After a blazing hot start to Southeastern Conference play in which the Tigers have handed three teams their first league loss of the season, No. 25 LSU’s home showdown against a middling Georgia on Wednesday at 6 p.m. may seem like a bit of a break to an outsider.
But LSU (14-3, 4-0 SEC) coach Will Wade is no outsider, and he doesn’t plan on taking the Bulldogs (9-8, 1-4) lightly, even if they do come to the PMAC trying to break a three-game losing streak.
“We don’t have anybody in that locker room that’s beaten Georgia,” Wade said. “We didn’t beat them two years ago. We got blasted at their place last year. We lost here. We were 0-3 against Georgia. If you can’t get excited to beat Georgia – that should be motivation.”
The Tigers lost a heart breaker to Georgia the last time the two teams played in the PMAC as then-senior Yante Maten capped off a double-digit, second half comeback with a game-winning bucket to give the Bulldogs a 61-60 victory.
Just more than a month later, the Tigers went to Stegeman Coliseum in Georgia where the Bulldogs handed them a 93-82 loss thank in large part to another big performance from Maten, who tallied 27 points and 6 blocks.
The good news for LSU is that Maten graduated and is thus no longer on the roster, but that doesn’t mean the Tigers don’t plan on playing a tough and physical team in the post.
“They’ll pack their defense in,” Wade said. “It’s a little different from South Carolina who extends the defense. It will be a bit different playing against them. We’ll be more packed in. They’re very long across the three four and the five. We’ll have to do a good job on the backboards. They killed us on the backboards last year.”
The Tigers are much better equipped to deal with size in the paint this season as opposed to last year’s group. Senior forward Kavell Bigby-Williams enters the game fresh off being named the SEC’s player of the week after he avergaed 13 pints and 10.5 rebounds in LSU’s convincing wins over Ole Miss and South Carolina.
He’ll go toe-to-to with fellow 6-foot-11 forward and sophomore forward Nicolas Claxton who leads the SEC with 3.1 blocks per game, good enough to rank fifth in the nation. He also has active hands down low as he averages 1.3 steals per game.
All this serves as extra to the fact that he’s nearly averaging a double-double with 12.4 points and 9.6 rebounds per contest.
Claxton is joined in the post by Rayshaun Hammonds who tallies nearly 13 points and 6.5 rebounds per game.
“It’s going to be challenging,” Bigby-Williams said. “Different games require different things. I’m just looking forward to the challenge. Georgia has some good post players. … It’s going to be a good game, and I’m looking forward to it.”
The test in the paint comes just one game after LSU’s best post performance of the season in which the Tigers outrebounded South Carolina 49-29.
Naz Reid and Emmitt Williams will also likely have to play significant roles down low with Darius Days coming in when necessary to stretch out Georgia’s defense with his shooting ability.
Wade knows the narrative on his team in a positive one, but he’s looking forward to the opportunity to flip the narrative of his program’s recent history with the Bulldogs.
“They have a lot of guys in their locker room that have beaten the hell out of LSU a few times,” Wade said. “We need to make sure that we’re ready to play and do something we’ve never done – beat them – in three years. It would be nice if we could focus on that.”