Tiger Basketball Travels to Fayetteville For Final Road Tilt

Tigers and Razorbacks At 6 P.M. Wednesday

by Kent Lowe | Sr. Assoc. Communications Director
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Tiger Basketball Travels to Fayetteville For Final Road Tilt

BATON ROUGE – The LSU men’s basketball team heads to Fayetteville for their final road game of the year as the Tigers take on the University of Arkansas at 6 p.m. Wednesday night at Bud Walton Arena.

The game will be televised on the SEC Network (Roy Philpott and Mark Wise) and broadcast on the affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network (Guaranty Media BR flagship Eagle 98.1 FM) with the “Voice of the Tigers” Chris Blair and former head coach John Brady

The Tigers are 20-9 on the season, winners of 20 games for the second straight year for only the third time in the last quarter century, and 11-5 in the SEC, tied with Auburn for second place. LSU’s magic number to lock up a double bye for the SEC Tournament is one win in its final two games and/or a set of losses involving Florida, Mississippi State or South Carolina. 

Arkansas is 18-11 overall and 6-10 in the SEC. The Tigers are coming off a 64-50 win at home over Texas A&M and has won two-of-three, including an 86-80 win at South Carolina. Arkansas lost at Georgia, 99-89, on Saturday, stopping a two-game winning streak with home triumphs over Missouri (78-68) and Tennessee (86-69). 

LSU won the first meeting between the teams, 79-77, in Baton Rouge on Jan. 8. In that game, there were three three-point plays (the basket and free throw variety) in the final 32 seconds. The final one by Trendon Watford with eight seconds left was the difference in the game. 

LSU is coming off a win in which its Bayou Backcourt of Skylar Mays and Javonte Smart had the best numbers as Mays scored 24 points and Smart added 14 more. 

Coach Will Wade met with the media before the team left for Fayetteville and here are some of his comments:

On facing Arkansas for the second time this season …

“We played Arkansas on January 8, so it’s been almost two months since we played them.  They have been up and down with Isaiah Joe out.  I think having (Isaiah) Joe back, they obviously have been a lot better. He just looks like the freshest guy on the court; I know you don’t want to lose guys but he’s so fresh.  Offensively, everybody knows what he brings with his shooting, but he really helps them out defensively with his energy.  When he was out they gave up 77 points a game and with him they were giving up 64 and some change.  He’s very helpful to them defensively and they have played a little bit bigger; 24 (Ethan Henderson) has started to play more.  It will be a tough game, any time you go up there you will face one of the better atmospheres, if not the best atmosphere in our league.  It will be senior day with (Jimmy) Whitt (Jr.) and (Adrio) Bailey and those guys so it will be a big day.  We need to hopefully build off of our win against Texas A&M; we have to go out there and guard to give ourselves an opportunity down the stretch.    

On his team taking it one game at a time

“We have talked about where things stand but we don’t spend a lot of time worrying about that.  We just need to win; the seeding and those sorts of things will take care of itself if we win.  It’s opportunity for a quad one road win so it would be a big win for us, another feather in the cap.  It would give us a winning road record in the SEC, we are 4-4 on the road in the conference.  Finishing 5-4 in the league on the road would be very good.  We certainly talked about last week and about where we are in the hierarchy of things, in our conference, nationally, and what we need to do to finish things out to get where we want to be.”

On Arkansas’s development throughout the season …

“I think they’ve gotten better; (Mason) Jones is playing at an extremely high level, he does a great job of drawing fouls.  With (Isaiah) Joe out he’s been carrying a lot of the load, he was scoring 37 or 38 point a game over a little span.  He’s been really good for them and they have forced him to step up.  Jimmy Whitt Jr. killed us at our place, he’s the one that really destroyed us.  You look at their team and Whitt is a prolific scorer from mid-range, Joe is a prolific shooter, Jones does it from anywhere so if all three of those guys go off you’ve got zero chance of beating them.  We did a pretty good job on Joe, we lost him on switch with ten minutes left and he hit a three to ignite them down the stretch.  For the most part we did a good enough job on him, but Whitt Jr. and Jones really hurt us.  We are going to have to do a good job on Joe as he has been playing better and has been fresher.  He’s moving really cleanly and really well out there.  We will have to find a way to shut down one or a couple of those guys.  We haven’t been great at this year, but we have to find a way to do it.”    

On what the team can take away from previous road games like Florida and South Carolina…

“I talked to a couple of the guys yesterday, tried to get a feel from, you know, what was different from Florida to (Texas) A&M with how we felt, how we prepared, so every game’s different. You know, every team’s at different points in the season. So, we’ll kind of stick to our routine. Our road routine’s been fairly good to us, so we’re going to stick to our routine and go up there and we need to play better. Florida, we were just out of sync, out of whack for a few reasons. I think our team’s in a much better place as a group. Holistically, I think we’re in a much better place, so I think we were just off at Florida for whatever reason; we were connected and really, really good against South Carolina. We were connected and really, really good against (Texas) A&M. Just because we were good against (Texas) A&M and South Carolina doesn’t—you got to keep it together, but we’re on the right path right now. I feel like we’re on the right path, and we just got to stay on the path.”

