LSU Gold

Tigers Travel To Tuscaloosa For Saturday Game With Alabama

No. 25 LSU and Tide Set To Meet At 3 P.M. At Coleman Coliseum

by Kent Lowe | Sr. Assoc. Communications Director
Tigers Travel To Tuscaloosa For Saturday Game With Alabama

BATON ROUGE – The No. 25 LSU Tigers look to complete a sweep of Alabama for the second straight year when the teams meet Saturday at Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa. 

The Tigers are 18-6 and 9-2 in the SEC and tied with Kentucky and Auburn for the league lead entering the final seven games of the season. Kentucky is at home against Ole Miss and Auburn travels to Missouri. The trio of teams is two games up on Florida and South Carolina.

Alabama is 13-11 and 5-6 in the SEC.

The game will be broadcast on the affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network (Guaranty Media flagship in BR Eagle 98.1 FM) with the Voice of the Tigers Chris Blair and former coach John Brady. ESPN2 will have the television coverage with Kevin Fitzgerald and Sean Farnham. 

The Tigers are coming in off a rallying 82-78 win over Missouri at the Maravich Center on Tuesday while Alabama on Wednesday was dropping a 95-91 overtime decision at Auburn. In that game, Alabama set an SEC record for three-point attempts with 59. 

Jaden Shackelford led Alabama with 28 points while John Petty, Jr. had 20. Kira Lewis Jr., had a triple double with 10 points, 10 rebounds and 13 assists.

LSU had all five starters again in double figures with Skylar Mays getting 23 points and Darius Days posting a 20-point, 10-rebound effort for the second time this season (his seventh double double of the year).

The Tigers are expected to have Charles Manning Jr., back for the first time since he broke the fifth metatarsal in his right foot in the first half of the game at Texas A&M on Jan. 14). He will be on a minutes restriction and Coach Will Wade in his media session said he is expected to play around 10-12 minutes. 

LSU won the first meeting between the two teams, 90-76, on Jan. 29. LSU built a 51-33 advantage at the half in that game and had 50 points in the paint and 20 second chance points in shoot 50.7 percent (34-67) from the floor and out rebounding Alabama, 49-31. 

LSU had all five starters in double figures in that game as well with Emmitt Williams scoring 23 points with 11 rebounds with Mays added 18 points and Trendon Watford 17 points and 15 rebounds to lead the way. Days and Javonte Smart had 12 each. Shackelford led Alabama with 21 points. 

Coach Wade met with the local meeting prior to the team leaving for Tuscaloosa and here are some of his comments:

Opening statement …
“Getting ready to go to Bama. We haven’t won there back to back since ’91-92. Going on 30 years. I guess we’ve only won there five times since ’92. It’s been a rough spot for us. Alabama is obviously playing very well; they’ve played Herb Jones. They hit 22 threes last night. That’s about a month worth of threes for us and they hit them in one game. They’re shooting it with confidence.  (Jaden) Shackelford is playing very well. Go back and watch our game here, we won by 14 but if you watch it, Alabama is going to get a lot of confidence from that game. We didn’t box them out, the ball just kind of bounced our way a couple times where (Herb) Jones and (John) Petty could have gotten easy put backs.

