January was supposed to ease LSU into the Southeastern Conference schedule as the month seemingly looked to be the Tigers’ easiest in terms of opponents.
But then Alabama beat Kentucky, Arkansas played with a projected NBA Draft Lottery Pick in Daniel Gafford and now Ole Miss is the No. 18 team in the country.
The Tigers (12-3, 2-0 SEC) look to remain unbeaten in league play Tuesday night at 8 p.m. when they travel to Oxford, Miss., for a game against one of the hottest teams in the nation in the Rebels (13-2, 3-0) who is coming off a week in which they knocked off to Top 25 teams in now-No. 14 Auburn and No. 24 Mississippi State.
Darius Days will play despite exiting the Arkansas game in the second half due to a bone contusion in his knee. Wade said his playing time will not be limited.
Pinned to finish dead last in the SEC at the conference’s preseason Media Day, the Rebels have leaped to the front of that list early in league play with a trio of impressive wins.
“Well, it is a typical Coach (Kermit) Davis team,” said LSU head coach Will Wade. “They are very well-coached, they do not beat themselves and they do not turn the ball over. They play a lot of different defenses to keep you off balance.”
LSU enters the game with a five-game winning streak of its own, and after winning its first road game in more than a year Saturday against Arkansas, the Tigers hope to extend that streak with a win against the red-hot Rebels.
Naz Reid is coming off his best performance in purple and gold as he served as the Tigers’ most efficient player despite playing much of the second half and all of overtime with four fouls.
He shot 10 for 12 including a perfect 4 for 4 from the 3-point line for 27 points to go along with seven rebounds, and — Wade’s favorite stat — he took three charges, two of which after he picked up that fourth foul.
“Everyone wants to talk about his points but how about the three charges he took,” Wade said. “He has been doing that stuff all year. Those were huge and he took two of the charges with four fouls. Those were huge, winning plays and we see those all the time in practice. Does it translate all the time to games? No. Yet, I was really proud of him because usually he gets fouls early on in the game and it throws off his game a little bit.”
Reid averages three personal fouls per game despite playing just 22.6 minutes per contest. But he remains a pivotal part of the Tigers’ offense, scoring 13.2 points and 5.5 rebounds.
After hitting four straight 3-pointers against Arkansas, he is now shooting .525 from the field and .400 from beyond the arc.
For the first time since the Tigers started SEC play last week, it’s their backcourt that will be tested when they take on Ole Miss.
Will Wade called the trio of Breein Tyree (17.5 ppg, 3.3 apg), Terence Davis (15.7 ppg, 5.6 reb., 3.6 ast.) and Devontae Shuler (10.6 ppg, 4.2 reb.) one of the best collective group of guards in the SEC, if not the country during the SEC Basketball Coaches’ Media Teleconference on Monday.
The Rebels also have a stretch forward in Blake Hinson who averages 9.6 points and shoots nearly 40 percent from the 3-point line, meaning LSU swing guard Marlon Taylor will have a lot of work to do on defense.
“He has done a great job, he has got to continue to develop and we still have a lot to work on,” Wade said. “He is not a finished product by any stretch but he is playing hard and I am pleased with his progress.”
The Tigers will also rely on the defense of Skylar Mays (13.3 ppg, 1.9 stl.) who is regularly tasked with locking down the best scoring guard on any given opponent LSU may play.
Davis said during the teleconference that points off turnovers will play a major factor in the game, and while Tremont Waters currently sits at No. 4 in the country in steals with three per game, but Ole Miss’ assist/turnover ratio of 1.2 is tied for third in the SEC.
Meanwhile the Tigers are turning the ball over 16 times per game, No. 10 in the league.
We have to get our turnovers down,” Wade said. “We have turned the ball over 35 times in our 2 SEC games and that is not going to get it done for us. We have a lot of work to do and we are going to have to play our best game of the season at Ole Miss. What won at Arkansas, will not win in Oxford tomorrow night so we have a lot of work to do.”