LSU Athletics Creative Services

Men's Basketball to Open Week at Home vs. Florida

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

BATON ROUGE – The LSU men’s basketball team begins a three-game homestand Wednesday night at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center with the University of Florida coming in for a 6 p.m. game.

The Tigers, ranked No. 13 in the AP media poll and No. 15 in the Amway coaches’ poll, and Gators meet for the first of two games in the final three weeks of the regular season.

The game will be televised on ESPN2 with Karl Ravech and Andy Kennedy on the call, with Voice of the Tigers Chris Blair and former LSU coach John Brady on the call for the affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network (Eagle 98.1 FM in Baton Rouge) and free on LSUsports.net/live

Tickets for the game are available during business hours Wednesday at the LSU Athletics Ticket office in the Athletics Administration building and starting at 4:30 p.m. at the upper concourse windows of the Maravich Center. LSU Students are admitted free of charge with a valid ID. The XPOGO stunt team will perform at halftime.

Boot Up: Tigers Atop the SEC + Emmitt Williams

The Tigers are 21-4 on the year and 11-1 in the SEC while Florida is 14-11 overall and 6-6 in the league. The Gators come in off a big 71-53 win at Alabama on Saturday, while the Tigers completed a week on the road beating Kentucky in Lexington (73-71) and then at Athens against Georgia (83-79).

LSU is tied for the league lead with Tennessee at 11-1, one game ahead of Kentucky at 10-2. Ole Miss and South Carolina are tied for fourth at 8-4.

On Tuesday evening, Vanderbilt is at Tennessee and Kentucky is at Missouri.

The Tigers shot 55.6 percent on Saturday at Georgia and committed only eight turnovers for the second straight game, including no turnovers in the second half. Tremont Waters led LSU with 20 points and Javonte Smart came off the bench to get a season high 19 points for the Tigers. Naz Reid had 13 points.

Coach Will Wade met with the media early Monday evening and here are some of his comments:

Opening statement…
“We have a big test ahead of us on Florida on Wednesday. They’re the best defensive team in the league. They pose a lot of problems with their 1-2-2 (press). We’ll try to control the tempo. (Andrew) Nembhard the point-guard’s playing great, 9-of-9 against Alabama the other day. Noah Locke’s been shooting it well, another freshman. They’ve got (KeVaughn) Allen who’s been a good player for them for a long time. (Keyontae) Johnson, the four-man is playing really extremely well right now. He played at IMG. He played with Aundre Hyatt in AAU. We saw him a lot. They’ve got a bunch of big kids who are good with 13 (Kevarrius Hayes) and 21 (Dontay Bassett). (Isaiah) Stokes has been giving them good minutes as well. It’ll be a good test for us. We’re going to have to run good offense. We can’t turn the ball over. They’re number one in the league in turnover percentage. We’re going to need to value the ball, get the ball on the backboards and give ourselves a shot. They’re playing extremely well coming off back-to-back wins at Vanderbilt and Alabama. They clocked Alabama on the road by 18. It will be a big test for us.”

On going against the 1-2-2 press…
“We haven’t seen it since UNC-Greensboro. It takes a little time to prepare for. You’ve got to change up what you do. They try to slow the game down and keep the game at their pace. We need to do a good job attacking it. It’s something that’s a little bit unique, a little bit different. He (Mike White) did it when he was at Louisiana Tech too.”

On keeping the focus on the next game…
“We just talk about doing everything we need to do today. We don’t even talk about it game-wise. We just talk about today. Winning today, making sure we do what we need to do today, making sure we have championship traits, championship habits every day and focus in on that. If you can win every minute, every hour and then every day, then you’ll give yourself a chance to win when it comes to game day. We’ve tried to really break it down and focus on all the small stuff.”

On getting the love from a football-centric fan base…
“I don’t go a whole lot of places besides here and I’ll have my nightly outing tonight at TJ Ribs. I’m not out and about a whole bunch, but you can definitely tell the interest has picked up and people are excited. That’s good, give them something to do between football and baseball a little bit. It’s been good. I’ve said it from the start, LSU is no different than anywhere, if you win they like you. The reason our football program and baseball program have been so good is because we’ve been winning for a long time. That’s the goal of our basketball program, is to put us in a place where we can sustainably win. We’re working towards that every day.”

On the defining characteristic it takes to win close games…
“I think we have confidence and we work on it. You guys hear me preach about six minute games and winning six minute games and being great in six minute games. It’s something we work at. It’s something we talk about and something I think our guys have confidence in because they know our plan and just we just have to execute our plan.”

On Javonte Smart playing up and down…
“Well he’s been more up than down. He’s been very, very good for us. He’s a freshman. He’s been excellent for us. Sometime his stat lines don’t show what he can do. Sometimes when he doesn’t shoot it as well, he does a great job defensively. His attitude and his toughness really, really help us. He’s been good for us all season.”

On having better transition defense…
“Our transition defense is because of our poor offense. We settle for some shots and don’t work the ball like we need to. If we can clean up our offense that will help our transition defense a lot.

