Tigers Head To Athens For Afternoon Tilt With Georgia

by Kent Lowe (@LSUkent)
Game Notes at Georgia +0
Tigers Head To Athens For Afternoon Tilt With Georgia

ATHENS, Georgia – The LSU Tigers, winners of back-to-back games for the first time since early January, will try to make it three straight wins when it faces the difficult challenge of taking on the Georgia Bulldogs here Saturday afternoon at the Stegeman Coliseum.

The game is set for 2 p.m. ET (1 p.m. Baton Rouge time) and will be broadcast on ESPNU with Taylor Zarzour and Barry Booker on the call. Chris Blair and former LSU Coach John Brady will have the call on the affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network (Eagle 98.1 the flagship affiliate in Baton Rouge).

Although Georgia won on a late bucket, 61-60, at the Maravich Center on Jan. 16, the Tigers have a one-game lead over the Bulldogs in the crazy SEC race at 7-8 and 16-11. LSU’s back-to-back wins over Missouri (64-63) and Vanderbilt (88-78). LSU is one game out of the unprecedented six-way tie for third, but just two games away from the 14th spot in the league as well.

SEC Standings (as of 2/23/18)
  Team SEC Overall
1. Auburn 12-3 24-4
2. Tennessee 10-5 20-7
3. Mississippi St. 8-7 20-8
  Kentucky 8-7 19-9
  Arkansas 8-7 19-9
  Missouri 8-7 18-10
  Florida 8-7 17-11
  Alabama 8-7 17-11
9. LSU 7-8 16-11
10. Texas A&M 6-9 17-11
  Georgia 6-9 15-12
  South Carolina 6-9 15-13
13. Ole Miss 5-10 12-16
  Vanderbilt 5-10 11-17
Upcoming Schedule (CT)

Sat., Feb. 24
Tennessee at Ole Miss, 12 p.m., SECN
LSU at Georgia, 1 p.m., ESPNU
South Carolina at Mississippi St., 2:30 p.m., SECN
Texas A&M at Vanderbilt, 3 p.m., ESPN2
Arkansas at Alabama, 5 p.m., SECN
Missouri at Kentucky, 7:15 p.m., ESPN
Auburn at Florida, 7:30 p.m., SECN

Georgia is one game behind LSU at 6-9 in the league after a 66-57 loss on Wednesday at South Carolina. The Bulldogs are tied for 10th with Carolina and A&M at 6-9. The top 10 teams get a single bye into the second round of the SEC Tournament in St. Louis, which begins on March 7 and avoids playing on the opening Wednesday.

In the first meeting, Georgia rallied from a 10-point deficit at the half to win by one when Yante Maten scored with 5.7 remaining.

In LSU’s latest win, the Tigers’ Tremont Waters had 28 points and nine assists. It was the first time he had posted back-to-back 20-plus point scoring games this season. Wayde Sims, who got the start in place of Duop Reath, was perfect from the field hitting 6-of-6 including a trey in a 16-point night. Aaron Epps had 15 points and eight rebounds; and, Skylar Mays made it his fourth straight games in double figures with 14 points.

Maten is averaging 19.3 points and 8.6 rebounds for the Bulldogs.

This is the first of back-to-back road games for the Tigers as they will travel to Columbia on Saturday to take on South Carolina. The regular season concludes on March 3 when LSU hosts Mississippi State for Senior Tribute day at Noon.

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

Opening Statement …
“Getting ready for Georgia. In the Vanderbilt win, we did some good things. Obviously, the offensive rebounding, giving up the amount we did against Vanderbilt is concerning going into the Georgia game. Georgia is big, physical, very good offensive rebounding team. We need to do a better job there. Big road game. Hopefully we will be ready and more prepared than we have been in the last couple of weeks. We are going to prepare well over these next two days.

“Proud of Skylar (Mays). Skylar was CoSIDA All-Academic (District) team. We haven’t had a whole lot of those here. We are very proud of Sky for that. To be recognized as not only a great player, but also a great student and also a great person off the court. We are very proud for him and please for that as well.”

On keeping his team focused on the game and not potentially playing in the tournament …
“We just have to worry what we can handle today. Today we have to get better at two or three different areas that we have identified as a staff. We are going to focus in on that. We are going to get a win each day. We have to win today by preparing the right way and being better in some areas that can get us beat on Saturday. We need to make sure that we are locked-in on that. All the extra noise and all the external stuff makes no difference. None of that stuff makes any difference if you don’t win every day, and if you don’t win on Saturday. That is where our focus lies. It’s just like I talked about earlier when we played Kentucky to open, the bigger the game the bigger the stage. You have to narrow your focus. You have to hone in on smaller things and smaller details.”

