LSU Gold

Tigers Pack Bags For Vanderbilt Road Trip

No. 18 LSU Basketball Plays Wednesday on SECN, 8 P.M.

by Kent Lowe | Sr. Assoc. Communications Director
Listen Free SEC Standings Watch Next Home Game: Feb. 11 +0
Tigers Pack Bags For Vanderbilt Road Trip

BATON ROUGE – The No. 18 LSU men’s basketball team puts the wraps on the first half of the Southeastern Conference schedule when it travels to Nashville for a Wednesday night meeting with Vanderbilt at venerable Memorial Gymnasium.

The Tigers and Commodores will meet in the final game on Wednesday at 8 p.m. CT broadcast on the affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network with the “Voice of the Tigers” Chris Blair and former LSU head coach John Brady (Guaranty Media flagship affiliate in BR Eagle 98.1FM) and televised on the SEC Network with Mike Morgan and Daymeon Fishback.

The Tigers, ranked in both the AP media poll and the USA Today coaches’ poll, are 17-4 and 8-0 in the league. LSU enters the final 10 games of league play two games in front of Auburn and Kentucky. Both those teams play Tuesday night with Auburn at Arkansas and Mississippi State at Kentucky. 

Vanderbilt is 8-13 overall and 0-8 in the SEC, but played well last week, leading at Rupp Arena for the first 30 minutes before losing to Kentucky, 71-62, and playing strong in the second half in a 61-55 loss to Florida on Saturday at Memorial. 

LSU won two home games last week, 90-76, to Alabama and 73-63 to Ole Miss. The Tigers now have two road games this week and six-of-the-last-10 away from the Maravich Center. 

This is the 10th time since 1953 that LSU has started the season with 17 wins in the first 21 games and the first time since 1981 that LSU has been 8-0 in the league. LSU is presently No. 22 in the NCAA’s NET rankings with only No. 21 Auburn at present ahead of them. 

Vanderbilt is coached by longtime NBA star and first-year college coach Jerry Stackhouse. Saben Lee leads the team with a 16.0 points per game average and Scotty Pippen Jr., averages 11.2 points a game. Vandy won the last meeting in Memorial Gymnasium against LSU, 77-71 in 2018.

Against Ole Miss, Javonte Smart led the Tigers with 21 points while Trendon Watford and Marlon Taylor both had 13 points. Taylor had his second double double in the last five games with 11 rebounds.

Coach Will Wade met with the media prior to the team leaving for Nashville and here are some of his comments:

Opening Statement … 
“Coming off of the Mississippi game, in the second half we should have been quite a bit better.  We went and studied that this morning as a team and saw some areas where we need to improve in.  We are getting ready to head to Vanderbilt and need to have a couple of good days of preparation.  They shoot a ton of threes, 46-percent of their shots in league are threes.  They also draw a lot of fouls; they draw the third most fouls in the league, so they are similar to Alabama in the sense that they shoot a lot of threes and they are able to get to the line and draw a lot of fouls.  They also don’t foul very much on defense and have some good qualities.  You have to be able to get to the free throw line against them, have to be able to contest their threes while also guarding them without fouling.  

“The freshman, (Dylan) Disu is really playing well, and then Saben Lee is their leading scorer.  We have played against him for a couple of years and he does a great job of getting downhill and getting into the paint. (Scotty) Pippen Jr. is playing well and is a shooter for them, Maxwell Evans and the big kid, fifty, down low (Ejike Obinna).  Jordan Wright, who’s from Baton Rouge, comes off of the bench for them, has taken on an increased role, and is playing better.  They are playing hard, they played really well at Kentucky in the mid-week game last week; they led Kentucky for the majority of the game up until about the last eight minutes.  They’re playing well and we need to have a couple of good days of preparation, go in there with a good game plan, be sharp, and play a complete 40 minutes.”
On what Head Coach Jerry Stackhouse brings to Vanderbilt … 
 “Coach (Jerry) Stackhouse has done a very good job.  The first thing that jumps out is that they play really hard, they are very scrappy, and I think their effort level has been extremely consistent all year long.  They are obviously down (Aaron) Neismith right now who is a first-round draft pick so that makes things a little more challenging.  I thought Coach (Bryce) Drew did a great job the year before, I thought those guys played consistent and hard.  I think they play with an edge to them; you can see his NBA background. They ice or push some side ball screens; they iced a trap which is a lot of what the NBA teams do.  He’s got hundreds of sets it seems like, they are very good out of timeouts.  He’s always got some good sets to get whoever’s hot an isolation or get them open. 

