LSU’s basketball season seems to be slipping away, but Tiger star Antonio Blakeney hasn’t stepped back at all.

Blakeney comes into a Saturday SEC contest against Alabama averaging 27 points per game in his last three contests, even as LSU seeks to avert a 14th consecutive loss, which would equal its worst losing streak in over 50 years.

Alabama limited Blakeney to 11 points in the first meeting between the two teams, an 81-66 Crimson Tide win in January. UA head coach Avery Johnson cautions, however, that Blakeney, a 6-foot-6 perimeter player, can explode against any team.

“He’s tough,” Johnson said. “Here’s a kid that could have potentially gone in the last draft season, when he was a little overshadowed by (No. 1 draft pick and former LSU player) Ben Simmons. This year is his coming-out party. He’s driving. He’s shooting mid-range. Recently, it hasn’t mattered whether teams played man-to-man or zone, they haven’t been able to stop him.”

Johnson is also concerned by his team’s slow starts on offense. Alabama scored just 18 points in the first half of Wednesday’s win at Missouri, a slow start that Johnson called “reverting to our elementary-school ways.”

“We can’t have as many inconsistent starts and turnovers as we’ve had recently and score with them,” Johnson said.

Nick King and Brandon Austin, both of whom have missed significant playing time this season, will not return to action for the Crimson Tide in its remaining portion of the 2017 schedule, Johnson announced on Friday.

King, who has not played since Alabama’s December 2 loss at Texas due to a lung infection is “out for the season due to some recent testing on the previous illness and lung situation,” Johnson said.

“We just haven’t been able to get him on the (practice) floor,” Johnson added.

Austin, a sophomore from Montgomery, has appeared in just five games and last played against Stetson on Dec. 29. He suffered a back injury in practice two weeks ago and will miss the rest of the season after a “non-surgical back procedure.”

Johnson said both would be re-evaluated after the season and any possible appeal to the NCAA for a hardship waiver (neither meet the criteria for a medical redshirt like the one Dazon Ingram received last season) would not be considered until a later date.

Alabama officials reported late Friday afternoon that less than 150 tickets remained for the LSU game. The Crimson Tide has sold out four of its SEC home games this season.


Reach Cecil Hurt at or 205-722-0225.