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LSU Hosts Auburn In Saturday 1 p.m. CT Hoops Contest

by Kent Lowe (@LSUkent)
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LSU Hosts Auburn In Saturday 1 p.m. CT Hoops Contest

BATON ROUGE – After another successful road swing, the LSU Tigers return to the Pete Maravich Assembly Center on Saturday looking to start another home win streak as they take on Auburn in an early start time of 1 p.m. CT.

LSU is ranked No. 21 in the AP media poll and 22 in USA Today’s Amway coaches poll with a record of 18-4 and 8-1 at the halfway point of the Southeastern Conference race. The Tigers have equaled last year’s win total both overall and in the league with a minimum of 10 games to play in the regular season.

Auburn, receiving votes in both polls, is 16-6 and 5-4 in the league under Coach Bruce Pearl in his fifth season at Auburn.

Beth Mowins and Jimmy Dykes will have the call on ESPN2, with the Voice of the Tigers Chris Blair and former LSU head coach John Brady courtside on and on affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network (flagship Eagle 98.1 FM).

Tickets are available online at and at the upper concourse ticket windows of the Maravich Center beginning at 11:30 a.m. There will be another Maravich Fan Fest on Saturday beginning at 11 a.m. outside the south side of the building with food, drink, games and a HD video wall to watch other college basketball games.

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LSU rebounded well on Wednesday night from its first home loss in over a year one Saturday ago. The Tigers rallied from 10 down in the second half to eventually defeat Mississippi State in Starkville, 92-88. It was LSU’s third overtime win, all on the road, and the Tigers have won their fifth straight road SEC game.

Naz Reid had 29 points in the win, while Tremont Waters had another big road effort with 26 points. Kavell Bigby-Williams doubled up with 14 points and 13 rebounds.

LSU is in a tie for second at 8-1 with Kentucky in the SEC, two games ahead of fourth place South Carolina and one game behind undefeated Tennessee.

Auburn comes in off three straight home games, all wins, against Missouri, Alabama and this week Florida (76-62).

Bryce Brown leads Auburn in scoring at 17.0 points per game with Jared Harper at 15.2 points and 6.3 assists and Chuma Okeke a third starter averaging double figures with 10.5 points and 6.4 rebounds. Austin Wiley also averages 10.3 points.

Waters leads LSU, averaging 15.6 points and 5.9 assists, while Reid is at 13.9 points and 6.0 rebounds. Skylar Mays averages 13.1 points. Javonte Smart brings his 10.5 points off the bench.

LSU will be on the road all next week at Kentucky on Tuesday and Georgia next Saturday. Then the Tigers will come home for consecutive home games against Florida, Tennessee and Texas A&M.

Coach Wade met with the media prior to the game and here are some of his comments.

Opening statement…
“I thought we played better. I thought we prepared a lot better than we’ve been preparing and I thought it showed in the game. I thought we played with a little bit more toughness, a little bit more hunger. I was really pleased with our toughness. I knew we had it in us, but I thought it may have been lacking the last couple games. I thought we played with that at Mississippi State.”

On closing out the first half with Mississippi State going on a run and hitting a buzzer beater…
“It’s as mad as I’ve been at halftime since I’ve been here. We helped off of (Tyson) Carter who is one of their best three point shooters. Then we had (Aric) Holman who’s another good three-point shooter making a post move. Everybody in the gym knew (Quinndary) Weatherspoon was getting ready to shoot that. We went over their end of half stuff multiple times. I felt like going in at the half, we lost the game there. That was six points we gave them there. That was a huge margin to overcome. That’s something that we’re going to address when we meet as a team today. If we would have lost the game in a close game those would have been two possessions, we would have pointed to. Two details we didn’t take care of very well.’

On giving up a 17-0 run in the first half…
“Don’t turn the ball over. Our spacing has been a bit bad. We’re trying to create stuff off of one passes or one ball screens instead of moving the ball. We’ll get that corrected. I don’t lie to call timeouts, but I called two in the first half. It’s a bad run if I’m calling two timeouts. It’s one of those things where we’ve just got to calm down and get in a good set and move the ball and get a good look.”

