The good news is Daryl Edwards’ X-rays came back negative.
The bad news? Well, it’s bad news anytime Edwards can’t play for the Tigers, and he’s questionable for LSU’s regular season finale at home against Mississippi State at noon Saturday.
He won’t start. That responsibility will fall to LSU’s three seniors – Aaron Epps and Duop Reath inside, Randy Onwuasor on the perimeter – plus its mainstay backcourt of Tremont Waters and Skylar Mays. But Will Wade hopes, after an assessment Friday of what he calls “a bone bruise,” that his junior guard will be available in a game LSU must win to solidify its NIT status and position itself for an SEC Tournament run, beginning next week.
“We certainly need him,” Wade said. “I think you can see the difference without him. At South Carolina, it was fairly obvious. We need him to be ready to go for us.”
Edwards missed LSU’s 83-74 overtime loss against the Gamecocks, in which two perimeter player scorched the Tigers for 20+ points. In addition to Edwards offensive abilities – he’s the team’s best perimeter three-point shooter at 38.5 percent and its second most efficient scorer (116.3 offensive rating) – the junior college transfer has emerged as Wade’s go-to stopper on defense, and there aren’t many behind him who can replicate his demeanor, Wade said.
“Part of it is just want-to, what’s front of mind, what you enjoy doing,” he said. “Defense is hard work, it’s gritty, it’s grimy, it’s tough. You have to have a way about you if you’re doing to do that. We just don’t have a lot of guys who have that way about them.”
Wade’s Three Defensive Keys
Elaborating, Wade added that “you can be soft and win,” and said there were top-15 teams that proved that point. But “those teams play with unbelievable discipline and play with unbelieve intelligence,” he added. It’s those three categories – intelligence, discipline, and toughness – that make for great defenses in Wade’s estimation, and LSU’s lacking in all departments, he said.
“Where we’re just all out of whack is we don’t follow what we’re supposed to do scouting report-wise, we don’t play with unbelievable discipline…and we’re not very tough,” Wade said. “If you’re 2-for-3 in those categories, you can be very, very successful; 1-for-3, you can be moderately successful; 0-for-3, you’re not very good. We’re 0-for most nights.”
Edwards, Wade said, while “not the most disciplined, “has some toughness” and is “extremely intelligent.”
“He’s got two of those three, which makes him a very good defender,” Wade said. “When you put some of those other guys out there, we’re looking at, they don’t have two of those three qualities, which is a disaster.”
Waters in the Clutch
Waters’ game-tying shot to force overtime Wednesday was just another in a long list of clutch plays that includes: a game-tying jumper followed by a game-winning steal and no-look assist against Michigan; a game-winning block against Houston; two long threes in the final 12 seconds to beat Texas A&M on the road; and a game-winning shot against Missouri.
Asked if that sort of clutch gene is detectable when recruiting a player, Wade responded: “You don’t know for sure, but you hope. You can tell whether guys want the ball in that moment, want to take those type of shots. We knew he certainly had that in him.”
On Mississippi State
LSU wraps up the season with Missisippi State, winners of 7 of their last 10 in the conference. The Bulldogs are among the Next Four Out of the NCAA Tournament according to ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi.
“They are as hot as any team in the league,” Wade said. “Guard play is very good with (Nick) Weatherspoon and Tyson Carter is playing well. Their big kid (Abdul) Ado is playing well, protecting the rim. (Aric) Holman is making some threes. They have a versatile lineup. Good team. They are well coached. Tough, physical, hard-nosed, man-to-man defensive team. Their guards do a great job of getting in the paint, driving, and creating offense off the bounce which has been problematic for us.”