Tigers Back on Road at Georgia Saturday at 5 p.m. CT

by Kent Lowe (@LSUkent)
Fast Break with Coach Wade - Georgia Preview Will Wade Press Conference - Feb. 15 +0
Tigers Back on Road at Georgia Saturday at 5 p.m. CT

BATON ROUGE – The No. 19/21 LSU Tigers try to keep all the momentum it gained Tuesday night at Kentucky rolling forward when it travels to Athens, Georgia to take on the Georgia Bulldogs at a sold-out Stegeman Coliseum Saturday evening.

The game is set for a 5 p.m. CT start on the SEC Network (Mike Morgan and Pat Bradley) and on the affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network (Eagle 98.1 FM in BR) with Chris Blair and John Brady.

The Tigers are 20-4 and 10-1 in the league in solo second place after a 73-71 last-second win at Rupp Arena in Lexington. LSU is in solo second place, one game behind league leader Tennessee, which plays at Rupp against the Wildcats later on Saturday. Georgia has lost five straight games and is 10-14 and 1-10 in the SEC.

LSU was led by Tremont Waters with 15 points and five assists against Kentucky, while Naz Reid and Emmitt Williams each had 12 points. Skylar Mays added 11 and Javonte Smart had eight points, five assists and no turnovers. Williams had six rebounds, four offensive as LSU rallied from a 40-32 halftime deficit to shoot 51 percent in the second half and outscore the Wildcats, 41-31, in the final 20 minutes.

Georgia comes off a 73-56 loss to Texas A&M Tuesday in College Station, Texas as Nicolas Claxton led the Bulldogs with 18 points and 10 rebounds in the game. Jordan Harris had 10 points.

In the first meeting between the teams in Baton Rouge, LSU won a 92-82 offensive showcase as both teams shot over 50 percent from the floor. Tremont Waters had 26 points, four assists and four steals with no turnovers in 32 minutes, while Skylar Mays had 20 points, two assists and no turnovers. Naz Reid had 15 points and Javonte Smart had 10 points.

Georgia was led in that game by Rayshaun Hammonds with 18 points and Claxton added 15. LSU had only eight turnovers in the first meeting and a 17-7 advantage in points off turnovers. Both teams had 44 points in the paint.

After this game, the Tigers will have just two road games remaining with four home games to be played in the Maravich Center, including three straight starting Wednesday night against Florida. The Tigers will also host No. 1 Tennessee and Texas A&M in this homestand.

Before LSU left for Athens, Coach Will Wade met with the media and here are some of his comments:

Opening statement…
“We are getting ready for Georgia. This is the second time in league play where have played somebody for the second time around. We obviously did a very poor job the first time. After we beat Arkansas at Arkansas, we could not beat them at home. We did not prepare well and we did not play with the edge that we needed to against Arkansas in that second time around. We have to get that corrected as we head to Georgia. A team that we played here at home the first time and now we are headed on the road to play them. We certainly need to learn our lessons from the Arkansas game and be better against (Georgia) on the road. Georgia has shot it well, they have played well, they beat Texas at home and made a bunch of threes. So, we have to do a good job of guarding and giving better resistance because we did not do a good job of that in the second half when we played them the first time.”

On making sure his team stays composed…
“I think our guys have it in them already. They trust each other, they trust our plan and they trust what we do. They stick what they have been doing and let things even back out. I think it is really just a trust that they with each other.”

On Emmitt Williams‘ intensity on the floor…
“He plays with a great motor and when you do that the ball just finds you as it lands in your hands. You have to make it happen and make your own breaks and he does a very good job of that.”

On keeping up the energy level for every game…
“I mean every game is important and every game is meaningful from here on out. We have to be locked in and focused and we have to hammer the details. We have been doing a good job of that recently and now going forward every game has a heightened sense of meaning. The bigger the games you win, the bigger the next game becomes. It certainly keeps building on each other. We certainly have to stay focused, stick to our routine and stick to what we do to give ourselves a chance.”

On what stats have been the biggest factors to LSU’s success…
“Offensive rebounding helps as well as the free throw line. We score a lot of hidden points off of offensive rebounds and from the free throw line. Our turnovers have been down over the last six to eight games, which has allowed to be much more manageable in the turnover margin. I tell our guys all the time ‘shoot it before we turn it over’ because we can always pass it to each other off the backboard as opposed to passing it to the other team. I think if we commit a low number of turnovers, keep pounding the offensive glass and drive the lane to get to the free throw line, it gives us a great chance to win.”

On continuing his motto from earlier in the season…
“I like where we are and I like what we can become. If we are going to compete for a championship and compete at a high level, there are some areas that we have to get better at. I am very concerned about our transition defense, it’s a major area of concern for me. We are going to get tested at Georgia as we gave up 44 points in the paint in the first game. You should see the shot chart, it is embarrassing. They hit 22 shots basically right in front of the rim. A lot of those were in transition so we have some areas where have got to get better if we are going to be a championship level team and a team that fancies itself as a team that can compete at a high level.”

On the impact that the entire coaching staff has had so far this season…
“We have a great staff. A lot of tremendous people who complement each other very well and they all are very well-rounded. A lot of times you have guys that are either very good coaches or very good recruiters but all of my guys are very good coaches, recruiters, scouting and spending time with the players to make sure our players are in the right spot. We have good coverage on each of our players. I ask each of our players during our meetings, ‘if something happens at 2 am, who are you going to call’? I want to know who they are closest with and who they trust the most. You want to make sure that there is good coverage among your players so that there are not 12 players for one coach. You want to make sure that it is spread out and that is the way it is with our group. My staff does a phenomenal job and I am very fortunate to have them. They should get a lot more of the credit than they do. Our players are fun to coach and fun to be around most of the time so we have a good group. It takes a whole organization. From the assistants, to the strength coach, the managers. We have a very good, high-functioning organization.”

On difference between NET and RPI rankings
“I would like to know what the formula is. The RPI was archaic. I do think the NET is a step up from that. It takes in more analytics. They are going to have to tweak the formula. I think we went through that a while ago, where the inaccuracies are. I have a guy who crunches numbers for me. He sent me a spreadsheet yesterday of the top 25 teams in the NET. Based on some other stuff, we would be ranked closer to sixth (in RPI) than 14th (in NET). There are also some teams that are high that would be a little lower. Basically, the top five were all the same, except rearranged a little bit. Once you get past that, there is some stuff that needs to be adjusted a little bit.”

On using NET rankings to seed teams…
“We have to see what they do. We do not know until selection Sunday. Everybody gets caught up in the seeds. The matchups are much more important than the seeds. A couple of years ago when I was at VCU, we went to the tournament. We were a 10 seed and we played the seven seed, Oregon State. We were actually the favorite going into the game. We were a three or four-point favorite over the seven seed. The seeding is not as important as the matchup.”

On winning on the road…
“We just have a good routine. We have a good way about us. We have some composure to us. We do not ever panic or fret and we are able to turn things back around when they are not going our way on the road. It takes a different mentality and way about you to win on the road. Hopefully, we will be able to continue that, especially tomorrow at Georgia. They have been selling out almost all of their weekend home games. It should be a great crowd and a really tough environment. You just have to have a good mentality to you. You have to stay connected and you have to compete and pay good attention to detail.”

On developing team composure…
“I think Skylar (Mays) has really good composure. Naz Reid is as grown up as you can get. He is able to calm everyone down, keep everyone calm and keep himself calm. I think it is a combination that our team does not panic and our coaching staff does not panic. Because of that, we are able to work ourselves back into games and work our way out of some tight situations.”