LSU Athletics Creative Services

LSU, Tennessee Set For Top-15 Basketball Battle

Kent Lowe (@LSUkent)
Kent Lowe (@LSUkent)
Communications Sr. Associate

BATON ROUGE – It will be a bunch-time battle of No. 5 and No. 13 when Tennessee and LSU meet in men’s basketball Saturday at 11 a.m. in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

It will also be a game that will go a long way to determining the top of the Southeastern Conference as the No. 5 Volunteers have a one-game lead over the No. 13 Tigers and Kentucky. The Wildcats will play later in the afternoon at home against Auburn.

Boot Up Pod: Previewing the Tennessee game with Chris Blair

The LSU-Tennessee game will be televised on ESPN with Bob Wischusen, Dick Vitale and Allison Williams while the broadcast will be on the affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network with the Voice of the Tigers Chris Blair and former LSU head basketball coach John Brady on the call (Eagle 98.1 FM in Baton Rouge is the flagship).

The game has been sold out for several weeks (13,215).

Worsham: Tigers Focused for "War in the Paint"

Tennessee is 24-2 and 12-1 in the SEC, coming off a 58-46 win over Vanderbilt in Knoxville on Tuesday. The Tigers fell in their school-record tying fifth overtime game this season at home on Wednesday night to Florida, 82-77.

Skylar Mays led the Tigers in scoring with 18 points, while Naz Reid had 16 points and 15 rebounds. Tremont Waters, Marlon Taylor and Kavell Bigby-Williams had 10 points each. Waters was able to keep his present double figure scoring streak alive at 17 games, the longest since Ben Simmons had 28 back in 2015.

Florida was able to control the tempo much of the game and despite both teams having 14 turnovers, the Gators were able to command a 21-7 advantage in points off turnovers.

This is the middle game of a three-game homestand for LSU as the Tigers will host Texas A&M on Tuesday at 8 p.m. at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

Coach Will Wade met with the media on Friday and here are some of his comments:

On how important the battle inside the paint will be…
“Extremely important. The only difference between their offense and our offense they shoot a little bit higher percentage from three and they don’t turn the ball over as much as we do. They get the ball in the paint – that’s why they’re the third most efficient offense in the country. They’re the most efficient offense in our league. Being able to get in the paint and win the paint war is going to be a big part of the game.”

On if he’s seen any analytics coming after a loss that he thinks favor the Tigers…
“We’ll see. We’ve been pretty good at adjusting when we’ve had to make some adjustments. Hopefully we’ve made the right adjustments and we’ll be able to get into the game and execute tomorrow.”

On what stood out to him about the loss to Florida Wednesday night…
“We were just a step slow. Giving up 10 offensive rebounds in the second half is unacceptable, especially when you’re playing as big as we are. If you’re playing big and the other team is playing small, you’ve got to pound them on the glass like we did Auburn. That’s how you can win a game like that. I know we won the rebounding by two (Wednesday night), but you need to win that by 10 or 12 because then you have your bigs guarding their smalls. One of their smalls scored seven straight points against one of our bigs. We just didn’t have very good attention to detail, got pounded on the glass. They scored seven on out of bounds plays. We were just very, very poor.”

On if he feels as Tremont Waters goes, the team goes…
“We’ve got other good players. We’ve got other very, very good players. I probably need to try some of those very, very good players out some more. But we’ve got good players. He’s certainly a critical piece to what we’re doing, but we’ve got – Naz (Reid) was our best player the other night, Skylar (Mays) played really well. I’m kicking myself. I should have given Skylar some more opportunities probably later in the game. We’ve got other good guys and we’ll give opportunities as needed.”