“We can give Florida easy points, obviously. They try to grind it out in the half court, so we certainly don’t want to give them 6-8-10 free points in transition. They’re very good a converting live ball turnovers. Like I said, they turn you over on 24-percent of your possessions. One out of every four possessions, just about, they’re turning you over. They convert those at a higher rate than the national average. We did a great job of valuing the ball when we had eight turnovers. It would be nice if we could only have eight turnovers Wednesday. That would be advantageous for the Tigers. We’ve got to make sure we don’t live-ball turnover and let them get out in transition.”

On how much he and his staff spend on analytics
“A lot. I couldn’t put a number on it, but a lot. We have analytics on a lot of stuff. We have a healthy balance on our staff. I’m an analytics guy. Coach (Bill) Armstrong likes the analytics. Coach (Tony) Benford and (Greg) Heiar, they like their eyes. A lot of times our analytics back up what those guys’ eyes see. We do a lot of our scouting based on our analytics. We do a lot of our game planning based on the analytics. It’s just a matter of executing and hoping there’s no statistical anomalies over the course of the game or you have to adjust to those. There’s certain times where the numbers even out and we have guys taking shots where we want guys taking shots. We coax guys into taking the shots we want them to take. That happens 7-8-10 times per games. The other kids don’t even know they’re doing what we are forcing them to their least efficient spot on the floor. Sometimes you’ll see me, if you see me clap after a made shot, that means that was basically the shot we wanted them to take and they just broke the percentages. A lot of times we’re forcing them to shoot the shots we want them to shoot.”

On managing the workload this late in the season…
“You’ve got to walk a fine line. We need to continue to get better. Our half-court defense has gotten away from us a little the last three or four games. It’s not going to work playing against Florida where it’s going to be tough sledding in the half court. Offensively, we’re not just going to be able to outscore Florida. It will be tough sledding. We’ve got to certainly work, but we do a lot more stuff in the film room. We do a lot more skill work this time of the year and try to have our guys with clear eyes and fresh legs come game day.”

On how he saw this team coming together as close as it has become…
“It takes time to develop, but it kind of happens naturally. They were a close group when we were recruiting them. Those freshmen all knew each other. Those freshmen all talked to each other. They were a pretty tight-knit group when we recruited them. Obviously Skylar (Mays), Tre (Tremont Waters) and Kavell (Bigby-Williams) have been here. Then you add Marlon (Taylor). It kind of happened naturally, but all those guys kind of knew each other so that helped and maybe expedited the process a little bit.”

On if they knew Javonte Smart had the extra edge when they recruited him…
“Oh yeah, 100-percent. We needed that. I talked about that last year. Emmitt (Williams) brings it to our big guys and Javonte bring it with our guards. We needed that bad. He’s a Pitbull. He’s an absolute Pitbull and I love it. I love the technical he got the other night. That’s the second technical we’ve gotten all year (Naz Reid at Arkansas). I thought both of those were good technical. I thought the Arkansas technical sent a message. I thought both of them were good technicals. I love that about Javonte. He’s into it and he loves LSU. He loves Louisiana, loves playing here and very, very pleased with him.”

On what separates a good technical from a bad technical…
“That sent a message. It got our team fired out, I mean, it sent a message. I don’t want to get in to it all, but it was an intense game. They were saying some things and it sent a message. ‘We’re not going to stand here and take it.” I thought that was very well timed and it was a good time to send that message. We went on our run from there.”

On what playing for LSU means to Javonte Smart
“… It’s good. He deserves it. There’s not a phony bone in his body. He’s as real as they come. He’s as real as they come. He’s Baton Rouge through and through. He’s as real as they come. His mother’s (Melinda) done an unbelievable job raising him. She raised him tough and he plays tough. He’s a real as they come. I love the kid to death. He’s been great for us. The best thing about him is when you need him the most and it’s the biggest moments, he delivers. He doesn’t ever shy always when it’s tough sledding. He doesn’t ever shy away and the moment’s never too big for him. That’s really, really hard to do as freshman. Just think back, the shot he hit against Louisiana. He’s been great for us.”

On having other teams other than Kentucky at the top of the SEC…
Oh I don’t know. It’s a tight balance because I think people take the league more seriously when it’s Kentucky and everybody else, if that makes sense. Everybody likes it when the blue-blood is the blue-blood. I do think with it being as tight as it is and a couple of us up there, it maybe helps a little bit. It probably does more for Tennessee and us to be recognized with Kentucky than for Kentucky to be – I mean that’s pretty obvious. It’s what we’re striving to be is what they’ve been for a long-long time. We’ve got a lot of work to do. We’re not going to get the benefit of the doubt on anything and we haven’t earned the benefit of the doubt on anything. We’ve just got to keep plugging along and keeping trying to work as hard as we can to try to break that stuff down.”

On if he think people take the Tigers seriously…
“It’s a process. It takes time. I don’t think people are shaking in their boots when they see the Purple and Gold coming, but hopefully we can get there at some point.”