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Tigers Host No. 10 Kentucky at Maravich Center

Wildcats, LSU To Meet At 8 P.M.; Tickets at

by Kent Lowe | Sr. Assoc. Communications Director
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Tigers Host No. 10 Kentucky at Maravich Center

BATON ROUGE – The LSU Tigers look to move back into a tie in the Southeastern Conference race when they host the tenth-ranked Kentucky Wildcats Tuesday night at 8 p.m. in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. 

The Tigers and Wildcats will play on ESPN with Karl Ravech, Jay Bilas and Marty Smith on the call with the Voice of the Tigers Chris Blair and former LSU head coach John Brady handling the broadcast on the LSU Sports Radio Network affiliates (Guaranty Media BR Flagship Eagle 98.1 FM). 

A limited number of tickets for the game are on sale at the LSU Athletics Ticket Office during normal business hours and online at all times at Upper concourse ticket windows will open Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m. Full-time LSU students are admitted free of charge by downloading the Geaux Rewards app and getting it scanned at the student entrance.

LSU is 18-7 and 9-3 in the SEC, tied with Auburn at 9-3 and one game back of the league leader at 10-2, Kentucky. The Wildcats rallied to win a 67-62 decision over Ole Miss Saturday at Rupp Arena. LSU fell 88-82 at Alabama and Auburn lost at Missouri. Auburn plays Wednesday night at Georgia.

LSU has won seven straight games at home and all three teams – LSU, Kentucky, Auburn – are 6-0 in home SEC games this year. Auburn and LSU are 3-3 in the league on the road and Kentucky is 4-2. 

Skylar Mays has led the Tigers of late scoring 20-plus points in the last three games, equaling the stretch of former Tiger Tremont Waters two seasons ago when at this same time of the year the then freshman point guard topped 20 in three consecutive contests. LSU had four players in double figures in the loss at Alabama with Emmitt Williams getting a 13-10 double for his seventh of the season.

The Tigers rallied from 18 down to cut the margin to just one in the final two minutes before the Tide hit two three-pointers to put the game away.

LSU will go on the road after the Tuesday game and will face South Carolina on Saturday at 5 p.m. CT in Columbia and then travel to Gainesville on Feb. 26 to face Florida (8 p.m. CT). The Tigers next home game is Feb. 29 at 11 a.m. against Texas A&M in a game which will feature at halftime the retirement of the jersey of former Tiger Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf.

Coach Will Wade met with the media on Monday afternoon and here are some of his comments:

Opening statements …
“Disappointing game this weekend. Didn’t play very well.  Didn’t play as hard as we needed to which is why we didn’t get the result we needed. We’ve just got to start playing better. We’re just in a little bit of a rut right here. We’ve got to start playing better.  If we don’t start playing much better than we did on Saturday night it’s going to be a long night tomorrow night.  We’ve got to hopefully improve and get better. Especially at rebounding the ball. We haven’t been imposing our will on the glass. We did a really poor job on the glass at Alabama.  They got 10 offensive rebounds in the second half. It was kind of the same story at Auburn in the second half.  We’ll need to be better because (Nick) Richards and (Keion) Brooks and (EJ) Montgomery and those guys are a certainly formidable front line.  Hopefully we’ll be better rebounding the ball. Kentucky is a tremendous team. Great defensive team. We’ll need to run very, very good offense. Better offence than we’ve been running with our pace and screening. We’ll need to guard quite a bit better than we’ve been guarding because we’re probably not going to be able to score 80 points on them like we’ve been scoring.”
On teams being able to stop their spacing…
“We stop our own spacing. Because we don’t go where we’re supposed to go.  If we don’t go where we’re supposed to go tomorrow (Ashton) Hagans will set the SEC steal record.  If we don’t go where we are supposed to go tomorrow he is going to come swipe the ball from us all over the court.”

