If fans of the LSU basketball team hadn’t heard of UNC-Greensboro before it was put on the Tigers’ schedule for Friday night at 7 p.m., head coach Will Wade wants them to know exactly who is coming to the PMAC.
Wade has sung the praises of the Spartans since his first press conference of the preseason, and now that the game is upon the Tigers he has not let up.
“This is a big game,” Wade said. “They are very, very good. They have two tremendous guards in (Demetrius) Troy and (Francis) Alonso. Their big kid (James) Dickey is phenomenal. He’s an elite-level shot blocker.
“This is going to be a big test for us and a big step for us moving forward.”
Alsonso had a big game in UNC-Greensboro’s season-opening 74-66 victory against North Carolina A&T on Tuesday night, shooting 9 for 16 for a game-high 23 points with six rebounds.
Troy struggled from the field, missing five consecutive shots and going scoreless in the contest.
But Wade’s primary concern is with the post as Dickey and fellow forward Kyrin Galloway combined for 19 rebounds with seven offensive rebounds between them.
“They’re an elite offensive rebounding team,” Wade said. “They were 35th in the country last year in offensive rebounding percentage. If we don’t get more physical and get bodies to block out better than we did Tuesday night, we’re going to get bludgeoned on the glass.”
The Tigers had ups and downs rebounding against Southeastern Louisiana in their 94-63 victory Tuesday night. LSU out-rebounded the Lions 43-32, but at certain points gave up more offensive rebounds than it would have liked.
One such time came at a surprising moment when the Tigers played big with Naz Reid and Kavell Bigby-Williams – their two biggest players – filling in the post.
Wade attributed those struggles to SLU’s athleticism in the post, saying its tough for two big guys to defend and rebound against smaller forwards.
“It’s tough to play them together when the other team doesn’t have two huge bigs (as well),” Wade said after the game. “… It’s a tough matchup for our bigger guys when they’re out there chasing them and running around the perimeter. It makes it harder to play both of those guys together.
“Those rebounds were coming in space, which gives the advantage to the smaller guy. Those two are built for a power game under the basket and just slug it out.”
Reid had a solid debut in a newly-designed LSU uniform, tallying 17 points and 6 rebounds in just 21 minutes on the court. He also tallied two assists (a team high, much to Wade’s chagrin), a block and a steal.
On his first scoring opportunity Reid pushed the ball from coast-to-coast and seemed prime to throw the ball down, but opted to attempt the jelly layup, drawing a foul as the ball bounced off the rim.
“I like to see the jelly, that’s that Asbury Park stuff,” said LSU guard Skylar Mays. “We were telling him he should have dunked it. That would have been a SportsCenter Top 10 play right there. He’s just… He’s not going to be here long.”
Once Reid found his rhythm, the only place Reid seemed to struggle was the 3-point line, shooting 1 for 5 from behind the arc.
The Tigers struggled from range as a unit, hitting just 25 percent of their attempted 3-point shots against the Lions.
Wade indicated that stat was less than ideal, but he said he’s won’t be too concerned until they struggle through a series of games. In an attempt to remedy that, he said he planned on taking the team to the main gym in the PMAC to work on shooting Thursday.
“I’m not overly concerned as long as we take really good shots,” Wade said. “If we miss some open looks that we normally hit… get back to me in two or three games. If that’s a trend, we’ll have a bit more of an issue. But I’m pretty confident in the work we’ve put in on our shooting all summer and all fall.”