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LSU Travels To Auburn For Saturday Morning Tilt

by Kent Lowe | Sr. Assoc. Communications Director
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LSU Travels To Auburn For Saturday Morning Tilt

BATON ROUGE – The 18th-ranked LSU men’s basketball team tries to get things back on the right track Saturday, but it will have to do it at one of the toughest road environments in the league, the Auburn Arena.

LSU and Auburn will meet Saturday at 11 a.m. on ESPN with Mike Morgan and Jimmy Dykes on the television call. The “Voice of the Tigers” Chris Blair and John Brady will have the call on the affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network (Guaranty Media flagship in Baton Rouge – Eagle 98.1 FM).

LSU is coming into the game off a 99-90 loss at Vanderbilt on Wednesday night, a game in which LSU was outscored 19-7 in the final 5:52 after finally getting an 83-80 lead on the Commodores. Vandy shot over 57 percent for the game and got through the LSU defense for 20 layups on the night.

Auburn is coming off a 79-76 overtime win at Arkansas on Tuesday night.

LSU continues to lead the Southeastern Conference with an 8-1 record at the halfway point, one game over Auburn and Kentucky and two games over Florida. 

Against Vanderbilt, Trendon Watford led LSU with 26 points on 8-of-13 shooting and 9-of-10 at the free throw line, while Emmitt Williams had his second 20-10 game of the season with 24 points and 11 rebounds. The sophomore made 7-of-14 field goals and 10-of-12 free throws. Javonte Smart and Skylar Mays added 15 points each. 

Auburn is 12-0 at the Auburn Arena this year and their last home conference win was a 75-66 win over Kentucky last Saturday. A sell-out crowd of 9,121 is expected for the contest.

Samir Doughty leads the team with a 15.5 scoring average, while Isaac Okoro is at 13.0 points and J’Von McCormick hits for 11.0 points per game.

The teams have split games the last two years with the home team prevailing. Auburn was a 95-70 winner two years ago in the The Arena.

Coach Will Wade met with the media following his Tipoff Luncheon presented by UPS at L’Auberge and here are some of his comments:

On Wednesday’s game at Vanderbilt…
“I thought a killer stretch was, we got four straight stops and it was a three-point game and then we turned it over on three of the four possessions. Trying to throw it over the top. Trying to make crazy passes. In a game like (Wednesday’s) where your defense is struggling, you’ve got to possess the ball a little bit more to help your defense out and we weren’t able to do it. Quite frankly, we didn’t have any problems scoring. We were able to score quickly with our spacing and driving the ball. We need to be more patient to play a little more complimentary basketball and help our defense out.”
On how he would describe Wednesday’s defense…
“I’d say jittery. We were jittery. I think we came in with a poor mindset. That’s my fault. I’m the one that sets the mindset. I obviously didn’t have us as in the right mindset or as focused as we needed to be. I think when things didn’t go as easily as maybe some guys envisioned, we were trying to hit 10-point shots or trying to make 10-point possessions and that’s just not the way it works. I think we were jittery, would be the right word, and we just didn’t execute the way we needed to.”
On if it’s best to just turn the page after a game like that…
“No. It’s best to learn from it and figure it out. It’s not best to just move on. If you move on, the same thing will happen.”
On if giving up 20 layups is from laziness or a lack of hustling…
“I think it’s a little of both. Some of them were out of the press where we weren’t spreading out of the press the way we needed to. Some if was, just getting whipped one-on-one. I’m not going to go in great depth on this, but four of our five losses – last night being one of them – have the same deficiency defensively. The simplistic way to fix it is we need Charles (Manning Jr.) back bad. We’ve never had Charles and Marlon (Taylor healthy together). When we have Charles and Marlon that will fix about 80-percent of the problem because it has to do with matchups and the way they’re playing. To me, Southern Cal was a little bit different because they had two traditional bigs. But we need both of those guys back so we can go with a five-person guard rotation and a four-person bigs rotation. Really 4.5 guards and 3.5 bigs is what I’m trying to say. We’re going to play those same eight guys. That would solve some of our issues. At this rate whenever our last game of the year is, we’re going to get beat the same way. We’re going to give up a boat-load of points and we’re not going to be able to guard anybody off the bounce and our offense is not going to be able to bail anybody out. That’s kind of been the formula in each of those games and that will probably end our season whenever that may be.”
On effort being a problem on defense…
“I just think last night we weren’t as focused or locked in. You know, when you’re in the SEC, if you dip your focus just three to five percent, that’s a huge advantage for the other team and that’s my fault. I didn’t strike the right tone before the game. I obviously didn’t deliver the right message to the team. My messaging probably wasn’t as good as it needed to be. I made it more about us than I did about Vanderbilt and I probably needed to make it a little more about Vanderbilt. I don’t blame our guys for that. I think I played a big part in the loss as well not having the right messaging and not having us as focused and in the right mindset as we needed to be. Defense is just a mindset and paying attention to detail and carrying out your assignment. At times we’ve been very good. For 20 minutes against Mississippi we were very good. We weren’t where we needed to be last night and hopefully we figure it out between now and Saturday. If we don’t it will be brutal on Saturday.”
On correcting things before Auburn …
“I don’t have all the answers right now.  I mean, we’ll see.  I’ll know more with our guys today after reacting to the film, that sort of thing. I would say that it is very concerning. We’re playing one of the best coaches, best teams in the league on the road.  In my opinion it is the most hostile environment in the league.  They’ve got the best atmosphere of anywhere in the league. If we give them confidence offensively it’ll look like the last time we went there when we just got the doors blown off of us.  If we don’t find something between now and Saturday at 11, it’ll be ugly.”
On Auburn’s three point shooting …
“Well they still shoot a bunch, they’re not shooting as well but they haven’t played us yet so.  Seeing our bad three-point defense.  We’ll see.  They’re still shooting it, doing what they do.  They do a good job drawing fouls.  They have great spacing.  They’ve got good shooters.  They don’t have (Bryce) Brown like they had last year, (Jared) Harper and those sort of guys.  Like I said, we have the number thirteen three-point defense in the SEC so … They haven’t got a piece of us yet so they may be able to help the three-point percentage.”
On taking the lead Wednesday night …
“Yeah we took the lead with 5:52, we were up three, we gave up five layups in the last 5:52 of the game. So we didn’t even make them make jump shots to beat us.  That’s what we’ve been doing.  That’s why we changed to all those zones and that stuff because you at least got to shoot a jump shot to beat us.  We were just giving them driving lane after driving lane to the rim.  They had 80 points at that point.  They hit five layups for ten points.  (Scotty) Pippin hit the really tough three, we can live with that.  They hit two threes off the bounce all game long.  We can live with that three and then they hit six free throws.  So that’s how they got to 99.  And we gave them half of them on layups.”
On Baton Rouge native Jordan Wright’s performance against the Tigers on Wednesday …
“Yeah he drove it right down our throats couple times. Right hand driver … We’re out there running at him like he’s Steve Kerr. He drove it right on us, right down the gut. Give him credit. He was ready to play, he was excited. He’s from here and ended up at Vanderbilt and he had a little extra pop to him. He’s been playing well, he’s a great kid. Saw him play at Dunham many times. He’s been playing well and certainly played well last night.”
On what Auburn does well …
“They’re great defensively. They just put so much pressure on you. Base line out of bounds.  Sideline out of bounds.  Defensively, offensively they drive the ball. They get in the paint, they get fouled. They’ve only lost two games all year, there’s a reason they’re ranked 10 or 11.  Whatever it may be.  There’s a reason they’re ranked so high.”