Tigers Continue Road Swing At Tennessee Wednesday
Communications Sr. Associate
BATON ROUGE – A depleted LSU squad made the trip to Knoxville for an encounter with No. 18 Tennessee Wednesday night at Thompson-Boling Arena as the Tigers look to play a better contest on the road after a loss at Auburn on Saturday.
But LSU will have only nine total bodies in uniform after Coach Will Wade announced in a media session on Monday that Wayde Sims and Brandon Rachal would miss the game because of a violation of team rules. Coach Wade also announced that freshman Galen Alexander and Mayan Kiir would be on a “leave of absence” from the program for the rest of the year. He said Alexander would not have the opportunity to return but that Kiir could return upon meeting certain conditions at end of the semester (which is in May).
That leaves LSU seven scholarship players and two walk-ons as the Tigers (12-8, 3-5) meet the 15-5, 5-3 Volunteers at 5:30 p.m. CT as the league reaches the halfway point. The game will be broadcast on the SEC Network with Roy Philpott and Brooke Weisbrod on the television call. The affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network will have the broadcast with Chris Blair and John Brady on the call.
LSU will be looking for another good game from senior Duop Reath, the 6-11 forward who has averaging 17.3 points in SEC play along with seven rebounds. He leads the league in overall field goal percentage (57.6%) and is second in SEC games (54.3%). In the last three games he has had 31-21-18 points.
The Tigers lineup is expected to include Skylar Mays, Tremont Waters and Randy Onwuasor at guard with Aaron Epps at the other forward. Grad student Onwuasor had a career high 14 against Auburn on Saturday. Waters is averaging 15.2 points per game, 3.6 rebounds and 5.7 assists. Waters is second in the SEC in assists average and first in steals average (2.3 apg).
Mays had 10 points and five assists for the Tigers at Auburn and is averaging 11.2 points per game and 3.3 assists per game.
LSU has won the last two games with Tennessee, winning last year in Baton Rouge and the last meeting in 2016 at the SEC Tournament. LSU’s last win over Tennessee in Knoxville came in 2015. Tennessee leads the series, 64-46.
Tennessee is coming off a win for the SEC in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge, winning at Iowa State, 68-45 on Saturday. The Vols, coached by Rick Barnes, is coming into the game with wins in six-of-the-last-seven games and the last three (S. Carolina, Vandy, Iowa State). The Vols are 8-2 at Thompson-Boling this season.
Grant Williams leads Tennessee at 16.2 points per game with Admiral Schofield at 12.7.
Coach Wade met with the media on Monday evening and here are some of his comments:
Opening statement …
“First off, let me address, I know some stuff broke with our team. (Wayde) Sims and (Brandon) Rachal won’t be playing or traveling to Knoxville with us. They will not be playing at UT after just a violation of our team policies. It was my decision. They will be back after the Tennessee game. It will just be a one-game suspension for those guys for something you shouldn’t do within a team. They will be out.
“As it relates to the other two, Galen (Alexander) will take a leave of absence from our team for the rest of the season. Then, he will look for other places at the end of the season as he looks to continue to move his life in a positive direction. We will certainly be there to support him as he moves forward. As it relates to (Mayan) Kiir, he is somebody who is going to take a leave of absence, as well, but he could possibly be back. He’s not dismissed or anything like that. He needs some time. We gave Galen a little bit of time earlier this season away from the team to try to get some things in order. We are going to give Kiir some time just like most young kids and young men and young freshmen need as they adjust to college and some of the pressures and some of the things that go on in college. We are going to give him some time, and if he meets certain standards that we have clearly laid out for him, there’s a possibility that he could return to our team at the end of the semester. He clearly knows those standards. It’s on him for how he does. We will see how much he wants to be here. That’s where we are with all of that.
“We do play Tennessee on Wednesday. They happen to be a very good team. We have a lot of work to do to get ready. For them, Grant Williams is a phenomenal player. He is a really, really good teammate. They’re a really physical team, very well-coached and well-disciplined. It will be a tough matchup for us up there.”
On when he had made the decisions to suspend …
“I had made decisions before that game (at Auburn) last week. I just didn’t have time to execute some of the decisions before the game. By the time some of the stuff got to my desk, it was Friday of last week, and I just didn’t feel like it was in our best interest to do anything on Friday, the day before a game. I just needed some time where I had a little bit of a break to do what needed to be done.”
On being short-handed in the post …
“We will figure that out. We have Duop (Reath). We have (Aaron) Epps. We have those other guys back. We can play small. Teams have to guard you if you play small. That’s on me as a coach to figure that out. We will put a plan together and do as best as we can.”
On the lessons learned from this …
“They made a mistake. They made a mistake that young people make. I think they both regret it. I don’t want to put words in their mouths, but they’re good kids. They’re good people. They just made a mistake just like everybody else, probably everybody in this room in college made a mistake. It’s difficult as a coach. You look at yourself as a parent-figure and want to help these guys. It’s never fun when you have to have those meetings. It’s not the most exciting part of your job, but it’s part of what you have to do. You have to maintain a culture. You have to maintain a level of discipline within your program. Like I said, they will be fine. It was a mistake that anybody could have made in college, and we want to represent our school, our team better than that.”
On when he addressed the suspensions with the team …
“They knew this morning. Nothing was a surprise to any of them. There was no surprise.”
On if the Auburn game is enough to snap them back to reality …
“I think the game was enough. If you are a competitor and watch that game and see how we played, you are certainly embarrassed by the effort, and embarrassed by how we represented our program, our school, and our state. That should snap us back to attention. I hope we will play with a lot more focused and disciplined effort on Wednesday night in Knoxville.”
On the preparing the team for the stretch of tough opponents coming up …
“If we don’t correct what we did at Auburn, for Tennessee, it will be the same result. Tennessee plays as hard as Auburn. They have a physical four man (Grant Williams). We couldn’t guard Desean Murray, and Grant Williams is just as good if not better than Desean Murray. It is the same deal. If we don’t improve in some areas, then it is going to be tough going to be tough sledding Wednesday night.”
On having early film session (Monday at 6 a.m.) …
“I am a morning guy so I like to do things in the morning if possible. The reason we did it this morning was just to flush that out so we could move forward and focus on Tennessee as quickly as possible. We were off (Sunday) because of the off-day.”