Tigers Travel to Mississippi State For Wednesday Hoops

by Kent Lowe (@LSUkent)
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Tigers Travel to Mississippi State For Wednesday Hoops

BATON ROUGE – The Tigers look to continue their SEC road success at one of the toughest places to play in the league when they travel to Starkville, Mississippi to take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs Wednesday night at the Humphrey Coliseum.

Game time is 8:05 and will be broadcast on ESPN2 (Karl Ravech and Andy Kennedy) and broadcast on the affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network (Eagle 98.1 FM with Voice of the Tigers Chris Blair and former LSU basketball coach John Brady).

The Tigers are ranked 21st in the AP media poll while Mississippi State has fallen out of the top 25, but in the coaches poll published by USA Today, the Bulldogs are 21st and the Tigers are ranked 22. LSU is 17-4 and 7-1 in the SEC, while Mississippi State is 16-5 and 4-4 in the league.

LSU had its 10-game winning streak and 18-game unbeaten streak in the Maravich Center snapped by Arkansas on Saturday, 90-89, as the Tigers came up just short of rallying from an 18-point second half deficient. LSU came back to take three one-point leads but the Razorbacks scored the winning points with 22 seconds left. The Tigers got three looks at the bucket in the final seconds but could not convert.

The Tigers are, however, winners of four straight road games in the SEC this season – at Arkansas, Ole Miss, Missouri and Texas A&M – but LSU will face a State team that is 10-1 inside the confines of the building known as “The Hump.”

Mississippi State won its second road game on Saturday in SEC play in an 81-75 win at Ole Miss. Quinndary Weatherspoon had 27 points to lead the Bulldogs in that game.

This is the first of three road games in the next four for LSU as they play at Mississippi State, face Auburn at home (Feb. 9), travel to Kentucky (Feb. 12) and Georgia (Feb. 16) before returning home for three very important contests against Florida, Tennessee and Texas A&M.

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

Opening statement
“Big week this week. Mississippi State on the road. Really good team. As talented of a team as there is in the league one through ten. Then we have Auburn at home who is another really good and well coached team. Both coach (Ben) Howland and (Bruce) Pearl. Coming off a tough loss at home Saturday against Arkansas. We just didn’t make enough plays down the stretch. We didn’t play well enough to deserve the right to win. We’ve got to improve some areas and get better, particularly at taking care of the basketball. Turning the ball over 21 times isn’t going to get it done. We have to give ourselves opportunities to win this week.”

On having the ball with a one-point lead with less than a minute to play against Arkansas…
“At that point we just want to get the best shot available. We don’t really want to go two-for-one when you’re up one. At that point, you want to get the best look you can get. I wrestled with calling timeout. Sometimes it’s tough to get the ball inbounds from the side against Arkansas. They do a good job pressuring. I wasn’t sure we’d get the ball back in. It just depends on the situation, but we needed to get a better shot than we got.

“We had the momentum. They didn’t have any shot blockers in. Just drive the ball in there and go shoot it at the rim or get fouled or hopefully lay it in.”

On how he and the coaches will adjust following the loss…
“We’ve got to stay the same. Do what we do and play a little better than we’ve been playing. You can’t change. After winning 10 in row, that’s good enough to win from here. Get a little bit better.”

On if the loss brings the team back to reality after winning some tight games…
“We caught the break at Missouri. Outside of that I don’t know we caught any breaks. The rest of the games we pretty much won. This stuff all evens out. We probably should have lost at Missouri. We didn’t. We lost the next weekend.”

On the offensive weapons Mississippi State has…
“They shoot the three extremely, extremely well. They do a good job when they don’t make threes of getting on the offensive glass. We’re going to have to do a good job on (Lamar) Peters. Obviously the Weatherspoon brothers (Quinndary and Nick) are good. (Tyson) Carter is a good shooter coming off the bench. (Aric) Holman has been shooting it well from their four spot. Freshman (Reggie) Perry has played as well as anybody in our league the last four or five games. (Robert) Woodard is a good player. He hit a big three at Alabama to bring them back in the game. They’re a talented group. They’re very well coached. It will be a big challenge for us guarding them. They do a good job coming off of ball screens. Our ball screen defense will have to be much better than it was on Saturday.”

