Tigers Get To Work For SEC Tournament

by Kent Lowe | Sr. Assoc. Communications Director
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Tigers Get To Work For SEC Tournament

BATON ROUGE – The LSU Tigers began preparations for their Friday Southeastern Conference Tournament quarterfinal matchup Tuesday working on getting better as a team prior to their opening contest in Nashville at the Bridgestone Arena. 

The Tigers will play either South Carolina, Arkansas or Vanderbilt in their portion of the bracket at approximately 8:30 p.m. Friday on the SEC Network and the affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network. Arkansas and Vanderbilt meet on Wednesday night and the winner will face South Carolina on Thursday to determine LSU’s Friday opponent. 

Coach Will Wade met with the media on Tuesday prior to practice and here are some of his comments:

On Darius (Days) playing this Friday …

“He’ll be ready to roll.”

On if he has looked at the teams he is going to be playing …

“You look at your side of the bracket and we’ve been a defensive nightmare against the teams on our side of the bracket. I said this to somebody the other day, what do Arkansas and Vanderbilt have in common? They both beat us, 99-90 on the road. I think we’ve given up almost 90 points to the teams on our side of the bracket. We gave up 80 at South Carolina, 99, 99, and I think we gave up 70 some odd to Arkansas (in Baton Rouge). I think we’re going to have to be better defensively then we’ve been against the teams that we can play. But each of them can pose an issue. Obviously, Vanderbilt has Saben Lee; he’s been a nightmare for us to stop for two years. Arkansas, we know what just happened with them. Jimmy Whitt has killed us in both games. We haven’t had an answer for Whitt. South Carolina is so big and physical; they’re a very, very tough matchup for us. We’ll have to see what comes out of that grouping the next couple days and be ready to play Friday night.”

On if there is an advantage playing the last game on Friday night …

“I don’t know. We’ll be one of five teams left. A lot of people will have gone home by the time we tip off. That’s the seed we got so that’s when we’re going to play. I don’t know if there is a real advantage to it. If you win, you got a quick turnaround. We’ve got to turn things around quickly and get ready for whomever else that next Saturday. That’s just part of it. That’s how tournament play goes, that’s the fun part of tournament play.”

On how he fairs with the double bye and what he’s working on …

“We’re going to work on ourselves today. We haven’t practiced yet. We took a couple days off. There are a couple common actions that a couple of the teams run so we’re going to work on guarding those. Spend a lot of time just trying to get ourselves right and focus on what we need to do no matter who the opponent is. Work on some breakdown offense, work on some breakdown defensive principles. Hopefully we get a little bit better this week as we move forward into the SEC Tournament.”

On what he’s learned at the SEC Tournament …

“I hadn’t been there but once. It was a quick showing on Thursday. Just in general in tournament play, the hardest game to win is the first game. You got to put all you got into the first game. It is a very, very difficult game to win. It’s always challenging. Once you win that one you kind of get the ball rolling down hill and get going a little bit. Whoever we play in that opening round matchup will be a challenge and we’ve got to play well in that game. That’s the one game where the team who played the day before has a little bit of an advantage to start the game. They’ve been in the gym; they’ve gotten going a little bit. You’ve got to get off to a good start. Make sure you don’t dig yourself a hole against that team that played the day before in that first game.”

On how he feels about his team going into the tournament …

“We’re getting healthy. I think we’ll have (Charles) Manning back in time for the NCAA Tournament, which will help us. I feel good. We’ll see. We got to go win some games. It is kind of the next step for us, the seniors; they haven’t won a game in the SEC tournament. We haven’t won a game in the SEC tournament since we’ve been here. We want to fancy ourselves as a good program, one of the top programs in the SEC. We need to win at least a game. Show up and win a game. We haven’t made it to semi-finals in four years. We haven’t made the finals since ’93. It’s been a drought. If we want to be a good team and a good program in this league we’ve got to win a little bit in this tournament.”

On managing the players minutes …

“We’ve got to play everybody. We got to play to win the game Friday. Like I said, once you win that first one, adrenaline and emotion takes over. We’ve got to do whatever we have to do to win that game on Friday. You’ll worry about the game Saturday at two o’clock.”

On having a good run in the SEC tournament will help in the NCAA tournament …

“It just depends. I’ve seen it work both ways. I think really just getting used to tournament play, getting used to neutral court. Lets call it what it is, there’s not going to be a whole lot of people there when we play on Friday night. It’s going to be friends and family. There’s not going to be a whole lot of folks in the arena. That’s how it is in the NCAA tournament. Everyone gets all excited for the NCAA Tournament, I mean shoot, I’ve been in those noon games in the NCAA Tournament. You can hear a pin drop in there, there’s nobody there. It’s good preparation in that sense, your playing on a neutral court, you’re playing in an unfamiliar environment just like the other team. The other team is doing the same thing. Obviously, if you make it to the semi-finals, it will be packed in there … I think that could be good preparation for the NCAA Tournament. You can certainly be put in those situations in the NCAA Tournament depending on when you play, who you play, where you play. That sort of thing.”

On Courtese Cooper’s improvement…

“He’s improved a ton since he’s gotten here. He’s improved a lot during the year. He’s good defensively, he can make layups, he finishes around the rim. He’s our best screener, he screens really well on offense. He does some stuff that can help us, and we’ll continue to keep using him.”

On Skylar Mays getting the COSIDA All-American Player of the Year…

“It’s awesome. It’s only our second one across all sports here. Last one was a tennis player in the late 90’s, so it’s a tremendous honor. Well deserved, well earned. Happy for him to be first-team all-league, he deserved that. Trendon Watford to be on the all-rookie team, I thought we probably deserved a little more than what we got with some of our other guys. I thought Trendon deserved to be second-team all-league. Look at the numbers compared to some of the guys that made second-team all-league, but that’s the way it goes. We didn’t get a lot of love with the awards, so we’ll have to go prove it in Nashville.”

On if he uses Skylar Mays as an example of a student-athlete…

“It’s hard to follow in Skylar’s footsteps. I’ve been doing this for as long as anybody else, but I was telling my team before senior night, I’ve been doing this for about 15 years and there’s only one other player I’ve had that’s even in Skylar’s stratosphere. So, I was trying to explain to our guys that they have no idea how fortunate they are to have him as a teammate and to be around him, to see his work ethic and drive on and off the court. He’s just a special person and exactly what you want from a student-athlete, four years, graduate. He’ll be very successful as a player and in his career when he leaves here.

On how important Darius Days is to the team’s success…

“He’s an important piece to what we do and we’re a lot better when he’s on the court. He’s productive for us. We have to put him in good positions to keep him out of foul trouble and keep him on the court, offensively and defensively. We’ve stumbled on some things; I think Courtese Cooper developing has helped. We’ve put Days with Cooper some and maybe that will be more effective. As a staff, we have to get better with rotations and make sure our rotations are tighter and better. I think we can help Days out better by doing what we need to do.”