Will Wade had seen glimpses – in games, somewhat, but more often, in practices – of what Randy Onwuasor was capable of.
No, the graduate transfer was never going to recreate his 23.6 points per game scoring average from last season at Southern Utah. There simply wouldn’t be enough basketballs to go around. Onwuasor took 36.3 of his team’s shots when on the floor a year ago, the sixth-highest rate in the country and a rate unsustainable in Wade’s system.
“We talked about this when he came here: he just doesn’t have the ball in his hands as much,” Wade said. “He’s used to having the ball in his hands basically all the time. We talked about being more efficient, playing without the ball, moving without the ball, giving it up to get it back, creating the angles. He’s just learning to play a different game.”
That learning demanded a curve, but after having twice as many scoreless games (4) as double-figure contests (2) for LSU’s first 14 games, Onwuasor delivered in the Tigers’ 75-54 road win at Arkansas, scoring 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting in 17 minutes off the bench.
“I thought Randy came in and gave us a lift, which we’ve been hoping for,” Wade said. “We’d seen glimpses of it, so it’s good to see that when the lights came on. That was a plus.”
Onwuasor, who is averaging 4.7 points per game, may not be putting up the numbers in bulk, but he’s ticked off the efficiency box Wade set before him. His 116.0 offensive rating is a career high, thanks to new highmarks in field goal percentage (50.0%) and three-point shooting (35.7%). According to Hoop-Math.com, he’s taking 45.8 percent of his shots at the rim, the highest among LSU’s guards, while cutting down on long twos, which accounted for 36.4% of his attempts last year, but make up just 25 percent of his attempts this year.
“It’s just an adjustment,” Onwuasor said. “Last year, I had the ball a lot playing point guard. This year, I’m more off the ball. It’s been a difficult adjustment. I’m still trying to figure it out and find my way and trying to help the team.”
One area he’s been particularly helpful is on defense, where he often draws the opponent’s best scorer. His length and strength give him the ability to take on bigger guards, while his quickness helps him against shiftier ball handlers.
“I think I’m a great defender,” he said. “I have great physical tools to be able to defend a lot of positions. Coach expects me to go in there and try to hold down their best player, leading scorer, limit their touches and be aggressive and try to take them away.”
Against Arkansas, Onwuasor was the biggest part of an excellent showing from the subs. His 12 points keyed an LSU bench effort that saw the Tigers outscore the Razorbacks 29 to 17. That difference made up more than half the 21-point margin LSU left Fayetteville with, its biggest win there in program history.
“I knew we were capable of it, but I wasn’t expecting it. I was expecting it to be a tough, grind-it-out game. Honestly, it just didn’t go that way.”
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