LSU basketball team looking for more improvement heading into extended break for final exams

2 months ago The Advocate 0

The LSU basketball team reaches an important spot in its early-season schedule Sunday.

While its Southeastern Conference schedule doesn’t  begin for another four weeks, the Tigers are coming to a 10-day break from games for final exams following a 3 p.m. contest with Northwestern State in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

While LSU has won three games in a row since letting a 19-point second-half lead slip away in a two-point loss to then-No. 15 Utah State in the Jamaica Classic on Nov. 22, coach Will Wade wants to see more improvement heading into finals.

During the break, there will be lots of extra time for practice — which Wade is looking forward to — for the Tigers as they get ready to close out December with three nonconference games before facing Tennessee on Jan. 4.

LSU (6-2) will be playing its third Southland Conference foe this season when it faces Northwestern State (2-5), but Wade knows the Tigers are getting ready to step up in competition.

LSU is shooting 51.2% from the field and is holding opponents to 39.1%, and the Tigers have drastically cut down on the number of turnovers in averaging 9.3 in the past three outings after giving it away 19.2 times in a 3-2 start.

“Right now, I think offensively, our numbers are very good,” Wade said. “We’re 10th in the country in offensive efficiency and we’re shooting the ball well.

“But we don’t cut hard enough and don’t screen nearly as well as we should screen. We’re putting up good numbers against some good teams, we have to get better with our cutting and screening.”

There’s reason to be optimistic, however, with the way the Tigers are shooting the ball — particularly in the paint — and defending. LSU ranks ninth out of 350 schools in field-goal accuracy and are 69th in field-goal defense.

LSU has been solid inside the 3-point arc, shooting better than 60% in wins over Nicholls State, Maryland-Baltimore County and Rhode Island. The Tigers also hit 70.6% and 70.7%, respectively, in beating Missouri State and New Orleans in its two most recent outings.

“We’re shooting it well and our field-goal defense is tremendous,” Wade said. “When you hold your opponents under 40%, you give yourself a chance almost every night.

“We’re not consistent enough offensively, and defensively, we do things in spurts,” he said. “We’ve cut down on our turnovers; it was like a tsunami of turnovers early in the season.”

Wade will also be looking for his team to get off to better starts. In three recent games, LSU trailed in the first half before coming back to take a lead to the locker room at halftime.

“We’re just not as attentive to details at the beginning of the game as we need to be,” he said. “That’s something that’s on my radar, making sure we get off to better starts and aren’t getting down six to eight points and having to dig our way out in the first half.

“We certainly figure it out in the second half. We play a lot better in the second half, but we’ve got to get off to better starts.”

The basics

WHAT: Northwestern State at LSU

WHEN: 3 p.m. Sunday

WHERE: Pete Maravich Assembly Center

TV: None

ONLINE: www.ESPN.com/watch

RADIO: WTGE-FM, 100.7; WWL-AM, 1350; KLWB-FM, 103.7

UP NEXT: vs. East Tennessee State, 6 p.m. Dec. 18

Briefly

• LSU is 6-2 through eight games for the third consecutive season since Will Wade took over the program in March 2017.

• Wade will be going for his 50th win as LSU’s head coach Sunday. He’s 49-22 going into his first matchup with Northwestern State.

• LSU forward Darius Days, who has scored in double digits in all eight games, has shot at least 50% from the field in seven of them.

Probable lineups

Northwestern State (2-5)

Starters

Pos. Name Ht. Cl. Pts. Rebs.

G Brian White 5-6 So. 9.1 3.6*

G Jairus Roberson 6-2 Jr. 9.1 1.3

G Trenton Massner 6-2 So. 3.0 2.0

F Chudier Bile 6-6 Jr. 10.9 8.4

F Jamaure Gregg 6-7 Jr. 6.3 4.4

Key reserves

G Nikos Chougkaz 6-9 Fr. 7.6 4.6

G LaTerrance Reed 6-2 Sr. 8.0 0.5

G Jovan Zelenbaba 6-4 Fr. 2.3 2.6

* assists

LSU (6-2)

Starters

Pos. Name Ht. Cl. Pts. Rebs.

G Javonte Smart 6-4 So. 10.1 5.3*

G Skylar Mays 6-4 Sr. 16.3 5.4

F Darius Days 6-6 So. 14.0 8.5

F Emmitt Williams 6-6 So. 15.4 7.6

F Trendon Watford 6-9 Fr. 13.0 6.0

Key reserves

G Charles Manning 6-5 Jr. 8.8 3.8

G James Bishop 6-2 Fr. 2.8 0.6*

G Aundre Hyatt 6-5 Fr. 0.6 2.1

* assists