Tigers Host South Carolina In Battle of SEC Unbeatens
Communications Sr. Associate
BATON ROUGE – Another important contest awaits the LSU Tigers Saturday when they host the South Carolina Gamecocks in a battle of SEC unbeaten in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
The Tigers, 13-3 and 3-0 in the SEC, and the Gamecocks, 9-7 and 4-0 in the league, will tip at just after 5 p.m. Tickets are available online at LSUtix.net and beginning at 3:30 p.m. at the upper concourse ticket windows of the Maravich Center. Ticket start at $11 for adults and $5 for children ages 3-12. LSU students are admitted free with their campus ID card.
The game will be televised on the SEC Network (Kevin Fitzgerald and Dane Bradshaw) and on the affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network (Voice of the Tigers Chris Blair and former LSU head coach John Brady) with the game on flagship Eagle 98.1 FM in Baton Rouge and WWL (870 AM) in New Orleans.
LSU is coming off what may have been its best second half of the season in scoring 52 points in an 83-69 win over No. 18 Ole Miss in Oxford on Tuesday, while South Carolina rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit to score a 74-71 win in Nashville against Vanderbilt on Wednesday night. This will be the Gamecocks third game in a week as their game last Saturday was pushed to Sunday because of travel problems for the Missouri Tigers.
The teams have combined to win 11 straight games with LSU winning six games starting with Saint Mary’s in Las Vegas on Dec. 15, while South Carolina is on a five-game winning streak.
As important is LSU’s present 16-game winning streak in the Maravich Center dating back to last year, tied for the fifth longest in the building’s history and a present seven-game winning streak in SEC home games dating back to last year.
In the Ole Miss game, Tremont Waters led the way with 20 points, nine assists and three steals, while Skylar Mays and Kavell Bigby-Williams each had 14 points (Mays added four assists and Bigby-Williams had 10 rebounds and five assists). Marlon Taylor added 12 points. LSU took advantage of Ole Miss turnovers to a 19-9 margin in points off miscues.
South Carolina was paced by guard A. J. Lawson with 24 points, while Hassani Gravett off the bench added 17 and Keyshawn Bryant had 13. Lawson averages a team best 13.3 points for the Gamecocks while Chris Silva is at 12.2 a game and Gravett posts at 11.7 points on the stat sheet.
The Tigers are expected to go with its lineup of guard Waters (13.6 ppg, 6.2 apg), Mays (13.3 ppg, 2.4 apg) and Taylor (7.2 ppg, 3.2 rpg) along with forwards Bigby-Williams (7.3 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 2.3 bpg) and Naz Reid (12.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg).
This is the first of back-to-back home games for LSU as they will host Georgia in the Maravich Center on Wednesday at 6 p.m.
Coach Will Wade met with the media on Thursday evening and here are some of his comments:
“First things first, Daryl (Edwards) had the surgery (Thursday) on his foot. He’ll be out for the rest of the season. Hopefully he’ll be able to get a medical hardship – medical redshirt – and we’ll be able to proceed from there. He’ll had the surgery earlier (Thursday). Indications are things went well and we’ll be helping him in his recovery. This was the right move for him just so he’ll be able to function again and function with a little less pain. We appreciate him sticking it out with us this year for as long as he could, but it just got too tough for him.
“Moving on to South Carolina, obviously they’re 4-0 in the league. They’re tough, they’re physical, they change their defenses. Typical Frank Martin team. It will be a very, very difficult matchup for us here at home. Hopefully we’ll have a great crowd. Hopefully the students will turn out again and make it a big home court advantage for us. (Hassani) Gravett’s playing extremely, extremely well for them. Obviously, (Chris) Silva has done well. They’ve got a couple freshmen. (A.J.) Lawson has had a nice season so far. They’ve got a good team. They’re tough. They play great defense. They rebound the ball. They’re very, very physical. Those are all things that have given us problems and we need to prepare for and be good against.”
