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LSU Basketball Plays First True Road Game Thursday

by Kent Lowe (@LSUkent)
LSU Basketball Plays First True Road Game Thursday

BATON ROUGE – The LSU Tigers, coming off one of their best overall games of the season before the Christmas break against North Florida, now turns its attention to its first true road game of the 2017-18 season as LSU travels to Memphis to meet the Memphis Tigers at Fed Ex Forum.

Tip for the game is set for 8 p.m. CT on Thursday with the game broadcast on CBS Sports Network and with Chris Blair and John Brady on the affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network.

The Tigers are 8-3 after getting four wins in the five games in the 13 days between the end of final exams and the Christmas break. The team improved in the last two after the 83-82 loss in the middle to Stephen F. Austin, defeating Sam Houston, 80-58 and then dominating offensively and defensively North Florida, 104-52.

Memphis is 9-3 and 9-0 at home after a win last Saturday against Loyola (Maryland). Coach Tubby Smith will face the Tigers with his fourth team, holding a 12-4 record over LSU in games when he was at Georgia, Kentucky and Texas Tech.

In the North Florida win, Duop Reath and Tremont Waters led LSU with 15 points, while Waters had his third game of 10 assists this season.

Memphis is led by Jeremiah Martin who is averaging 18.6 points, 4.5 rebounds a game and almost four assists per game. Martin had 26 points and four rebounds in the 83-71 win over Loyola. Kyvon Davenport comes in at 13.1 points a game.

Following Thursday night’s game, the Tigers return to Baton Rouge to finalize preps for the 18-game Southeastern Conference schedule. LSU opens on Jan. 3 with Kentucky at the Maravich Center before going on the road to face Texas A&M (Jan. 6) and Arkansas (Jan. 10). Tickets for the Kentucky game are still available at

Coach Wade met with the media on Tuesday before the Tigers first practice since the holiday and here were some of his comments:

Opening Statement …
“We will start back (Tuesday) and get ready for Memphis. The break was good for us. Our guys got a little rest. We were able to recalibrate, go back through some of our stuff. Hoping that we can break some trends that we have offensively and defensively so that gave us a little bit of time to comb back through our numbers and comb back through our film after all these games back to back to back. Memphis is a good team. Point guard Jeramiah Martin is a really good player. Number 0 (Kyvon) Davenport is a very good player. Very tough, very scrappy. They do a very good job on the backboards. They have won nine in a row at home. It will be a big challenge for us on the road.”

On the difficulty of hitting all five of the team’s game goals (as they did against UNF) …
“It is not difficult when you play well. That is the goal, is to play well. That was the first game all year that we got all five of them so that was something to build off of.”

On the kind of goals they have for each game …
“There are separate game goals for each game. The one for North Florida was 60 plus paint touches, five or more turkeys (three stops in a row on defense), win the rebounding battle, 12 or less turnovers, and then 40 plus deflections. The deflections is the one we can never get because we are not active enough on defense. We got close the game before, we had 37. That was the first time all year we got the deflections.”

On how many deflections Tremont Waters gets …
“When he is engaged defensively he does. He got the bulk of them when we played Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston. They were evenly distributed against North Florida.”

On holding their opponent under 60 points for two straight games …
“It was good. I thought we played well against North Florida. I thought we did a nice job against them. I thought our defense set the tone. I thought the point of attack for our defense was really good. I thought we did a nice job setting the tone in that game. Sam Houston, we were okay they just missed some shots. North Florida, we forced some missed shots. I thought once we settled into the game we played pretty well.”

On what trends he wants to break on the team …
“I was talking about maybe some of our own trends, what we do offensively maybe flip the core on some of the things that we do. One trend we have to get fixed is that we have to get off to better starts. We still are getting off to slow starts. We have to get that fixed. We have to win a jump ball. We haven’t won a jump ball in four games. That will help us get off to a better start. There are some games within the game that we have to get fixed.”

On if Brandon Sampson can give them a spark early …
“I think anytime one of your more talented players is out there that helps you out. He is a big wing defender. When we don’t have him, we don’t have another 6’6” wing running around on our team. It is hard to shut down bigger wings. It is hard to shut down bigger guys when he is not out there. So we hope he can give us a spark.”

On Brandon Sampson‘s improvement since Coach Wade arrived …
“I think he is more of a complete player. I think he is trying more to do the things that effect winning– defense, rebounding. He is always going to be good on offense. He is a naturally gifted offensive player. I think he is trying to do all the other things that make you a good player.”

On what worries him about playing on the road …
“First off I worry about us turning the ball over. On the road, tough environment you can’t turn the ball over. You can’t give teams extra cracks. I worry about that. I worry about defensive communication. It is a little different when it is at home or on a neutral site. Our special teams with baseline out of bounds. All that stuff defensively. That’s a concern. You have to be tough on the road, tight on the road. You have to overwhelm the other team with your spirit. Your bench has to be good. Everyone has to be engaged. You have to scrape out two or three plays that are tough plays. Whether we can do that or not is to be determined. We have prepared as well as we can throughout the summer and fall to hopefully play better in these situations and, Memphis will be a big test for us on Thursday.”

On if playing Memphis is like an SEC game
“That is the way I look at it. We are not in the Big 12 challenge so we had a wide slot here. I thought this would be a good place to slip it in and see how we are and get ready to go. If we are not quite ready then we have five or six days before we have another home game then we have a couple of road games. We have some time to figure things out.”

On Brandon Sampson getting more playing time moving forward …
“I think he was in pretty good shape. Just because he has been hurt, doesn’t mean we haven’t been doing conditioning. He probably would rather be out there practicing than doing what he has been doing on the side … He will be back and he is good to go. He got in a little bit of foul trouble, picked up those two fouls in the first half. That is what limited him. Once the game started getting away there was no need to risk playing him large amounts of minutes, but he can play 30-35 minutes if he needs to on Thursday.”

On the trademarks of a (Memphis Head Coach) Tubby Smith coached team
“They are tough. This team is tough. They remind me of Stephen F. Austin in just how they create offense with their defense, how physical they are, what a good job they do on the backboards. His teams are always very solid defensively. They are going to make us guard for long periods of time. Point guard Jerimiah Martin, he is the best point guard we played since (Matt) Farrell at Notre Dame. He is a tremendous player. Four man Davenport is going to be an issue for us. They play him at the four and the five. He is kind of like (Aaron) Epps. He can shoot, live body. He is all around the court. They are a good team. They are 9-0 at home. They are a very, very good home team. They have been getting better. They have a bunch of newcomers, bunch of junior college kids. They only have two holdovers from last year, Jerimiah Martin being one of them. They are starting to jell and come together. His teams are always tough. His teams are always good defensively. His teams are always out-scrapping you for 50-50 balls, make all those little plays and this team is no different.”

On defensive game plan …
We need to be solid defensively. Then we need to get the rebound. We need to make sure we get in there and rebound the ball. They are a very, very good offensive rebounding team. We need to make sure we check them out and get the ball.”