On being 3-0 in the SEC in overtime games…
“We’ve been good in overtime. We’ve played good basketball. We didn’t turn the ball over in overtime. Naz (Reid) obviously hit some big shots. Our defense was more solid in overtime, we hit some big free-throws. Play solid defense and you make your free-throws and you don’t turn the ball over, you give yourself a good chance, and we did that.”

On Naz getting hot in the second half after having just four points in the first half…
“He was just more aggressive. He did a better job attacking the rim and trying to finish at the rim.”

On the quality of team that Auburn is
“Auburn is so good. They’re so fast. If we turn the ball over like we’ve been turn the ball over, it’s going to be a full game that looks like that run that Mississippi State had on us. (Jared) Harper and (Bryce) Brown, Samir (Doughty) and (Anfernee) McLemore, and now they’ve got (Austin) Wiley back. Number five (Chuma Okeke), they’re tremendous. They’re so fast and well coached. They put pressure on you everywhere. You can’t even get the ball in against them – baseline out-of-bounds, sideline out-of-bounds – but they put tremendous amounts of pressure on you. We’ve got a big task ahead of us to get ready for them in two days.”

On Auburn having a healthy Austin Wiley…
“They were 1-3 without Wiley. They’ve got a big post presence. It gives them a shot blocking presence. There’s a lot of things he brings to them that really help.”

On the set piece in overtime that resulted in an and-1 finish for Naz Reid
“It was good execution. Our guys executed well. It’s a play we hadn’t run in three or four games. It’s one of those things that’s all or nothing. It’s like a halfback pass. They guy’s either wide open or you’re sunk. Our guys executed it well and Naz finished it well and it worked.”

On yesterday’s perimeter defense…
“I thought we did a good job. They’d been averaging 9.5 made threes and they hit 8 and that’s with overtime included. I thought our guys did a good job of closing out on their shooters, knowing who their shooters were. That’s why I was so mad when we let (Tyson) Carter get loose – I was irate. I thought we did a better job of handling ourselves and guarding the numbers a little bit better.”

On how Naz Reid has been performing lately…
“Right now he’s shooting so well that he’s really tough to cover. What are you going to do? You put him and Tremont in a ball screen, you’ve got two options. You can either switch which leaves a big on Tremont, so that’s probably a problem. You can double Tremont and you throw it back to Naz and he’s making threes at 53-percent or he’s driving it in there making plays. He had a little pull-up, a little floater from six feet yesterday, great play. You’re in a little bit of a bind when you’ve got those two playing at a high level.”

On Auburn’s Samir Doughty whom he coached when he was at VCU…
“I love him. Competitive, tough, from Philadelphia. He scored 26 for us as a freshman (VCU) at Duquesne. I love him, he’s one of my favorite guys – I make no secret about that. He’s tough as nails and he can go get you a bucket anytime you need one. I always like having guys that get their own shot, and he can get his own shot whenever he wants to. He’s active defensive. He’s kind of like Tremont. He runs around and gets a bunch of steals and rallies to the ball. He’s a great player, a great person and I’m looking forward to seeing him.”

On if attempting just one three-pointer in the first half was by design
“We want to take good shots, but we want to get that ball in the paint. If we have good inside-out threes, we’ll take them. If not, we’ll pound that thing inside.”

On how he changed practice to spark a quicker start to the game…
“I just changed the practice routine a little bit. Change the practice schedule a little bit more into full court. A little more going good-on-good. Just made it a little more competitive.”

On the crowd at last week’s home Arkansas game…
The crowd was unbelievable in the Arkansas game. That was as loud as I’ve ever heard it. We’re going to need it like that on Saturday. Hopefully everybody can get there early and we can sell it out and the students will show up like they did. The fan fest is a great thing that Dave (Haskin) and the marketing people have come up with. We need it rocking like it was. That was phenomenal and hopefully we’ll play a little bit better and give them something to cheer about. I thought the crowd was great and hopefully everyone will come back.”