“They were 8-5 in the non-conference and did well when they had Neismith but obviously it’s been tough sledding in league.  Like I said their effort level has been great and they’re going to win some games, but I just hope it’s not against us on Wednesday.  I don’t think it will just be one, I think they will win more than one because their effort level is consistent, what they do is good and they’re going to be nights where they make a bunch of threes.  They were almost 50 percent from three against Kentucky and when you shoot it as frequently as they do, and you get the free points at the free throw line you’re going to be good.  We are going to have to be a lot better at our free throw check outs, they seem to get one or two offensive rebounds off of missed free throws per game. That to me is just effort and want to and it shows their attention to detail and how Coach Stackhouse gets them prepared every game.” 
On the improvements of the LSU team this past week …
“We were better but we still have a lot of areas where we need to get better and we need to have a lot more consistent focus with what we’re doing.  A lot more consistency with our attention to detail especially as it relates to defense and some of our scouting assignments.  Some of the little things that goes there.  I think we need to have great energy and effort.  I thought we needed to sustain that better.  I thought we did that to start the game against Mississippi but we weren’t able to sustain that.  Those are areas that will come back to bite us moving ahead here.  We’ve made improvement.  Have we made as much improvement as I would have liked to make, no. Not if we’re going to be a special team. Not if we want to be a dominant team. We’re not where we need to be.  We need to take another step in February and then another step in March.  One of our players said it best and I think it’s true.  He said, “I think we’re trending in the right direction but we’re not peaking.”  Well we’ve got to start trending a little bit more of a spike.  We’ve got to start trending at a little bit more of an incline as opposed to plateauing.”  
On how much he tells the players in preparation for Vanderbilt …
“We’ll talk about ourselves.  We do the same preparation; we went over it the other day in here.  It’s a three-day season; every game is a three-day season.  We’ll prepare the same way; we watch the same film this morning.  We did the same individual workouts this morning.  We’ll do the same film this afternoon, same practice routine, same everything.  We just stick to our routine and focus on ourselves and we’ll go take it from there. We have our own routine and our own way of doing things and you just focus in on that and narrow in on that and then we’ll go play the game.”  
On the importance of routines …
I’m a linear thinker.  The staff always laughs about it; you’re like an airline pilot.  You check all the stuff off before the game. I guess you all have seen that play card in my back pocket.  Everything is handwritten out.  They all make fun of me.  I could type it out, it could be typed but I like to write it.  I draw the same plays out every game.  That’s just the way I’m wired.  I think routine helps your players.  It’s the same just about every day.  We change it, it’s not like we do the same thing every day, but the basic structure is the same.  I think with familiarity people get comfortable and when they’re comfortable it puts them in a better position to perform well and to perform at their best. At the end of the day it’s all about getting the best out of your guys.  I say this to them, I got this from the Patriots, “when you come here you become us, we don’t become you.  If we become you, we would become sloppy and do things the way we wanted to do it. No, you’re going do it the way we want it done.  I’m not saying our method is the best but it’s worked pretty well over a long period of time.  We’re going to kind of do it and put it in the structure and hopefully your guys can have success.  
On players who have adopted routine …
“I’ll tell you one thing; I know you are all excited about Marlon (Taylor).  Marlon is playing well because he’s finally gotten into the right routine.  My routine.  Sometimes it’s a battle every day with him.  But he’s learning how to focus better; he’s learning how to have a routine … He’s done that so much better.  It still could be even better than what it is.  But he’s done that so much better and it’s given him a chance to have success.  I tell our guys all the time, just because you do everything the way we want it done, there is no guarantee of success.  But I can pretty sure guarantee that you won’t have success if you don’t do it that way or you won’t have consistent success.  You may be able to have success every three or four game or five or six games, but you can’t have success every four out of five games or five out of six games.  I think routines helped him a lot.  I think routines helped Trendon Watford a lot.  I think he’s gotten into a routine and I think it’s really helped him.  Just since we’ve been here I think it’s helped Skylar (Mays) a lot.  I think we could go down the list of guys.  Its basketball we’re talking about now, but you have to have routine in life. You have to have discipline.  We call it routine but that’s just a nice word for self-discipline.  You’ve got to have that self-discipline.  It’s important for our guys and hopefully that’s something that they can carry on once they leave here.  That’s a skill that they’ve learned and that’s a skill that we’ve given them.” 
On what Josh Leblanc brings to the table (transferred at mid-year from Georgetown) …
“He’s going to be so good, he’s better than I thought.  He’s long, he’s athletic, and he’s maybe our best defender.  He’s helped our team since he’s gotten here because he’s on our scout team so everyone has to go harder, Emmitt (Williams) can’t just lay it in. It’s been huge having him; we have to put some weight on him, he’s got to even his body out a little bit, and we have to get him some offensive skills. He does a great job finishing and catching but we are in the process of changing his shot and working on his ball handling.  Speaking of routine, he has a forty-minute workout he does every day in addition of practice, film, and some of the other things he’s been doing.  He’s got a lot of natural gifts, just god given ability, and we have to polish him up a little bit.  He’s going to be a phenomenal player for us; he will maybe be the best defensive player we’ve had since we’ve been here in terms of deflections and blocked shots.  He just kind of shows up and you are like, “dang, you were just out there on the ball screen and now you’re blocking a shot.”  If you look at his numbers in the Big East, he was phenomenal, so he’s going to have a huge impact on us next season.  He’s impacting this team. 

