LSU men’s basketball needs to get back on the good foot Tuesday vs. Vanderbilt in the PMAC

PHOTO by Jonathan Mailes

LSU basketball coach Will Wade knows Vanderbilt is one of the SEC’s best 3-point shooting teams.

He knows this because Vandy nailed 12 3’s in last season’s 99-90 home win over the Tigers.

He knows this because growing up as a kid in Nashville and attending Vanderbilt games, no team in the SEC has historically used the 3-ball better than the Commodores since college basketball adopted the 3-point shot starting in the 1986-87 season.

Four of the SEC’s top 10 career leaders in 3-pointers made are former Vandy stars. Five of the SEC’s 11 all-time best team 3-point shooting percentage seasons belong to Vanderbilt.

Currently, Vanderbilt has made at least four 3s in 35 consecutive games. The streak began immediately after the Commodores were held without a 3 for the first time in 1,080 games against Tennessee on Jan. 25, 2020.

“We’ve got to make them miss 3s,” said Wade, whose up-and down Tigers (14-8 overall, 9-6 SEC) close the regular season home schedule against the Commodores (7-13, 3-11) Tuesday night at 7:30 in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. “Vanderbilt has seven guys shooting over 36 percent, we’ve got two.”

While LSU is second in the SEC in three-point defense percentage at 30.1, the stats are incredibly misleading. LSU gives up more 3-pointers per game – 8.59 – than any other team in the SEC. And perhaps because the Tigers almost exclusively play a 2-3 matchup zone defense, LSU opponents have lofted the most 3-point attempts – 628 or 28.5 per game – among all the SEC teams.

While Wade is concerned with Vandy’s 3-point shooters and the fact LSU is the worst defensive rebounding team in the league, he’s most worried by his team’s disjointed play in its two road losses last week at Georgia (91-78) and at Arkansas (83-75) following a three-game win streak.

“We’ve just got to play together, we’ve got to play with great spirit, got to play together for 40 minutes and we haven’t done that in these last two games,” Wade said. “Be connected and be committed to one another.”

When LSU plays team basketball and the ball is shared on offense, the Tigers look like a team that could do some harm in the NCAA tournament if it earns an invite. And when the offense dissipates into too much 1-on-1, LSU self-implodes.

The Tigers are 31st in the latest NCAA NET rankings that will be part of the numbers used by the NCAA tourney selection committee in finalizing the 68-team bracket on March 14.

Tuesday’s game vs. Vanderbilt and a Saturday road trip to Missouri close the regular seasons. A win over Missouri, sitting No. 47 in the NCAA NET rankings would help LSU more than a victory over 118th ranked Vanderbilt.

But a loss to the Commodores would be crushing and Wade knows it’s now or never for LSU to play steady.

“Starting in another week, inconsistency is going to send us home,” Wade said.

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