The secret to LSU’s defensive surge? Playing “5 on 4” | Hoops notebook

By CODY WORSHAM | Tiger Rag Editor

Will Wade and Dave Aranda share more than a salary number.

The $2.5 million men (annually) also love thinking about defense.

While Aranda’s mind netted him a pay raise in recent days, Wade’s has helped transform LSU’s defense from one of the worst in the country to, recently, one of the best. The Tigers, mired earlier in the season in the 300s in multiple defensive categories, from defensive field goal percentage to points per game allowed, have had a remarkable turnaround in their last five games, holding every opponent during that stretch under their scoring average.

The key, Wade says, has been a tactical tweak: picking on the opponents’ weakest link.

“We’re basically not guarding one of the other guys’ players,” Wade said. “Pick out whoever the weak link is. We don’t guard that guy. We sit that guys’ man in the lane, and we’re able to cut down on penetration. We’re defending five on four basically.”

Against the Aggies, LSU, and Tremont Waters in particular, paid little attention to J.J. Caldwell, who averages 4 points per game and hasn’t made a 3 all season. Waters sagged in the paint, providing help and clogging up driving lanes while darting around looking for steals and deflections.


Such a ploy make not work against Arkansas. The Razorbacks lead the league in scoring (88.5 points per game) and field goal percentage (50.5 percent) and rank second from beyond the arc (39.7 percent from 3). Four players average double figures in scoring, led by Jaylen Barford (18.9 ppg) and Daryl Macon (16.7 ppg). Their fifth-leading scorer, C.J. Jones, averages 8.7 per game while shooting 40 percent from 3.

“We can’t take away everything,” Wade said. “We have to take away two or three main things. There’s going to be games where teams hit what we’re giving them. We’ll try as best as we can to bait them into taking those shots.”


If anyone knows how to slow down a dazzling freshman guard, it’s Arkansas.

The Razorbacks held Oklahoma’s Trae Young to 28 points, and by Young’s standard, ‘held’ is the right word. The freshman sensation scores 29.4 per game with 10.2 assists on 46 percent shooting. Against Arkansas, he shot just 44 percent, turned the ball over four times, and had a season-low five assists.

Wade’s studied that game in anticipation that Mike Anderson defends Waters similarly.

“Most of our offense runs through him,” Wade said. “You’d be dumb not to try to take him away or limit him. We try to think ahead at what we can do to combat that. Arkansas did a phenomenal job on Trae Young. They doubled him all over the court. They hassled him up and down the court. We expect we’ll see something similar on Tremont.”


Wade criticized himself for not playing Daryl Edwards more against Kentucky, but he made amends on Saturday.

Edwards, who played just 10 minutes against the Wildcats – his second-lowest figure of the season – started against A&M and stayed on the floor for 25 minutes. None were bigger than the first 10 of the second half, when Edwards scored all eight of his points to ignite an LSU offense gone cold in the first half.

“I knew we were stagnant,” said Edwards, who leads the team and ranks sixth in the SEC in three-point shooting at 46.3 percent. “I knew if we could get something in transition, it would help get us going.”

Asked if he hoped he justified his coach’s decision to hand him more minutes on Saturday, Edwards was direct: minutes don’t matter. W’s do.

“I just want to win,” he said. “Nothing else means more.”

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Cody Worsham

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