LSU will take on another tough mid-major Friday night when it hosts in-state foe Louisiana Tech in its last game of a four-game homestand to start the season.
The Tigers (3-0) will take on another guard-heavy, fast-paced team in the Bulldogs (3-0) who have already taken down a usual national powerhouse in Wichita State on the road.
“Louisiana Tech just beat Wichita,” said LSU coach Will Wade. “They were up the whole game, it was comfortable, and they didn’t have anybody who had an out-of-body experience with six or more 3’s. It was just a total takedown.”
The Bulldogs are led by junior point guard DaQuan Bracey, who scored 16 points in Louisiana Tech’s season opener before going down with a foot injury that his kept him out of action since.
Louisiana Tech has Bracey listed as day-to-day, but Wade said the Tigers will prepare as if he’s healthy and ready to play.
“We’re going to prepare like he’s going to play,” Wade said. “He had 16 at Wichita. He’s a big game player. He’s from Baltimore. He’s got that toughness to him. I’m not a doctor, but I was watching film and he was in a boot for the Sam Houston game. He wasn’t in a boot for the Harding game so I assume if he keeps progressing like that they’ll do everything they can to get him on the floor.”
Along with Bracey, the Bulldogs have four other players averaging double-digit scoring tallies through three games, including Amorie Archibald (12.7 ppg), Mubarak Muhammed (11), Anthony Duruji (103) and Exavian Christon (10).
Wade said the Tigers will have to keep an eye on forwards Muhammed and Durumi, who are both undersized but can shoot reliably from the 3-point line.
“Now we’ve just had issues with these pick-and-pop fours,” Wade said. “Louisiana Tech has two pick-and-pop fours who are very good. If we don’t cover them up better than what we’ve been, they’ll have a career night from three.
“We’ve had three straight teams (where a player) has six or more threes on us. That’s hard to do. If we don’t get that fixed and we just give away a free 18-points every game from the three-point line, it will be tough for us to win games. It’s going to catch us to us at some point.”
LSU’s larger forwards Naz Reid and Kavell Bigby-Williams struggled at times rebounding against smaller forwards when the Tigers opened their season against Southeastern Louisiana.
Wade attributed those problems to smaller forwards being more mobile than bigger guys, so Emmitt Williams and Darius Days will likely get extended playing time.
Much to Wade’s surprise, this games marks only the 12th time LSU and Louisiana Tech have squared off on a basketball court, and just the third time since 1946.
The last time the two teams played came in 2006 when LSU defeated the Bulldogs 68-52.
“I was amazed to find out this is only the 12th meeting between us and Louisiana Tech and I think it’s the only second or third time since the 40’s,” Wade said. “I’ve known Coach (Eric) Konkol since he was at Miami as an assistant and I know their ops guys really well, Andy Fox, who was at Tulane. Just made sense to set up.
Reid currently leads the Tigers in scoring with 19 points per game to go along with six rebounds and a block per game.
Williams has dominated the post despite his listing of 6-foo-6, averaging a team-high 8.3 rebounds.
Tremont Waters has been his usual self, tallying 14 steals on the season through three games and averaging 12.7 points and 6.7 assists per game.
Freshman guard Ja’vonte Smart has also performed well, averaging 12 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.0 assist per game playing form the wing. Wade said he’s been “unflappable” so far.
“He’s done great,” Wade said. “He looks like a veteran out there. You wouldn’t know he was a freshman unless you look down and see that next to his name.”