“We’re going to have to play quite a bit better at a place where we haven’t played very well at in a long time. It’ll be a big challenge for us. We should have Charles Manning back. He had a good workout yesterday. His recovery is going well. He had a good workout this morning. We’ll see how he reacts in practice the next couple of days but if everything goes to schedule he’ll be back. We’ll probably have him on a minutes restriction so he won’t be able to play 20-30 minutes. We don’t need that; we just need a little bit of help.  Hopefully we can get him back going a little bit.” 
On the lack of energy in the first half against Missouri … 
“I think its natural, we’ve been off to a good start at Auburn. That was our third game in six days against a physical team. They knocked us off our cuts in the first couple of possessions. Offensively, we settled for a bunch of jump shots. On our defensive end, we just weren’t aggressive enough. It hadn’t been a major problem for us all year but it popped up. It was our third game in six days; it was an 8 o’clock game.  Hopefully we’ll start better. If we don’t start better at Alabama we’ll be down 15 to nothing and it’ll be a long road back. We’ve started pretty well most of the year. It’s one thing to talk about their physicality and talk about what they do, it kind of slaps you in the face. I think it did and it took us a little bit of time to adjust.”
On how well Darius Days has been playing and not getting in foul trouble …
“Well he was in foul trouble at Auburn and still played well. He fouled out, if he didn’t foul out with five or six minutes left we probably would have had a much better chance of winning that game. We need Days to stay consistent. Keep doing what he’s doing. We’re certainly a lot better when he’s on the court. He played well against Alabama the first time. Had some offensive rebounds and hit a couple big threes to get us going.”
On how Alabama is a similar team to LSU …
“Last night I think they hit 22 threes and eight twos and they were 9-16 at the free-throw line if I have my math right on everything. Where they’re really dangerous is the free throw line. They’re hitting their threes and you’re fouling them driving, attacking the basket. That’s where they really can put you in a tough spot. We did a good job the first game of really owning the foul line and us driving and controlling the free throw line. They missed some open threes against us. They brought (John) Petty off the bench for the first time all year so he was a little bit off. We’re going to have to be better. We can’t let them make a bunch of threes and us foul them. I thought Kira Lewis did a very good job, 12 assists, triple double, that’s not easy to do. I thought he did a great job getting the ball to those guys. (Jaden) Shackelford was shooting it with a lot of confidence. They didn’t have (James) Beetle Bolden the first time we played them, he was sick. They’ve got him back and he’s obviously another weapon that they have and can shoot. I suspect they’ll play Herb Jones a lot more against us from what it sounds like after the game. Reading some of what Coach Oats was saying. They’re trying to test him out a little bit at Auburn so they can play him major minutes against us on Saturday.”
On adjusting practice schedule later in the season…
“Yeah, we adjust the schedule every week. Sometimes I think we need to go harder, sometimes we loosen it up. Just because we’re so thin, I’ve never practiced this little with a team. We do a lot more walkthroughs and mental stuff. We don’t do a lot of just 5-on-5 down the court. It’s tough with as few bodies as we have and how dependent we are with a lot of guys needing to play major minutes. 

On guards Marlon Taylor and Charles Manning Jr. playing together more…
“We’ll see. Charles is very, very helpful defensively. What it hopefully allows us to do is to rest Javonte and Skylar so that they’re not playing 38 minutes a game and we can get a little more of a natural rotation. Those three guys at the one and two, we’ve got (Trendon) Watford, Marlon, (Aundre) Hyatt and (Darius) Days that can rotate at the three and four, with Days and Emmitt (Williams) rotating at the four and five when we need to. You get into more natural positions, we can obviously move Marshall (Graves) in there with the one and two also. It just allows us to rotate a little bit more positon-wise and be a little better with what we’re doing. Hopefully it also gets our guys a little rest. They’ve been very effective, but they’re a lot better at 32-34 minutes as opposed to 36-38 minutes. The cumulative effect of that as the season wears on could be great, so we need to get in some rotations and help those guys out and help them rest.”
On his rotation pattern through his coaching career…
“I’ve evolved. I used to always play nine (men). Five guards, three bigs, and a swing. As a head coach, I always played nine until last year, then I played eight. I felt like eight was good, and I still feel like somewhere between eight and nine is probably the number. If I could choose, I would choose eight and have eight real bodies that can go in there and play. It’s what we had last year. I’ve been a nine guy, but with nine, you kind of get somebody who’s not real happy because of minutes. I can’t do what Florida State does, they play eleven guys with double digit minutes, that’s incredible to me. Between eight and nine, but closer to eight.”
On the Tigers winning despite dealing with injuries this season…
“Well you are never happy; you wish you were a game or two better here or there but all in all we are in a pretty good spot.  We would have signed up for this earlier in the year, to be in this spot with the injuries like you said, it would be a difficult spot to be in with a full deck of cards.  We have had some guys that have been unbelievably unselfish.  There are lineups we’ve had where Trendon Watford is at the five, he’s a lot closer to a three than he is to a five.  He starts at the three because we have to have some length out there but he’s better matchup at the four.  There’s a lot of guys that are doing some different things for us because of the situation we are in.  Some of the issues we have had are not our players fault; we’ve had lineups out there, when you look at the Vanderbilt and Auburn, we had Aundre Hyatt at the two and Marlon (Taylor) at the three.  That’s not their fault, (Aundre) Hyatt, who is going to be an excellent player for us but asking him to guard a two guard in this league is tough.  It’s tough if he doesn’t have a knee brace on and asking Marlon (Taylor) to guard point guards off of the bounce is tough.  He was a heck of a defender for us last year, but he was shutting down threes and fours. 

