton Rouge meeting with 16 points, with Hamilton scored 13 and Hickey and Eddie Ludwig scored 12 each.
In the two games, Hamilton averaged 16.5 points per game, while Hickey averaged 12.0. The Tigers shot just 37.8 percent in the two games against the Razorbacks and 5-of-31 from the arc.
Coach Trent Johnson indicated in the post-practice media session that Turner would return to the starting five after coming off the bench for the first time in his career against Auburn. He responded with a team high 14 points in that contest.
Turner, a sophomore, is averaging 8.9 points per game and will be joined by All-SEC Freshman team member Anthony Hickey (9.2 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 3.7 apg) and sophomore Andre Stringer (10.1 ppg, 2.6 apg) at guards with All-SEC Second Team performer Justin Hamilton (13.0 ppg, 7.2 rpg) at center and either freshman Johnny O'Bryant III (8.3 ppg) or senior Storm Warren (8.1 ppg) at the forward position.
Arkansas' lone starter averaging double figures at 10.8 points per game is sophomore Mardracus Wade who leads the SEC in 3-point percentage.
LSU will be trying to end a three-game losing streak, Arkansas two. Arkansas leads the series, 31-23, and 2-1 in SEC Tournament games. The last time the teams met was in the first round of the 2003 tournament with LSU winning in a game played across the street at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
The Tigers are 22-32 since the renewal of the tournament in 1979, but LSU has won its first game in the event no matter what round it is was in 15 times. The Tigers won the 1980 championship in Birmingham. Arkansas has a record of 3-7 in 10 first round appearances and has not won a first-round SEC Tournament game since the 2007 season.
Updates during the game will be available on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/LSUBasketball  and on Twitter @LSUBasketball.