On what the message to the team is after having some success…
“I don’t know how successful we’ve been. We certainly talked about what position we’re in and how you have to double down on what you do. You’ve got to be hungry for more. What we’ve done so far is we’ve done our job. I don’t think we’ve done anything that’s just unbelievable thus far.”
On being able look back and talk to team about the second half against Ole Miss…
“We certainly spoke about that, but we have a lot of stuff that we have to get corrected. We gave up 21 second chance points, 13 in the first half and eight in the second half. They scored seven points off of baseline out of bounds plays. We’ve done a poor job there and that’s 28 points we gave up. We’re obviously going to give up some in those situations. We should have given up about 16 on baseline out of bounds plays. (Breein) Tyree missed a three, (Terence) Davis missed a three and Kavell (Bigby-Williams) blocked two shots off a flex screen that they could have scored on too. We have a lot of areas that we’ve got to get corrected. Certainly we moved the ball well and did a good job in the second half, but we have to tighten down on the details.
“I like how connected our team is. We have a good locker room. Our guys are connected. They love each other. They play for each other. We compete pretty hard – you know; you can always compete a little harder. We play pretty hard. Everything matters when you get to this point and the details have to be taken care of. We missed the front end of some one-and-ones. The baseline out of bounds defense, we’re not doing what we need to do there. We’re not scoring like we need to score. We’re not defending like we need to defend. Second chance points are really hurting us. We’ve got to get those areas shored up or South Carolina will just feast on the backboards if we can’t get that stuff shored up.”
On what goes into a half in which you turn the ball over only three times…
“We just valued the ball. We shortened our passes a little bit. Our timing was better. Our timing was off in the first half. We didn’t time our cuts up. We didn’t have any timing or spacing to catch the ball. We were just standing on top of each other. I thought our timing and spacing were better. Our passes were on time and on target. Our guys caught the ball with two hands and ripped it through and we were able to get some space. We’ll certainly need to do that against South Carolina. Teams are averaging (16.4) turnovers a game against them. We’re going to need to do a great job against them of valuing the ball.”
On Frank Martin coaching tough teams…
“He’s a great guy. You talk to him off the court, I really enjoy being around him over at the meetings. He’s just a great human being, great person. He’s a teacher at heart. He was an educator – he’s still an educator – but he was a high school teacher. He always gives you some wisdom whenever you’re around hm. You always feel smarter after sitting with him, at least I do. Maybe that’s how dumb I am, but you always feel smarter being around him and talking to him. He just has an edge to him.
“His teams play with that same edge. In their two road wins at Vandy and at Florida, they were down double digits. They were down 12 at Vandy and 14 at Florida with under 10 minutes to go in the game … You’ve got to stomp them out because they don’t go away. If you give them any sliver of hope, they stay in it. That’s his personality. That’s how his teams play and that’s why they’ve been successful and are 4-0 in league with two road wins.”
On the team shooting over 40-percent from three over the past three games…
“We’re taking good shots from three. We’ve got good shooters. I was saying that earlier in the year when we weren’t shooting it as well. We’ve good shooters, we’re taking good shots, we’re getting good looks and our guys are shooting with confidence right now. We’ve got good rhythm. We’ve got good chemistry right now. The guys are shooting with confidence. I don’t know how sustainable it is. That’s why we’ve got to clean up the other areas. If you’re not making threes, then you have to be able to offensive rebound. You’ve got to be able to check out and not give up so many second chance points. We’ve got to be able to clean up those details. You can’t get all excited just because shots are going in. You’ve got to clean up other areas of the game and when your shots go in, that’s a bonus.”
On how he has evolved through the season…
“Before the Saint Mary’s game, I met with the team the night before at the hotel. It was just me and the team. I didn’t have the assistants, I had nobody else in there. It was just me and the players. We just kind of, I told them what I thought and they told me what they thought. It’s not what I want to do, it’s what gets the most out of our team. It’s not necessarily how I want to do things, but it’s what they respond to the best and what works the best with these guys. They told me some things and the staff and I, we adjusted. I think that’s part of the reason we’ve won.