On what the difference could potentially be in the rematch against Arkansas…

“Yeah (Trendon) Watford’s two and-ones at the end of the game—the three and-ones—(Isaiah) Joe had one too. Kind of a crazy ending that we were fortunate enough to be on the good side of it, but Arkansas does a lot of switching, they have tremendous, tremendous three-point defense, which we’re not a very good three-point shooting team, so that’s kind of a wash. But, you know, the three-point defense is really, really good. You’ve got to keep the ball moving against them. I thought the ball was too stagnant the first time. You can’t turn the ball over; we did a great job of handling the ball against Texas A&M, and you can’t turn the ball over against them. Ball security’s going to be huge, going in there. If you go in there and start turning it over, you know, Bud Walton (Arena) starts going wild, and they start calling the hogs, it can spiral really quick in a bad way. You know, we’ve got to go in there and value the ball and try and try get a shot on the basket as best we can.”

On keeping Marlon Taylor in the starting lineup

“We’re going to stick with Marlon (Taylor) for now. You know, we’re just looking for production offensively, defensively, and we get from that spot. I thought (Savion) Flagg had 17 (points) and did some really good things. Two of the threes were contested, just tough, tough shots. I thought Marlon (Taylor) did some nice things and so that’s who we’re going to stick with for now, and we certainly intend on playing (Aundre) Hyatt. We’re going to get back and we’re going to play Hyatt and we can play (James) Bishop. We just felt like the A&M game, Marlon was the guy to go with and obviously we had Emmitt (Williams) off the bench. You know, I’m not going to say the A&M game was a must-win, but it was a very, very important game for us, and Marshall (Graves) had played really well against them the first time. Marshall played well against them this time. You know, I just trust Marshall. He doesn’t just wow you, but he’s not going to make any mistakes that are going to wow you either where the other team goes down there; he’s just, he’s a very, very, very, very solid and so you know our team trusts him. When you’re in a tight situation in a very, very important game that you need to win. We’re going to go with Marshall. People forget, we won at A&M in overtime. We were down six. Marshall hits a corner-three off a shot fake. If we don’t hit that, we’re in the foul game at that point and we probably—I mean we definitely lose. I thought he did some good things, and we trust him and we’re going to stick with Marlon. You know, Hyatt played very well the first time against Arkansas the first time. He guarded pretty well, had a little driving layup, a little put back. We’re going to need to have Hyatt and have all hands-on deck ready to go.”

On how the team is feeling as tournament nears …
“You can see the light at the end of the tunnel so to speak. The conference tournament gives you some new life. You’re in a tough spot, I’m not making excuses, but when we went to Florida, we’re not really in the championship race, you’re in a difficult spot. In this league, if we were coming off a win and Florida was coming off a loss, if you’re off just 3-5% you’re going to get beat. Just the margins are so, so thin when you’re playing good teams. If you’re off just a little bit it’s not going to work, and we were off. That’s just part of what happens and that’s part of it, but we responded the right way, as we have most of the year. We’ve responded well, and we got the win. We’ve got to build on that. We haven’t played, to your point, we haven’t played back-to-back good games in month. We’ve kind of been, not kind of, we’ve been way up and down – more down than up really. Our challenge is to play good games back-to-back, because guess what, we’re going to have to start playing good games back-to-back when we get in tournament play or we’re going to be done really quick. That’s a big challenge for us – stay consistent and be detail orientated and do a good job in back-to-back settings.”

On bright spots/silver lining consistency …
“We’ve been all over. Our offense was pretty good for a long time then that hurt us against Florida. We’ve just been a little bit all over the map. Hopefully we can find something and hopefully we can stick to it as we move forward. I feel as good as about our team as I have in about six weeks today. Moving forward, I really feel like we’re in a good place, I feel like we’re starting to play better, I feel like we’re starting to do some good things. I just have a much – you could feel it within our group. When I’m up there talking to them you can feel the energy. You can just feel it. I’m hopeful I’m not feeling indigestion or something, I’m feeling the right thing. I feel like we’re going to finish strong here I really do. I think we’re moving in the right direction. I think we’ve got a chance to close out strong here, and that starts with playing well at Arkansas on Wednesday.

On the team’s defensive performance vs. A&M and what is ahead with Arkansas … 
“Arkansas, you’ve got to account for Harris and Seals. Bailey’s been absolutely somebody that’s been a thorn in our side. He’s from Louisiana, he hit a 3 here last year against us, he hit a 3 in the first game against us. He’s shooting pretty well, he’s their best statistical three-point shooter. You just look at straight numbers, he’s their best. He’s really, really hurt us. They’re playing 24, Henderson, more. Arkansas, they do such a good schematically, offensively manipulating matchups, getting guys, having the guys they want to guard guarding their guys and being able to take advantage of that. It’s a much, much different (offense compared to Texas A&M). A&M is trying to feed that ball underneath to Nebo. Arkansas won’t throw it in the post as many times in the whole game as A&M did in the first four minutes of the game. That’s just not their deal. They’re like us, it’s not like we throw the ball in the post a whole lot either. It’s just different styles and some are a bit easier to guard, a little bit easier for us to handle. Arkansas, certainly, is a big challenge for us. How they spread the court, how they drive us, we’ve got to do a great job of guarding without fouling. I’m really worried about going up there and getting in foul trouble and fouling. I think that could be very, very tough for us. We’ve got to do a good job of guarding without fouling.”