“For instance, we were at Auburn and we didn’t make all of the right moves there but because of some of our foul trouble, we had Marlon guarding (J’Von) McCormick meanwhile freaking (Devan) Cambridge is taking target practice on us. Cambridge is who Marlon typically shuts down for us, but we can’t put him on Cambridge.  We get in a lot of tough situations that aren’t our players fault and that’s what I’m hoping (Charles) Manning Jr. can get us back to where we can be like “Marlon you go take away their three or four man, don’t let him get his shot off” because he can get up on those guys, contest their shot, and they still can’t get by him because he’s quicker and more athletic than most of them.  You have him on a point guard, he has to stay back because those guys can get by him and then you are late contesting the shot.  If you have a good point guard who make a shot off of the bounce, that’s a tough cover.  That’s not Marlon’s fault so hopefully with Charles, we can get somebody who can guard those ones and twos and we can move Marlon back to guarding the threes and fours and shutting those guys down.  When he’s in that position he can get back to making those two or three plays a game that nobody else can make.  That’s where we have to get back to.”    
On how pleased he is with the team’s success in the 8 games Manning Jr. has missed…
“The fact that we’ve won six of them, 6-2 in that stretch, is good. You know we’ve had (Aundre) Hyatt step up at times, Marlon (Taylor) stepped up for us at times. You hope as a coach is we’ve got those five guys scoring double figures – we want to keep that going with those, with that starting five. We have great balance there and if you can get, you know, the Marlon of Ole Miss and a couple of those other games and combine, you know and get Charles (Manning Jr.) playing like he did against Mississippi State at home before he gets hurt. You get all that stuff kind of going together now you’ve got a really, really, really, really good team. You got (Aundre) Hyatt back, confident guarding and, you know, not having as much pressure on his shot if he doesn’t make shots. We’ve got to put all the ingredients together when we get them back and you never know how that’s going to go. But it’s better to have, you know, better to have all the groceries ready than have to go shop for them and so you know everybody, you know, we’re gonna have everybody available. Now we’ve got to mix it up right and fix it right but I think we’ve done a good job at just kind of hanging in there and surviving, surviving, surviving. We’re hanging by a fingernail sometimes.

“I tell our staff all the time, it’s just like, you know, we’re putting duct tape here and duct tape here and you know we rip the duct tape off. We rip the tape off here and plug another hole and we’re just you know. We’re just trying to plug holes as best we. We’ve got talented players. I don’t want to sound like we’re just, you know, don’t throw us a bake sale now. You know, it’s not, you know it’s not like we don’t have very good players. We certainly don’t have much margin for error you know, when Charles (Manning Jr.) and Marlon (Taylor) – I think maybe this will be the second or third game all year where we’ve had a full compliment. Even that, Marlon was on a minutes restriction against East Tennessee State. We haven’t had everybody where we can fully go and we’re still probably a week away from that. When we get everyone fully back and ready to go, we’ll just have to see how it plays out.”
On the 10-minutes from Charles Manning Jr…
“Yeah, I think, I think uh 10-12 minutes would be realistic. Like I said, we’ve gotta see how he reacts in the next couple days and how he is mentally. We’re not just going to force him out there. You know we’ll see how he is but I think somewhere between 10-12 minutes is probably realistic. But that’s 12 minutes we can rest some other guys and hopefully be a bit fresher down the stretch. So, it may seem insignificant but that’s huge when you’re playing six or seven guys, you pick up 10 to 12 minutes from somebody else. That’s huge, you can absorb a little bit of foul trouble. There’s some things you can absorb. That’s part of it. And I’ll say this too, and I’m not taking up for our defense but you know, the one thing we do well defensively is we don’t foul. We’re 22nd in the country in not fouling.

“What we have to design our defensive schemes around, we don’t have a lot of players. And so, you know, what we’re doing is that what we love to be doing and do we think that’s the best way to guard every team each night? No, but you know, the number one thing when we design our defense to stop any team is, alright how can we keep our guys out of foul trouble and try to keep the ball in front? And that’s why our three-point defense is so bad is because we have to keep the ball in front. You’ve got to give something where you’re least likely to foul on a three-point shot. Now, we foul on three point shots, we fouled on one at Auburn, you know, we’ve fouled a little bit. So, you know, part of our defensive issues are designed around we just can’t be as aggressive as we want to be because we’re trying to you know, the only good stat we have defensively is we don’t foul. Not the only good, but probably the best stat that we have defensively is we don’t foul. And so, you know, when you go into a game designing your defense around how can we not foul, you’re going to give up some stuff and that’s been you know, part of the problem with our defensive struggles. So, it all goes together is what I’m trying to say. It’s all the whole package.”