LSU hopes new routine leads to first home SEC win vs. Georgia

By CODY WORSHAM | Tiger Rag Editor

Through four conference games – perhaps the toughest slate to start the league by any SEC squad – LSU isn’t the team it was in the non-conference.

A bad defense has turned elite. A good offense has gone cold. And the Tigers (11-5, 2-2 SEC) head into their fifth SEC matchup undefeated on the road and winless at home.

After Saturday’s 74-66 loss to Alabama, head coach Will Wade promised to change up his team’s pre-game home routine ahead of Tuesday’s 6 p.m. home tip against Georgia (11-5, 2-3): staying in a hotel, altering shootaround, with the ultimate goal, he said Monday, of minimizing distractions.

“We’re going to change it up and make it a little bit more where we can limit distractions, where we can make sure our guys are locked in with what we do,” Wade said. “We’ve got a pretty good way about us on the road. We’ve got to do that at home, so we’ll try to mimic a lot of the stuff we do on the road here at home.”

DEFENSIVE UPTICK

The most important factor to mimic is LSU’s defensive play, which has ticked up in the league. The Tigers are giving up just 96.4 points per 100 possessions against SEC foes, the third-best number in the league and more than five points better than their season average.

Sitting courtside in Saturday’s loss was an LSU hardhat, Wade’s attempt to symbolize the toughness he wants to see from his team.

“We didn’t exactly play with that hard hat mentality,” Wade said. “We didn’t play to that symbolism.

“You always want more (toughness). I think we are tougher than we were, but we are not where we want to be. You are never where you want to be.”

REBOUNDING REGRESSION

The biggest area of regression for the Tigers through four conference tilts is on the glass, particularly on the offense end, where Wade’s teams are traditionally dominant. His squads at Chattanooga and VCU rebounded between 31 and 33 percent of their misses, consistently ranking near the top of the charts nationally. LSU, meanwhile, is grabbing just 23.1 percent of its misses in the league, dead last in the SEC and nearly 10 percent down from its season-long 32.7 percent mark.

In particular, Aaron Epps, the team’s leading offensive rebounder with 2.5 per game and 14.6 ORB% (30th nationally) has seen a dip, grabbing only 9.6 percent of offensive rebounds against conference opponents.

Wade said part of the dip is LSU strategically sent fewer men to the glass against Kentucky and Arkansas, dangerous transition offenses.

” The teams have done a good job against Aaron Epps,” he said. “They have really honed in on him, trying to keep him off of the offensive glass. We have backed off of who we have been sending. We have only been sending two guys sometimes, whereas in the non-conference we are sending three or four guys depending on who was going. We have backed off a little bit on who is going.”

Alabama, who Wade said is “on paper one of the worst rebounding teams in the league,” beat the Tigers 40-24 on the glass. Epps and Duop Reath combined for just six rebounds in the Tiger frontcourt. Georgia, meanwhile, leads the league in rebounding, led by senior SEC Player of the Year candidate Yante Maten (19.6 points per game, 8.9 rebounds per game).

“They are big, they are physical. They just annihilate you in the paint,” Wade said.

BETTER SHOTS

Georgia also has the SEC’s best defense, giving up just 92.8 points per 100 possessions despite a 2-3 start to SEC play. They held Alabama to 46 points in a 19-point win last week.

All the while, LSU is struggling to get points from its wings. Skylar Mays, Brandon Sampson, and Daryl Edwards have combined to shoot 30.4 percent from the floor so far in the SEC. Mays is shooting just 19 percent inside the arc, Sampson has yet to hit a three in nine SEC attempts, and Edwards has hit just one in 10 attempts from beyond the arc.

Wade was upset with LSU’s first-half shot selection against the Tide, when 17 of 31 attempts came from 3. Seven of those looks were contested, but Wade felt better looks would’ve been available.

“They were open shots, but I still think we settled,” he said. “We didn’t give ourselves a chance to put them in rotation enough. We didn’t give ourselves a chance to drive it in there enough.”

Even those open looks, which LSU hit regularly heading into league play, are falling less frequently. The team’s effective field goal percentage is down from 56.9 percent overall to 50.6 in the SEC, and scoring has dipped 14 points per 100 possessions from the non-conference to the conference.

“The athletes that are coming at you are a little bit better,” Wade said. “The bullets are coming at you a little faster. Things are moving at a better pace. We have to adjust. We have to step up and knock some of them in.”

LAST WORD

“They are trying to limit his touches. They are going to make it a lot harder on him. He is a major part of our offense and what we do. We have to continue to counteract that and balance that. They are going to make some of our other guys make plays so we need some of our other guys to step up, kind of going back to what we were talking about with Sampson. We need some other guys to step up and make some plays, make some things happen when they do everything they can to keep the ball out of his hands and make it very, very difficult and tough for him.” – Wade on teams defending Tremont Waters

 

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Cody Worsham

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