“We’ve come closer as a team. It’s not necessarily what I want to do all the time. What I want to do is not necessarily what will help this team the most so you’ve got to adjust. We still hold them accountable. We’re still demanding. We’re all those things. We do it in a different way maybe than we were doing it early and in the preseason and since we’ve done that we’ve been on a six-game winning streak.
“Now the challenge will be when we do lose and we are going to lose at some point. We’ve got to stick to what we’re doing. What we’re doing is working. It’s the best way to coach this team. It’s the best way to handle this team. I would say I’m just more understanding. You want to be judged on your intent, but most people judge you on your actions. Does that make sense? Your actions don’t necessarily meet your intent all the time. I think we’re just trying to be a little more understanding of the intent as opposed to the actions. I think most people would like that. They’d rather be judged on their intent than maybe how it comes off and how their actions are. We try to look at the intent a lot more than we look at the actions.”
On dancing in the locker room after the win at Ole Miss…
“At Mississippi they were playing music when I got in the locker room to give my final pregame speech. They wanted me to dance then and I said let’s win a game and then I’ll dance. Sure enough, I’m a man of my word.
“You’ve got to have fun. The fun’s in the winning. You want to have fun when you win. We don’t ever want winning to be miserable, so you’ve got to have fun when you win. We had fun in that locker room. It’s a good locker room. We haven’t won many like that so that was fun, but when you get on the plane, you crank the film up and get right back at it. It was a fun locker room, you know, we worked hard, we prepared hard and our guys were ready to go. That was a crazy atmosphere. That was like when we went to Auburn last year just in terms of the atmosphere and how in sync the students were. They did that Hotty Toddy chant before the game and I thought the roof was getting ready to come off that place. It was wild, maybe even crazier than Houston. It was as good of environment that we’ve won in. That was the first time since I’ve been here that we were able to impose our will on somebody, just kind of, suck the life out of them. I thought we were able to do that in the last 8-10 minutes of that game. That’s what you’ve got to do if you’re going to be a good program, an elite program, you’ve got to be able to squeeze the juice out of them and we were able to do that. I was very excited about that. That isn’t going to beat South Carolina so we’ve got to flip the page.”
On the recent home success …
“The fans are huge. On the road, it’s 30 against 10,000 so you’ve got to overwhelm them with your spirit and how you dig in. It’s like I tell our guys, just being at home is not a reason to relax. The fans are great. They’re into the game. When our students are here like they were for the Alabama game, that’s double the excitement when our students are engaged like that. Hopefully we’ll have that as we move forward here because that’s what we go into on the road. Hopefully we’ll continue to have that here. I think protecting your home court is the first part of being a really, really good program. You’ve got to be able to be a program that doesn’t lose at home. I think that’s a huge emphasis for us. Dr. Jones has done a really good job with the band. They’ve changed some of their things. No detail is too small for us to touch. We’re getting there. Are we where we want to be? No. We’ve got a lot of other areas that I’d like to be better at in terms of our home game presentation and that sort of thing. I certainly think we’re getting better.”
On the improved play of Marlon Taylor…
“He’s just understanding more. He’s listening a lot better. He’s understanding how to get a game plan and a scouting report into the game which is really, really important. I’ve just been very pleased with his progress. He’s learning. He’s getting better. He wants to be a great player. We’re very pleased. We’ve just got to keep him moving forward. He’s an athletic specimen. I always say, there’s two or three plays a game, he’s the only guy in the gym that can make them. You like it when he plays for you. When you’ve got a guy that makes those plays and he’s the only one who can make those plays. His defense is what really, really, helps us. To have him and know that we can shut the water off to one of the other team’s good perimeter scorers, it’s a nice feeling going into the game, knowing that we’ve got a fighting chance to do that. That’s really what he’s brought to our team. Just explosiveness. Plays at the rim. When him and Kavell are in there together, that’s a pretty athletic duo that’s pretty tough to score on.”