The LSU basketball team will by playing for more than just itself Sunday when the Tigers hose Incarnate Word at 1 p.m. in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
Fans of the Tigers can get into the game for free if they bring new, unwrapped toy that will contribute to the Toys for Tots campaign, and LSU’s coaching staff will be wearing green ties as participants in the Coaching for Literacy program, which helps raise money and awareness for child literacy.
During Will Wade’s monthly Tip-Off Luncheon at the L’Auberge Casino and Hotel, LSU sports information director Kent Lowe pledged to donate money for every assist the Tigers tally against the Cardinals (5-5).
And that provided the perfect lob for Wade, who is still trying to get LSU to look like the team everyone expected to see prior to the season’s start, to take a good jab at his team’s performance so far this season.
“Kent, I’m afraid you’d be bankrupt if you had to write a check for turnovers,” Wade joked. “… Your paycheck would come out negative. We’re working on fixing that.”
The Tigers are averaging 14.1 turnovers per game, with point guard Tremont Waters responsible for most of the damage giving the ball up 4.4 times per game.
That number is too high for Wade, who thought that number would be much lower considering he has three guys who could realistically play point guard in the backcourt.
As a result of the high turnover rate — among other problems — Wade has changed his approach to how the Tigers play this season.
Against Grambling, he shook things up by changing his starting lineup by putting Kavell Bigby-Williams and Darius Days in the post, rather than Emmitt Williams and Naz Reid who started the season as regular starters.
In addition, the Wade has attempted to mitigate turnovers by running more set plays rather than giving Waters, Skylar Mays and Ja’vonte Smart free reign around the perimeter.
The goal is to get the ball to hit the floor less often and to run a more fluid offense that lends itself to better shots, first around the rim then behind the arc as defenses collapse in.
With the semester concluded and just less than a month before Southeastern Conference play, Wade said this is the ideal time to spur significant growth with sometimes multiple practices a day and hard work on and off the court.
“We have a lot of time, and we need to grow as a team,” Wade said. “This is a time when you can really improve because you don’t have class and you can kind of limit some of the outside periphery stuff. This is the time we really need to grow as a team, and hopefully that will lead to us playing better as well.”
The home game against the Cardinals marks the last game before the Tigers hit the road for a week in which it will take on Houston before travelling to Las Vegas for a neutral-court game against St. Mary’s.
With a game against No. 25 Furman coming right after the trip, the next couple weeks mark the most important stretch of LSU’s non-conference schedule.
Those games will mark the last chance for the Tigers to build some good will toward March before SEC play begins.
Against UIW, the Tigers want to continue to grow, and we’ll likely see Wade continue to play with lineups and set plays.
Forward Christian Peevy leads the San Antonio-based Cardinals with 13.8 points per game to go along with four rebounds per game and a .587 shooting clip.
The Tigers will have to limit UIW’s chances at the free throw line as the cardinals are shooting 82.2 percent from the strip as a team this season.
Despite early struggles this season, the Tigers have just two losses to their name, and with four freshman playing significant minutes, Wade said he feels his team is still on a good trajectory to complete a successful season.
“For a lot of guys, this is the first time in their basketball lives that things haven’t gone exactly as they planned,” Wade said. “This is a great time for growth and learning. I think our freshmen and some of our newer guys have taken the right lessons from these situations and I think we’ll be better for it as we move forward into conference play.”