The LSU basketball team will look to build on its momentum heading into Southeastern Conference play Friday when it hosts Louisiana-Monroe in its final nonconference game of the 2018-19 season.
The Tigers (9-3) are fresh of a convincing 75-57 win against then-No. 24 Furman, and they plan to reach that double-digit mark in the win column against the Warhawks (7-4).
A win would cap off a near-perfect month of December for LSU, save a heartbreaking 82-76 loss against Houston in which the Tigers squandered a 15-point second-half lead.
After the game, the Tigers will get an 11-day break from competitive play before starting SEC play with a home game against Alabama on Jan. 8.
Coming off the bench in each of LSU’s last two games, Tremont Waters has seemingly come into his own.
After the Furman game, Waters conceded that nobody wants to come off the bench, but there’s little doubt the move has helped both LSU and the sophomore point guard himself.
For the Tigers, it allows them to start the game with a very large lineup, which was ideal against both St. Mary’s and Furman, two teams who play small. LSU overwhelmed both of these teams, especially the Paladins, with its size, leading to significant advantages on the boards as well as copious points in in the paint.
For Waters, it’s allowed him to evaluate the game before getting involved. Wade said he cares much less about who starts the game as who finishes, and in both of these games Waters started the second half and played significant minutes.
Those minutes have been his best of the season as he’s scored efficiently and limited turnovers as he seems to be figuring out how to play alongside guys with the talent level of freshmen like Ja’vonte Smart, Naz Reid and Emmitt Williams.
When speaking with LSU digital media reporter Cody Worsham on LSU’s official basketball podcast Boot Up, Waters said adjusting to his new role on the team has been an adjustment, but a challenge he’s accepted he has to overcome to reach the goals he has in mind for his career.
“Starting the season off it was kind of rocky until the St. Mary’s game,” Waters said. “I was trying to pick out my shots and know when to pass the ball and do everything. … It’s basketball still. I have to continue to play my game. I can’t lose what I have because I gained talent (around me).
“When I’m myself, my team is going to be themselves. If I’m the head of the snake and I’m doing what I have to do, everybody else is going to do what they have to do. If I’m playing at my level, the way I’m supposed to be playing at, then our team’s going to look a lot better.”
Despite coming off the bench, Waters has been LSU’s most consistent player in its back-to-back wins, playing a combined 65 minutes in which he’s tallied 38 points, 10 assists, seven rebounds, four steals and just 6 turnovers.
He hopes to continue that trend against ULM, a team that moves the ball well in the half-court and scored a good chunk of points off assists.
The Warhawks have four players with more than 20 assists on teh season as they tend to spread the wealth.
Daishon Smith is their most dangerous weapon on offense, averaging a team-high 18 rebounds with a .466 shooting clip.
More than half of his shots come from behind the 3-point line, where he is 25 for 54 on the season.
Travis Munnings is exactly the kind of forward that gave the Tigers trouble early in the season. He’s a good rebounder with a rangy shot making him a threat from anywhere on the floor.
LSU swing guard Marlon Taylor has seen an increase in minutes, largely due to his ability to guard those guys, so that will be an expected matchup at some point in the game whether head coach Will Wade decides to start Waters at the point or Taylor at the 3 position.