On going against Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield…
“Well (Jordan) Bone is really good too, their point guard gets them going. (Kyle) Alexander’s a game-changer down low. They’ve got a very good team, a very, very good team. They’ve got everything you want. They can pound the paint, they’ve got efficient three-point shooters with (Jordan) Bowden and Lamonte Turner. Then Bone’s a kid – we were a finalist for him at VCU. I did an in-home visit with him when I was the head coach at VCU. I wanted him bad. He’s just an ultimate competitor and he’s really, really improved and gotten better. Obviously Williams is the odds-on favorite for player of the year in the league. Schofield is just an animal. They’ve got good pieces and elite coaching. That’s a pretty good combination.”

On how the team’s focus has been…
“We’ve been much sharper with our focus. Hopefully that will carry over to the court.”

On how important Kavell Bigby-Williams will be in defending the paint…
“We’re not going to be able to get in foul trouble tomorrow. We need to keep our best horses on the floor for sure. They’re an extremely, extremely physical team so we need to be able to match or exceed their physicality. You’ve got to walk a fine line when you play them because you can’t back down, but then you can’t pick up some unnecessary fouls either trying to match what they do.”

On the importance of the first six minutes out of the gate…
“It would be nice if we could get off to better starts. We’ve got to execute better from the start, especially against a team like Florida on Wednesday. They’re a totally different team when they’re playing from ahead. They were playing from ahead the whole game and we could never get in rhythm. Certainly that would be nice to jump out and get a lead and play it out from there.”

On if this game feels different at home against a top-five team…
“I wish I could get that across to our team. They’re all excited about this game obviously, but no, they’re all important. The Florida game was important, the Arkansas game was important and everybody’s all excited about this, but every single one of them is important. That’s the way I look at it.

“That’s why Tennessee is so mature. They’re so good. They don’t lose any games they’re not supposed to lose. They just blow people’s doors off, the teams they’re supposed to beat, they handle their business. There’s no overtimes, nothing too crazy most of the time. Nine times out of ten, they handle their business. They’ll show up in the big games and see what happens. That’s when you’ve got an elite, elite program and a top-five or ten team. And that’s what they have. We don’t have that. We have a team that’s trying to get there, but a team that gets excited for big games and a team that doesn’t have any consistency when we play teams that we should be able to beat.”

On adjusting team lineups after a loss…
“I wish on Wednesday, I would have played [Darius] Days more. I did not play Days enough Wednesday. I told him that after the game. I did a poor job with him. You make some adjustments, but it is also matchups. Tennessee is a little bit bigger, so maybe we can play Days a little bit more at some different spots. You look at everything after a win and a loss.”

On playing teams like Florida that are tough defensively…
“Four of the five teams we have lost to – Houston, Florida State, Florida and Oklahoma State – they all have the same kind of blueprint defensively. Ultimately, that is what will do us in … whether it be the (NCAA Tournament). Whenever it is, we will run into a team like that.”

On playing teams like Tennessee that already have your attention…
“I do not feel good playing a team like Tennessee because they are really good. They bring some of those same components to the table. Every team should get our attention, but I do not feel particularly great about it just because they are good. They are really good, they are physical, they are well coached and they do things that are different. Everyone is so ball screen oriented and they do not set a ton of ball screens. They run more motion. When I was in the Atlantic 10, Davidson played very similar to the way Tennessee plays. They are just an elite version of what Davidson does.”

On losing at home…
I feel bad when we lose any of the home games. I hate losing at home. I hate losing, period. I really hate losing at home in front of people that work hard and buy their ticket to come cheer us on.”

On the early tip with Tennessee…

“We changed our whole routine. We have been preparing for this.”

On preparing to potentially face zone defense…
“The played a 1-2-2 back to some 2-3 zone at times this year. They may go to is some, but I think they would only go to it if we were doing very well. They are a hard-nosed man-to-man team 95 percent of the time. They go to that zone when they have to. I think if they go zone, that means we forced them into zone and we have done some good things.”

On Naz Reid taking Florida loss hard ... 
“He always takes them hard. He is a competitor. He was all over the place. He is a competitor, he wants to win. He takes all of them tough. I did not see anything different from him than I see after any game. He is hard on himself after we win. He is very hard on himself and that is just the way he is. That is what makes him an elite, very good player.”

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