On if this is an opportunity to improve after not defending the three ball well Saturday…
“It’s an opportunity to patch it up or an opportunity to get extremely exposed again, however you want to look at it. Our three-point defense is going to have to improve. I take some blame. On that in the Arkansas game. We left some kids open that don’t hit shots a lot. We left some of those guys open by design and they took advantage of it and hit some shots. That’s on me. I’ve got to do a better job in scouting and adjusting. All of Mississippi State’s guys can shoot so we’ve got to be out there, have our hands up and be ready to contest shots.

“They (Arkansas) shot it well. They moved it well. We were just behind the play the whole time. They had their motion going. I think we put too much emphasis on (Daniel) Gafford. The reason we beat them the first time is we didn’t give up a bunch of threes. Gafford scored 32 on us, but we didn’t give up a bunch of threes. We let them a little more open on three-point shots this time and they buried them. That was a lack of emphasis on my part.”

On Arkansas’ stretch in the first half in which they hit three consecutive threes…
“It gave them some confidence. Gave some life. I think we were up 11-7 at the point and then they bombarded us there. We were down real quick and were fighting from behind the whole rest of the game which was tough.”

On how similar this Mississippi State team is to their team last year…
“They’re just experienced. They’ve got a bunch of experienced guys. They’ve got a bunch of veterans. They play mostly juniors and seniors, guys that have been in the program. They’re a very, very good team and I know the atmosphere will be good Wednesday night. It will be probably the toughest road game we’ve had to this point. We’re going to need to play very, very, very well.”

On how the degree of difficulty is increasing as the season moves along…
“Certainly, I think it’s going to get harder as we move along in February. We have to take it one game at a time, one day at a time. I know that’s not the most exciting thing, but if you lose on Saturday, that puts you in a hole there.”

On if he thinks the team will snap out of its shooting slump…
“I hope so. We shot 24-percent in our last five games that’s including Tre going 6 for 10 at Texas A&M. Take that out and it’s like 18 or 19 percent. We’ve got good shooters. We just need to step up and knock them down. That three-point offense and three-point defense kind of goes in waves. We shot it well earlier. We haven’t shot it well but, we’ll come back around.”

On if early season experience on the road will help them as they play more road games…
“We’ll see. I mean, the environments are going to get tougher as you move forward in the season. We think everything gets a little more difficult. We’ve certainly got a lot of work ahead of us. We’ve got some tough road games coming up starting on Wednesday, so hopefully we’ve learned something from our other road games but time will tell.”

On the effort Darius Days has shown even when his shots aren’t falling…
“Days has been great for us. He’s done a really good job. He’s steady and you know what you’re going to get with him. He’s been a really good piece for us.”

On what can be applied from their comeback efforts to other parts of the game…
“Play harder. We’ve got to play a little bit harder so we’re not in those positions.”

On what playing harder means to him…
“We didn’t necessarily play hard in some of those games either, in my opinion. I think partially it was play hard but you’ve got to play smart too. You know everything matters when you get in these games. We’ve had too many lapses and Arkansas was just a little hungrier. That shouldn’t be the case, especially at home. The first half I think they got 10 50/50 balls and we got two. That’s just want to.

“We play hard. Don’t get me wrong. We killed them on the glass. There’s some things we do very, very well. We’ve just got to sustain it and do them a little smarter. At this point, everybody has talent, it’s just who can handle the details. We’ve kind of been able to overwhelm some of these teams with our talent and our length and our athleticism. That’s not going to work at Mississippi State. Won’t work against Auburn. Won’t work at Kentucky. All those teams have as good of players or better players. The difference is details and how you handle yourselves. We’ve got to handle ourselves better.”

On what some of the slow starts can be attributed to…
“We have slow starts to practice. That’s a good point. We’re going to try to get that corrected in practice.”

On what he will do at practice to fix that…
“We’re going to change up the order of the drills. We ease into to practice with some drills, but we’re going to change that up so we have some more pop. Practice mirrors the game. It starts slow and we build up. Then we’re pretty good for a while. We’ve got to start faster and stay fast.”

On what the key is to running a successful press when you’re attempting a comeback…
“It sounds extremely simple, but you’ve got to get after it. That’s one reason I like to press. At my previous schools we’ve pressed a lot more than we have here. It makes you fly around. It makes you make something happen. It puts you in an aggressive mindset and that’s the best part about it. It got us aggressive and attacking where we hadn’t necessarily been that way throughout the game.”