Will Wade’s game plan to attack the best defense in the SEC is simple:
The strength of Alabama’s defense has Wade feeling particularly prayerful heading into Fat Tuesday night’s 8 p.m. road contest with Alabama. LSU (14-10, 5-7 SEC) has won two of three to ascend into sole possession of 10th place in the league and is just one game back of the four teams sharing sixth place.
With up to eight SEC teams likely to make the NCAA Tournament and another one or two surely NIT bound, the Tigers continue to jockey for postseason placement.
But the Tide, boasting the league’s most efficient defense and fresh off a 78-50 win at No. 18 Tennessee, pose a problem for Wade’s squad.
“Tennessee scored 50 on them,” Wade said. “You have to spread them. Our best chance is to bang a bunch of threes. Hope the three ball goes in. Hadn’t gone in very well on the road. Maybe we have saved up a bunch of makes. Time to cash them in tomorrow night. They are bigger, longer, and more athletic than us at every position. There are ways to compensate for that. Hopefully we will do that. The biggest way to compensate is to make threes.”
LSU’s main course of attack of late has been through Duop Reath in the post. The 6-foot-11 senior is coming off a 26 point night against Ole Miss, in which he knocked down 10 of 12 shots. Wade thinks the going will be rougher against Alabama, which held Reath to 12 points and forced him into five turnovers in the Tide’s 74-66 win in Baton Rouge earlier in the season. That was without leading rebounder and shot blocker Donta Hall, who will be in action on Tuesday in Tuscaloosa.
“We are going to need to kick it out tomorrow night because they are going to collapse on him so fast, he won’t even have the ball before the four man is there,” Wade said. “We have to move that thing around. We need to get it to him in the right spots. The first game, we hung him out to dry. Turned the ball over too much to Alabama in the first game, but our guards hung him out to dry. They gave him the ball in terrible spots. They gave him the ball in the wrong spots. It was a disaster. Alabama is playing as well as anyone in our league. They looked great Saturday against Tennessee. Absolutely phenomenal.”
Knocking down those open looks will be LSU’s best path to victory, and Wade is hoping sophomore guard Skylar Mays will pick up on his second half against the Rebels. He scored 15 points after halftime, controlling the offense when Reath was sidelined with foul trouble.
“Sky has been good,” Wade said. “I think he was able to self-correct a little bit during the game, which he hasn’t been able to do for parts of the year. He puts so much pressure on himself because he is such a high achiever with everything that he does, academically or with basketball. I think sometimes he gets down on himself and it is kind of hard for him to get out of that rut. He certainly played an aggressive game in the second half. We have to keep him aggressive.
“I thought he defended well in the first half. He had a couple good deflections. He did a nice job defending in that first half. If we are going to have a chance tomorrow, we need (Tremont) Waters to play like he did in the second half, the whole game. We need Mays to play like that for the whole game. We need Duop to play like he did. We need (Aaron) Epps. We need everybody. We need someone at the three position to do something. Defend, shoot, something. We need someone to step up like there.”