LSU will look a lot more organized when it takes the floor against Grambling on Saturday at 4 p.m. in the PMAC, at least if head coach Will Wade has anything to say about it.
The Tigers get back to action for the first time after suffering back-to-back losses at the Advocare Invitational against Florida State and Oklahoma State.
The overtime loss to then-No. 14 Florida State was forgivable, but the subsequent drubbing the Tigers received from the Cowboys led head coach Will Wade to determine that a change will be necessary moving forward.
It also led to a tough week of practice for the Tigers, who didn’t meet their game goals, which means sprints were in order.
“It was pretty brutal,” said LSU point guard Tremont Waters. “It was balls to the wall, and we had to do whatever he said. As far as running, we didn’t met our game standards so we had to run thirteen 22’s (baseline to baseline in under 22 seconds) back-to-back, so we’re a little fatigued and tired. But it is what it is. This is the real world.”
One of LSU’s primary challenges this season has been getting good looks at the basket, or rather using them properly if Wade has anything to say about it.
The Tigers have settled for too many low-percentage shots behind or near the perimeter which effectively serve as turnovers when LSU has been struggling to rebound the way it has so far this season.
Wade said the difference in LSU’s offensive efficiency between when it gets touches in the paint versus when it doesn’t nears half a point per possession, which is no small number.
He attributed this to giving his guards too much freedom, so moving forward the Tigers will run more set plays and run its offense through its big men moving forward.
“We’re going to play inside out, and that’s going to help us,” Wade said. “We’re going to throw that thing in the paint, and when our big guys’ shoulders get tired from jump-hooking it in, we’re going to throw it out.”
This will presumably lead to increased production from star forward Naz Reid, who Will Wade said was close to 100 percent after tweaking his ankle last week.
Reid started the season hot, shooting 17 for 27 in his first two games, but has since waned, taking fewer than 10 shots in four of the Tigers’ last five games.
Wade expects that to change moving forward as the guards look inside more, and Reid will likely serve as the primary target with his size, scoring prowess and passing ability.
“Naz is one of our best low-post scorers,” Wade said. “He’s going to get the ball down there and he’s going to go to work, just like those other guys.”
In addition to playing more inside out, Wade also wants to play bigger. He expects both forward Darius Days and guard Marlon Taylor to get more playing time at the 3 position.
He compared Days to junior guard Skylar Mays with his cerebral approach to the game and high basketball IQ. Wade has touted Days as one of the Tigers’ most efficient scorers in practice since the preseason began, and he wants to see that play out on the floor as he gets more minutes.
“Days is one of our most efficient players in rebounding per minute and points per minute,” Wade said. “He’s a really good shooter. I know he hasn’t shot it as well from 3, but he’s a very good shooter, and that will come with time.”
He referred to Taylor as more of a work in progress, but one LSU will need to refine his game as the season progresses.
The 6-foot-6 guard can jump out of the building and he’s one of the Tigers’ best rebounders, but he’s still very raw. He expects Taylor to make mistakes, but he’s willing to allow that to happen as long as he learns and gets better.
“He’s big and athletic, and if we’re going to be the best team we can be in SEC play, we’re going to need big, athletic guys,” Wade said. “It’s tougher when you’re smaller out there. We have to commit to developing him. He’s got a lot of potential.”
Grambling enters the game with a 3-3 record with its most recent game resulting in an 80-69 loss to IUPUI.
Junior swingman Dallas Polk-Hilliard represents Grambling’s best player statistically, leading the team in scoring with 14.2 points per game and rebounding with 7.5 boards per game.
Grambling averaged a +6.8 rebounding differential and shoot the ball 40 percent from the 3-point line, so it should provide the perfect test for the Tigers who are looking to improve on the boards and defending the perimeter.
“They certainly present some challenges for us at the 3-point line where we haven’t guarded as well,” Wade said. “From a rebounding perspective, we haven’t been able to block out. Hopefully we’ve made some progress in those areas.”