By CODY WORSHAM | Tiger Rag Editor
Tremont Waters doesn’t want to talk about the shot. Either one, really.
The first-year point guard earned SEC Freshman of the Week honors after burying two deep threes in the final 12 seconds to knock off No. 11 Texas A&M on the road, but while the accolades roll in, Waters hasn’t had time to pay attention, between sleeping, ice baths, and Call of Duty: WWII.
“I’ve been sleeping,” Waters said. “I can’t keep thinking about this game-winner.”
Surrounded by reporters on Monday, Waters was more interested in talking about Arkansas, who the Tigers take on Wednesday in Fayetteville (8 p.m., SEC Network), than A&M. The even-keeled cool, calm, and collectedness that poised him for the biggest shots of LSU’s season carried over into the Monday media session.
“Everybody’s trying to make it how I feel,” Waters said. “I don’t feel any different. I try to never get too high off a win or too low off a loss. Now that I’m here, I’m just trying to make a change, change the culture, help my team get better.”
His coach was equally terse. Will Wade spent eight quick minutes talking about “turning the page” and pointing out the things LSU did poorly against the Aggies. Where Tiger fans saw Waters bury a 30-footer at the buzzer, Wade saw a missed screen. The result hasn’t blinded him from the process.
“We didn’t set screens very well,” Wade said. “We left a lot of stuff on the table. But Tre bailed us out at the end, which is what great players do, and that’s what he is. Had we lost, we’d be kicking ourselves.”
Part of the motivation must be LSU’s failure to handle success so far in his tenure. With the win over Texas A&M, the Tigers now have three wins over teams ranked in KenPom.com’s top-42, tied for most in the SEC. They failed to capitalize on either of the previous two wins, however, in the next contest, losing to Notre Dame and Stephen F. Austin after wins over Michigan and Houston, respectively.
“It boosts our confidence,” said junior shooting guard Daryl Edwards of knocking off A&M, “but I’m more focused on that next game. I don’t want us to harp on this game too much. That’s been our problem: winning the big game and not winning the next one.”
THE SHOT, THOUGH
If Waters and Wade didn’t want to talk about either shot, though, the other Tigers were happy to fill in the blanks. Edwards played junior college basketball with Jared Wilson-Frame, the top JUCO recruit in the country last year who often pulled up from a step or two past halfcourt. Even so, Waters’ first three, a 30-plus-footer off the bounce with LSU down 68-63, surprised him.
“I was standing right by him,” Edwards said. “It was so unexpected. I didn’t even think he was going to pull it that fast, and I don’t think the defense was either.”
“Now it’s a game,” Skylar Mays recalls thinking when Waters nailed the first three to make it 68-66. “That’s a shot no one even really thinks about taking, much less making it.” And when Tyler Davis missed the next two free throws, Mays thoughts were equally condense: “We have life.”
“We have a chance to win,” Waters said he thought. “It was a desperate moment for everyone the team. When he missed the first one, I felt lighter on my feet. I knew we had a chance to win at that point.”
It still required Waters to make yet another improbable shot, though. Wade called a play to run off the missed free throw, but Mays called timeout when it bogged down. The coach then drew up, in the huddle, a play he’s run previously at VCU and Chattanooga called “Flyer,” and Waters let it fly.
“Coach said shoot the ball, so I was shooting the ball. There was only three seconds left,” Waters said.
“Range didn’t really matter…it was going up either way.”
It didn’t just go up: it went in.
“Not many people can make that,” said Mays. “Even (assistnat) Coach (Greg) Heiar says in film, when (Tremont) takes some shots where you’re like, ‘Eh, I don’t know about that,’ he calls those T-Dub shots. Tre Waters shots. He has his own shot, I guess. He’s making them, though. So we’re fine with it. He’s playing so well. He’s not playing like a freshman at all.”