“Caleb (Starks) is redshirting for us and he’s gotten a lot better; I was talking to him after individual workouts this morning about how much better he’s gotten.  Parker Edwards is getting stronger and better shape; I think he’s a guy that can have a role for us like Marshall (Graves) does.  Courtese (Cooper) is getting better, I feel comfortable putting him in a game now. Those guys and (Josh) Leblanc make up our scout team and Leblanc gives those guys more confidence.  He’s raised the level of our scout team play in practice.  Last year we had a great scout team, but we missed Will Reese, but those guys raised our level in practice.  Everything you do matters and everything you do is important. Adding Josh (Leblanc) to that group in the middle of the season has helped raise our level and that’s probably why we’ve been able to string together a few wins because we get so much resistance in practice.  Our guys understand that if you don’t bring your best, if you don’t cut hard, if you don’t finish hard at the rim, if you don’t do what you’re supposed to do, your shot is going to be blocked now and you can’t get away with the same mistakes you got away with earlier in the year.  When we were preparing for Alabama, Josh did an unbelievable job of being Herb Jones.”  
On if he has a Memorial Gym story from his childhood…
“Well, we had season tickets growing up. We sat in 2L, row 10, so I’ve been there a bunch. They call it Memorial Magic. I was there in ’93 the last time, I think, Vanderbilt won the SEC. They went to the Sweet 16 that year. They honored that team I believe at the last home game against Florida. Vanderbilt was ranked in the 20s I believe and in a three-game stretch, Vanderbilt beat LSU, when LSU was ranked with Coach Brown, Arkansas when they were in their heyday with Nolan Richardson and Kentucky. I think Kentucky was No. 1 in the country, Arkansas was like top 10. It was a three-game stretch in February. I was at all three of the games. I’ve been there a bunch of times. It’s a unique venue, very cool place, so it’ll be fun to go back. Hopefully, we can win.”
On a potential players peaking too soon…
“No, I think we’ve all got more. That’s what we’re going to talk about today. I think we can all do a little bit more. I met with the staff this morning and told them, ‘We’ve got to be even better. There are some things we can clean up, and we can get better at, and there is stuff our players can clean up and get better at. As you move further and further along here, the margin for error is thinner and thinner, smaller and smaller. You’ve got to be pressing your advantage, you got to make sure you’re handling your business and doing everything in your power to give your team and give yourself the best chance to perform well.'”
On his team having self-discipline and playing to their standard of performance…
“We have our own standards in what we do, so we have to meet a certain number of standards, whether we win or lose. You’ve probably seen us carrying that board around with stickers on it and all this stuff. Maybe not. We lug that thing on the plane and all over the place with us. I think our guys understand everything is important. I tell them all the time ‘If you want to be a championship-level program, you got to lift like a champion, eat like a champion, sleep. Everything you do matters and every advantage you can get is important.’ I think our guys have gotten better. They’re where we want them to be? Absolutely not. There is always room to be even better than you are, but I think we’re much improved from where we were, and I think we’re trending in a good direction. Against Alabama, we only got two of the five standards. We have to get three of the five guarantees that you win. We only got two of the five, so we run even though we won because when we play the best teams on our schedule, two of the five isn’t going to get it done and Alabama is a very, very good team and two of the five probably won’t get it done when we go to Alabama. So, no matter who you’re playing, we can focus on Vanderbilt, but we got to focus on ourselves. If we handle the five things, we’re going to win. If we handle three of the five, we’re going to win. We’ve gotten five of the five once. Let’s focus in on doing what we need to do, handling our stuff, playing to our standard and we’ll win.”
On how far out Charles Manning is from coming back…
“We’ll see. That’s a great question. We’re actually not going to travel him to Vanderbilt because we want to stay back and he’s been running, he’s been working on a treadmill, he’s been running, he’s been moving a little bit and shooting. We don’t necessarily have the underwater treadmill. Everything that we need at Vanderbilt to do the rehab and we don’t want him to miss a day and a half of rehab because he’s been getting it three or four times a day. So, we’re going to leave a trainer back here with him. We’re going to work with him for the next two days. We’re hopeful that it’s sooner rather than later. I don’t want to put a timetable on it, but I think the earliest could be the Missouri game next Tuesday. I think that would be the earliest and then any time after that. Charles has done a phenomenal job with the rehab and showing up three, four times a day. Shawn (Eddy) and our medical team have also done a great job helping him move forward.”