On if it is easier having Georgia and South Carolina back-to-back …

“No. Not fun, not easy, not any of that. It was like a wrestling match last night watching those two. That was something else. It will certainly be a challenge. We are not the biggest, or most physical bunch. It will be a major challenge for us, especially having them back-to-back like we do.

On what they can do to snap their SEC road game streak …
“Some of it is matchups. We have played well for 25 to 30 minutes for each of the games. Take out the Auburn game. I am talking about Tennessee, Alabama, and Florida. We have played pretty well. We have been in striking distance. Probably Florida 35 minutes. Alabama for 28 or 30 minutes. The Tennessee game, 28-30 minutes. We have been in striking distance for a majority of the game. Obviously as we move forward here with Georgia, it is going to take a full 40 minutes. We can’t play go on the road and play 30-35 minutes and expect to beat anybody good in this league. It is going to take a full 40 minutes against Georgia.”

On the SEC standings being so tight …
“I don’t know if I have ever seen a logjam like this. It is what it is. All I know is that you better win. If you win, you will come out of the logjam pretty good.”

On what they can do to fix the offensive rebounding issues …
“We just have to do our jobs a little bit better than what we have been doing. We just have to make sure we put bodies on their bodies. We just have to be a little bit better and a little bit tighter with what we do. You are who you are. There are two or three things that are areas of concern for us that are front of mind for our guys. If we can just be three to five percent better in those areas that will be helpful for us.”

On replicating their performance from Vandy to Georgia …
“Georgia has been really good coming out at halftime. Coach (Mark) Fox makes good adjustments. They came and whipped us out of halftime. They stormed back on South Carolina coming out of halftime. They were able to get stops and he makes some good adjustments offensively as well. Like I said, it going to take a complete game, a full 40 minutes. There is no time to ease up and relax, because if we do that then they will get on one of their runs and it will be very difficult for us. It is tough sledding. It’s not like we are going to be able to bombard them and make a huge offensive run against them in just the way the game bogs down when you play them.”

On how Aaron Epps has improved as a player …
“I just think he has gotten more confident. He has always been a pretty good player. I don’t think he is showing anything that he can’t do. He has some confidence, he knows we believe in him. I think he appreciates that. One thing that I really appreciate about Epps is that he doesn’t ever take it too far. He never takes it for granted, or takes it too far. Probably because he isn’t used to it. I really appreciate that about Epps. He is a self-starter. He is great. I am going to miss him. I wish I had him another year.”

On the mentality of the team going on the road …
“We are aware of our splits on the road and at home. We have been a good road team at times this year. Until Kentucky went in there, we were the only team to win at Arkansas. We have played well on the road at times, we just have to get back to that. Get back to our formula. Get back to what works on the road. That is what we are going to work on these next couple of days.”

On Skylar Mays‘ defense …
“He has been pretty good now. His last three to five games has been about as complete as he has played. He does a really good job in our 1-3-1. He is the best in our 1-3-1 at anticipating stuff and seeing things on that wing. He has a couple of steals in that 1-3-1. He is doing a good job of finishing at the rim, particularly the last couple of games. Over that five game stretch, he has finished at the rim. He is shooting it with confidence. That was a tough three that he had to start the second half against Vanderbilt. Sky is having fun out there. He is playing free. He is being aggressive, he is not being timid. I really like the way he is playing right now on both ends of the court.”

On if he thinks there was an adjustment period for Mays not having the ball in his hands as much …
“Probably so. I haven’t really talked to him about that. I would assume when you are a ball dominant guard. He has really adjusted. He is playing well off the ball. He is starting to understand how it works. I am very pleased on how he has done.”

On playing Tremont Waters and Skylar Mays together …
“Tremont goes off and helps everybody. Finding guys and that sort of thing. Sky has just been so steady. His assist to turnover numbers in the league are ridiculous. He is a bit of a change of pace from Tremont so I think it helps both of them. When we rest them it is a little bit different look for the other team then it kind of lulls them back to sleep a little bit. Then Tremont comes back in and can get going. I think it is good for both of them the way they play off of each other. We just can’t rest them both at the same time. I tried that against Missouri and it was a nightmare.”