The last time LSU won a true road game, the Tigers defeated Arkansas in Bud Walton Arena in convincing fashion 75-54.
That was more than a year ago, on Jan. 10, 2018.
Since then, the Tigers have lost eight consecutive games in hostile arenas, a streak that LSU head coach Will Wade isn’t exactly thrilled with.
“We’re going to have to play better on the road,” Wade said when asked about the streak. “We’ll see how we do.”
Appropriately, the Tigers (11-3, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) will get a chance to get that monkey off their back Saturday at 5 p.m. when they head back to Bud Walton Arena for a game against Arkansas (10-4, 1-1).
It won’t be easy, however. Like most SEC teams this year, the Razorbacks have some dangerous weapons that could make life hard on LSU if not ready for them.
The Razorbacks are led by a projected lottery pick and one of the best big men in the country in Daniel Gafford, who averages 16.4 points and 9.6 rebounds per game while shooting at a .647 clip.
Gafford has 135 rebounds on the season and 41 of those are on the offensive side of the ball.
Wade made no qualms about it, this is a different team than the one LSU beat twice last season.
“They have a totally different team,” Wade said. “We have a totally different team. They have Gafford, a lottery pick, so we have to prepare for those guys. Alabama beat us twice last year and that didn’t have anything to do with Tuesday night. There’s very little carry over. It’s two different teams. There will be very few players for them who played against us last year. Their top nine guys, they’ll have two guys that played against us last year. Our top eight guys, I think we’ll have two guys that played against them.”
For the second straight game, Kavell Bigby-Williams will be expected to play a big role in the post.
He lived up to the challenge against Arkansas, playing 24 minuts in which he tallied 14 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks while being the primary defender of Alabama senior Donta Hall.
He will likely spend most of his time on the court trying to slow down Gafford, a challenge he says he’s ready for.
“Coach has been stressing how important this matchup is,” Bigby-Williams said. “He’s a great player, so going up against him is going to be a great challenge. I’m looking forward to playing against somebody whose potentially going to be a lottery pick.”
In addition to Gafford, the Razorbacks also have weapons in guards Isaiah Joe (14.8 points per game) and Mason Jones, as well as point guard Jalen Harris who has 92 assists on the season while turning the ball over just more than once per game.
Wade said the Tigers will have to be diligent on both sides of the ball in order to escape the famed Bud Walton Arena with a long-awaited road victory.
“We have to avoid turnovers and guard the three-point line,” Wade said. “Talk about the building going crazy, when they are creating turnovers and running out for threes and hitting threes, the building goes a little wild, so we have to make sure we can control those areas.”
As for why the Tigers have struggled on the road as of late, Wade was quick to point out seven of those eight consecutive losses came last season before they had a roster he felt comfortable with during SEC play.
LSU’s one road game this season came against Houston, which the Tigers arguably should have won considering they held a 15-point lead in the second half, but they would be just one of two teams to beat the Cougars had they held on as Houston just accrued its first loss of the season on Wednesday night.
But as for the rest of those losses, he believes this year’s LSU squad would fare much better with that schedule than last year’s.
“We lost to teams who were just better than us, frankly,” Wade said. “Life on the road in the league. Is very, very difficult. Some of the teams who were in our weight-class last year – Georgia, South Carolina, Vanderbilt – we also lost on the road to those guys. We’ve got to shore things up and play with much sharper edge on the road and understand what it takes to overrun somebody in their own gym. I don’t know if we’re to that point yet.”