AUSTIN, Texas — Another game. Another close call.
Old friends Will Wade, Shaka Smart square off in late-game chess match that went LSU’s way
4 weeks ago The Advocate 0
AUSTIN, Texas — The effects of a 22-4 second-half run by Texas over a 10-minute stretch were weighing heavily on a short-handed LSU basketball team going into the final five minutes of their game Saturday afternoon.
Texas coach Shaka Smart had gotten his team, which lost by 38 points five nights earlier at West Virginia, to shake off 25 minutes of poor basketball and in position to pull off a huge win in the Big 12/Southeastern Conference Challenge.
Smart, who was also dealing with injuries to two of his top players, had awakened the slumbering Longhorns when he threw up a full-court press — which is known as “Havoc” — that he became known for when he guided VCU to the 2011 Final Four.
While Smart hasn’t employed it as much in his five seasons at Texas, LSU coach Will Wade, a former Smart assistant, had an idea it was coming when the Tigers took a 16-point lead three times in the first five minutes of the second half.
“We prepared for it … I figured they were going to press,” Wade said after LSU escaped with a 69-67 victory. “If you watched us, that’s kind of one way to get to us because we play a pretty short rotation. We basically play the same two guards the entire game, so teams have been able to press us and wear us down a little bit.
“We were prepared for it, we just didn’t get our mindset right. We had to burn some timeouts against it, which looking back, I’m glad we burned them because we needed every possession that we had.”
In command for the first 30 minutes, LSU was clearly on the ropes before Wade was able to stem the tide with a wrinkle of his own — a 1-3-1 zone that threw off Texas after the Longhorns hit 8 of 12 field-goal attempts to pull within one point at 56-55 with 5:40 remaining.
Andrew Jones did most of the damage in that stretch with a pair of 3-pointers and two field goals inside the arc for 10 points to ignite the Frank Erwin Center crowd of 11,000-plus.
But that 3-pointer by Jones turned out to be the last of his team-high 20 points off the bench as LSU’s defense checked out of its usual man defense and found the remedy for Texas’ big run with the zone.
“We changed our defense; for whatever reason, we’ve done this all year, really done this for a couple years,” Wade said. “We’re just able to find that next wind and change what we do a little bit and change things up — give people a different look defensively and offensively.
“It worked, we made our free throws and we were a little more solid defensively.”
Jones missed his next two jumpers and Texas went 2 of 6 in the next 3½ minutes, giving LSU the opportunity to right the ship and come back from two two-point deficits to record an eighth consecutive victory.
“They were just scoring at will on us in man, so we needed to do something to change it up,” Wade said. “The 1-3-1 helped us. … They missed a couple and we got them out of rhythm a little bit.”
Having pulled out another one, which was LSU’s sixth win in a row by four points or fewer, Skylar Mays smiled when asked if they feel comfortable in close games.
“Yeah, pretty comfortable,” he said. “It’s been a lot of experience, so it’s pretty comfortable. We got a lot of experience in it today.
“We’ve won most of them, so just having that confidence at the end of the game and knowing what it takes to win is definitely helping us out.”
Wade agreed with his senior captain.
“Our offense got stagnant there in the second half, but we were able to kind of regain our footing,” he said. “It’s not always pretty, but we find a way and we dig it out and we make big plays when we need to.
“Our guys have been doing that all year, and that’s a trait we want to continue.”