By CODY WORSHAM | Tiger Rag Editor
Will Wade’s players might have been surprised by an 84-74 loss to Tulane on Tuesday in the Tigers’ lone preseason exhibition tune-up, their first foray into the cage with their new coach.
Wade was not. Not at all.
“I knew what was coming,” Wade said Thursday. “I think some of our guys were surprised, but I could see it coming from a mile away. Our staff could see it coming. We’ve been talking about it. It was good for our guys to get a sense of, ‘Hey, these guys aren’t as dumb as I think sometimes.’ We called this shot. This wasn’t very difficult to call. But it was good. Now we’ve got some film. That big screen doesn’t lie.”
The big screen brought some uncomfortable truths to LSU’s players during a 6 a.m. film session Thursday morning. Most critically, Wade lamented his team’s poor defensive effort against the Green Wave: surrendering 84 points on 52 percent shooting from the field, 50 percent shooting from 3, and allowing five players to reach double figures. Wade, inheriting a team with the second worst defensive season in conference play since 2002 in all of college basketball, is already contemplating wholesale changes to his rotations, before the Tigers have even played a single game of record.
“I’m self-critical now,” he said. “I’ll look at myself when things go wrong. I’m the first guy to blame. I’m the one you blame. But, this was all stuff we’ve taught for six months, and we just had huge breakdowns. We’ve got to get it corrected.
“Part of the problem is I’m playing the wrong guys. We’ve been trying some of these guys, hoping they’d come around defensively, and the experiments are over. We’re going to play some different lineups and give some other guys some chance. We have some guys with a history of not being able to guard, and that’s been well-documented. I’m the idiot for keep trying some of these combinations. That’s going to change. We gave up 84 points. It’s not going to be any worse.”
Wade specified the areas of issue the team needs to improve: non-existent help-side rotations, poor point-of-attack defense, and an inability to follow the scouting report. Skylar Mays, who scored 19 points – 18 of which came in the second half – said the issues are all fixable.
“I like to say, if they don’t score, you don’t lose,” he said. “You’re not going to win a lot of games if you allow teams to shoot over 50 percent from the field and give up 84 points. We had a lot of correctable mistakes, but a lot of it is want-to, wanting to get the job done.”[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]“We have some guys with a history of not being able to guard, and that’s been well-documented. I’m the idiot for keep trying some of these combinations. That’s going to change.”[/perfectpullquote]
The other end of the floor didn’t please Wade any more. LSU shot just 36 percent from the floor, connecting on 4-of-24 from beyond the arc and keeping close only by virtue of a 19-2 advantage on the offensive boards. Too often, Wade said, the Tigers went way from Duop Reath – who posted 21 points and 13 rebounds and is shooting 57 percent in LSU’s scrimmages and exhibition combined – to settle for ill-advised jumpers.
“We’ve got guys shooting 30 percent jacking up 3s when we’ve got Wop wide open with a guy on his back,” Wade said. “You need to throw the ball inside and play inside out. That’s what we’re going to have to do.
“He’s our best offensive option, and the second option’s not even close to as good as where he is. We’re going to play through him. We’re going to feed him even more. We didn’t get him enough touches.”
- Wade said senior forward Jeremy Combs has been fully cleared to return to practice, as has freshman wing Galen Alexander. Senior Aaron Epps has missed the last week-and-a-half with a foot issue but is out of his boot and walking. Wade hopes he’ll be fully cleared next week before LSU’s tipoff with Alcorn State on Nov. 10.
- Tremont Waters struggled against the Wave, going scoreless and assist-less in 13 minutes. But Wade isn’t worried about his highly-touted freshman: “Tre’s really had some good practices before the scrimmage. He didn’t play as well. Part of it was not his fault. Part of it was our wings weren’t spaced properly, our screens weren’t set at the proper angle. We weren’t able to get him going. A lot of it was not his doing. It was his teammates not helping him out enough. We’ll get that stuff corrected. It’s one me to get that stuff corrected. I think Tre’s going to be a very good point guard for us. We’re going to have to live with mistakes, but he’s a talented kid. He’s the one guy we’ve got that can get into the paint and get by people.”
“When you raise the standards a little bit, they feel like they’ve done something. Well the standards are a lot higher than where we are right now. What we’ve been doing is not good enough.”
On Aaron Epps…
“We really miss him. He’s a big piece to what we’re doing. He’s a weapon. A couple of those open threes some of those guys were taking, he would’ve taken and knocked down. He just gives us a little more height. You can’t shoot over the top of us at the 4 spot…I’m not sitting here blowing smoke. I told you Sky had gotten better, he’s gotten better. I told you Wop has gotten better, he’s gotten better. I told you Epps was the other guy who’s gotten better, I promise you he has gotten better. Those are our three most improved players. It showed when we played. Sky and Wop were our two leading scorers, and Epps would’ve been right up there with them. Those are our three most consistent, hardest-working guys.”
On the offense…
“We’re going to throw the thing into the post. Tried and true basketball. It’s very simple. Throw the thing in the post. Wop’s good enough where if it’s 1-on-1 down there, he’s going to score. If it’s not 1-on-1 down there, that means somebody’s helped, and our perimeter players are good enough where if you’re playing 4-on-3 on the perimeter, we’re going to make a play.”
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