On pointing out one thing schematically why the three-point defense struggles …
“Yeah.  We just get put in rotation.  They hit three threes on ball side help.  They hit four threes off of offensive rebound threes. There is seven of their threes right there that are not easily taken away, but you should be able to take away five of those seven. We helped from the wrong spots. Just do some of those things that are not what you need to do if you’re going to be a good defensive team or if you’re going to be an adequate defensive team. If you’re going to give yourself a chance to win on the road.”
On how surprising the three-point defense has turned out …
“I don’t know if anything is surprising.  It’s just not very good.  I think our two-point defense is a little better than we thought. Our three-point defense is probably not as good as we thought. Teams have figured us out.  They know where our weak spots are. They just attack the same two or three people over and over and over and over and over again. It’s not necessarily that those are the people that get scored on. That’s how we get in rotation and get put behind the play. Then we get scored on.”
On the Vanderbilt game defensively …

“Vanderbilt really did a good job and teams have picked up on what they did. That was the biggest disappointment from the Vanderbilt game. Coach (Jerry) Stackhouse did a very good job of exposing some of our weakest links. We’ve now got to go back and change a few things and try to disguise it again. Obviously, we lost and that’s not good. But more important than that, I knew that the book was out on us a little bit. They were able to isolate the same two or three guys almost the entire game. That’s what every team has pretty much done since then.”
On the differences in rebounding numbers in the first and second half at Auburn and Alabama…
“Well, we had some lucky breaks in the first half. We didn’t box them out much better in the first half; the ball just kind of bounced to us. You can go back and watch, I mean, the ball just kind of bounced in our hands and the second half, we did the same poor job of boxing out, and the ball went to their hands. But, I mean, if you think about it, Herb Jones had one hand and had 17 rebounds. I mean he had 5 offensive rebounds in the second half with one hand. You know, and so, our guards have to rebound better. Skylar (Mays) had nine rebounds, but you look back in those games, and Javonte (Smart) had one rebound at Auburn and two rebounds at Alabama. I mean, he’s a big guard; he’s got to help us rebound, and we’ve got to have more production from other guys, not just him. I mean, he’s playing well for us, and I’m not picking on him. You know, (Trendon) Watford’s got to rebound better, (Darius) Day’s has got to stay in the game, so he can rebound better. Emmitt (Williams) has got to rebound. I mean, it’s got to be team rebounding and not just one-on-one, but longs shots are long rebounds, just running in there and not, you know, calculating things right, and so, it’s what happens. Teams pin their ears back and whip us on the glass.”
On what stands out about Kentucky…
“Well, they’re talented, they’re physical, well, well coached, run good offense. They put their guys in right positions defensively. They’re hardly every out of position. And, you know, they play to their strengths. They do what they do, and so there a tremendous, tremendous team.”
On (Nick) Richards and (EJ) Montgomery and Kentucky’s overall size…
“Yeah, I mean, they’re big, but we’ve played other big teams, so you know, we’ll have to certainly guard. I mean, (Nick) Richards is probably the most improved player in the league. You know, offensively, he gets a lot of credit for his offensive numbers, but he’s as good as there is in the league at shielding in the paint and blocking shots. He’s a defensive menace now. He gets a lot of credit for, obviously, his major improvement on offense, averaging 14.5 (points), 8 or 9 rebounds a game. But, I mean, defensively, he’s improved just as much. His timing, his ability to block shots, effect shots at the rim. He’s playing at a very, very high level.”
On (Darius) Days trying to stay out of foul trouble…
“You know, he picks up a couple. You know, some of them he has to avoid—things that are just not very smart, but some of them, I feel bad. I mean, his teammates put him in terrible spots. His first foul wasn’t his fault. I mean, that was another guy’s drop and Days is trying to cover for the other guy, who is rarely everywhere he’s supposed to be defensively, and you know, days is trying to cover for him, and he fouls. But that’s not his, I mean, I feel bad for him, you know, but that’s kind of the way it goes. You know, he’s just got to be smarter, he’s got to avoid the ones that he can avoid. You know, he needs to be a little more judicious there.”
On the team’s identity after a 10-game win streak followed by the team’s recent struggles…
“Well, I mean, I just think, we’re like any other team. I mean, our margin for error’s not very big, and so, you have to do everything right. We’ve had some slippage in some areas; we’ve been trying to correct it, but we haven’t been able to get it fully corrected yet. But, we’re no different than most other teams in college basketball, say San Diego State, Baylor and Kansas. You know, that upper four or five, Dayton. You know, we’re kind of just like all the rest of them and there’s going to be ebbs and flows, but we’ve certainly got to play better than we’ve been playing. We’ve got to, you know, we’ve got to be better, but we weren’t as good as probably the 10-game winning streak, and we’re not as bad as we look now. I would say it’s somewhere in between. I don’t think we were necessarily playing great in the 10-game winning streak, and I don’t think we’re necessarily, we’re not playing well now, but we’re not just terrible. You know, we’re still a good team. You know, we’ve got to be better and improve in some areas, particularly on the defensive side.”