Tigers host Missouri Tuesday at Maravich Center

Geaux Nation
JAVONTE SMART AFTER TENN WIN

LSU looks to keep its place on top of the Southeastern Conference leaderboard when the No. 25 Tigers host Missouri Tuesday night at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. 

The game is set for an 8 p.m. tipoff and will be broadcast on the affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network with the Voice of the Tigers Chris Blair and former coach John Brady (Guaranty Media Baton Rouge flagship Eagle 98.1 FM). The game will also be televised on the SEC Network with Tom Hart and Andy Kennedy along with reporter Alyssa Lang. 

Tickets for the game will be available during business hours Tuesday at the LSU Athletics Ticket Office and online at LSUTix.net. The upper concourse windows at the Maravich Center will open for ticket sales at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday night.

LSU is 17-6 overall and at 8-2, tied for the SEC lead with Auburn and Kentucky. LSU is coming off the wild 91-90 overtime loss at Auburn on Saturday, while Missouri (11-12, 3-7) is entering off a home 83-79 win in overtime versus Arkansas.

Skylar Mays led LSU with his second 30 point game of the season, the sixth 30-plus point game in the Will Wade tenure at LSU. All-five starters were in double figures for LSU with Darius Days getting 19 points.

Missouri sophomore Xavier Pinson led the Tigers offensively in their win over Arkansas with a career-high 24 points. He’s averaged 15 points a game over the last four contests. 

LSU has won 7-of-the-9 meetings between the two schools and all four games played in Baton Rouge. Last year, LSU came from 14 down with 2:15 to play in regulation to force overtime and win, 86-80, in Columbia. 

Coach Will Wade met with the media on Monday and here are some of his comments:

On how Charles Manning Jr. is healing up…
“Manning won’t play (Tuesday). Hopefully we’ll have him a little bit closer to ready for Alabama (on Saturday). He’ll certainly be out (Tuesday). He’s progressing. A setback he had last week is not quite as serious as we thought. He’s progressing and hopefully moving towards a return on Saturday.”
 
On why Charles Manning Jr. is missed on the defensive side of the ball…
“We really missed him last week. Both games, they were similar, but they were different. The basics are, we couldn’t keep the ball out of the paint in either game. We didn’t do a great job guarding the ball – as good of a job as we need to do guarding the ball. Charles is probably our best, if not one of our best, on ball defenders. He’s somebody that can help us keep the ball out of the paint and set the point of attack on our defense.”
 
On playing in a difficult environment at Auburn…
“We played our asses off on Saturday. We played so well. I screwed it up at the end. Our kids played well enough to win. I should have called timeout. We had two opportunities. I messed that up. You can’t ask for a team to play much better than that on a short turnaround. They had an extra day of rest, extra day to prepare. We didn’t get back until three in the morning from Vanderbilt because of the weather. We played as hard as we could play. We played really, really well. For about 27 minutes, we played as good as we’ve played all year. For us to rally in overtime like that and take the lead, we played tremendous in a really, really tough environment. Like I said, there’s a lot of things I wish I had done differently down the stretch to help our guys out a little bit more. I told our guys after the game, I’m proud of them. They played their asses off and we just didn’t get the result we wanted. It’s been tough. That’s happened three times this year with Utah State, Southern Cal and Auburn where we were the better team for most of the game and led for vast majorities of the game. We didn’t get the result we wanted, but that’s part of it. Mississippi State was kind of the opposite where we hit a shot at the end of the game to win. It evens out some. I thought we played tremendously. I thought Auburn played tremendously. Those were two really, really good teams. Championship level teams. J’Von McCormick, give him all the credit. He made some unbelievable shots and some unbelievable plays at the end. It was a heck of a game.”
 
On still being tied atop the SEC…
“We talked about that this morning. There’s 27 days between now and March 7 for the SEC Tournament. Trust me, when we left the Staples Center (on December 21), we’d have signed up for this. You always have to have perspective. Auburn lost twice in a week – and they lost in a lot worse fashion than we did – and bounced back and won six straight. Reality is we’re 8-2, Kentucky is 8-2 and Auburn is 8-2 and it’s a sprint these last eight games to see who can be disciplined enough and who can win every day. We just have to focus on the day. We need to have a great day today and get ready for a good Missouri team that’s given us fits. All of our games have been one possession games that past couple years. We’ve just got to try to do a great job today. At the end of the day, we’re in a very, very good spot and now just we need to lock in and finish here down the stretch.”
 
On Skylar (Mays) and giving other players shots …
“We just went with the hot hand. They did a good job of bottling Javonte (Smart) up early and that’s why (Darius) Days was able to get those threes. Days getting into foul trouble really hurt us.  We got pushed around on the glass a little bit in the second half. I thought (Trendon) Watford played a great game. Watford played really well. There were some points out there that he normally gets that he didn’t get in that game. I thought he played well, I thought Days played well. Javonte was our leading scoring in SEC play coming into the game and they did a good job taking him out on ball screens, which opened some things up for Skylar. We’ve got a lot of different guys that can beat you. We have five guys that average in double figures. Saturday was kind of Skylar’s day but there will be other days for other guys.”
 
On what the message is for this team after that tough week …
“I was proud of them. You got to stay focused. It’s a race, 27 days; you’ve got to win every day. Eight of them are game days and 19 of them are rest, recovery, practice days. We’ve got to be great on all those days. Whichever team is best on all those days will come out on top. We’ve got to focus in and worry about winning each of those 27 days. If we do that, we’ll probably like where we stand.  If we don’t, we won’t.  Everybody has tough weeks. It’s how you bounce back and how you respond.  I like our team, I like coaching our team. I feel good about our team no matter what happens moving forward. If you asked us to sign up for this, I think everybody would have taken this, even coming into the season. Our margins aren’t quite as big as maybe they were but we’ve got plenty enough to do it. We’ve got to focus in every day and do it.”
 
On the young team if they play over their heads …
“No, I think we’ve grown up. I think we have a very good team. We just have to go out there and prove it. Saturday is on me, that isn’t on those players. Those players played great. That was me down the stretch messing that up. They need some help, some of them. They need some help down the stretch and that’s why I saved the time outs. I didn’t use the time outs, that’s my fault. The players did everything we could ask them to do. We’re a good team now.  Auburn is a top ten team now. We went in there and we led the game for 30 plus minutes. We played great. I try to keep some perspective. We’re tied for first place. Shoot, we’re only three years into the thing.  From where we came from to where we are now, pretty good.”
 
On second chance points against Auburn …
“We just got shoved around in the second half. Wiley just shoved us out of the way a couple times. Auburn did a good job checking us out so we didn’t get to the offensive glass like we usually do. Give them credit; we kind of mirror each other. They get to the offensive line a lot; they get on the offensive glass. They just shoved us in the back and went and got the ball. You have to hit lower, we’ve got to have lower center of gravity. Move them out low. We weren’t able to do that. Even if (J’von) McCormick misses that last shot, (Auburn) was right there to tip it in.”
 
On stepping up on the offensive glass …
“We’ll be fine there. I’m not worried about that. We have a lot more stuff that I am much more worried about than us getting on the offensive glass. Missouri is a heck of a defensive rebounding team. Second best in the league. You may not see the results immediately against them tomorrow. I think we’ll be fine on the glass. We’ve been great all year on the glass. Auburn, that was a part of their game plan and they took some of those guys out on the glass. Give them credit, they have good players too.  (Anfernee) McLemore is a heck of on an athlete, (Isaac) Okoro is a heck of an athlete, (Austin) Wiley is the sixth most efficient rebounder in the country. Not even in our league. They’ve got really good pieces on that front line too, just like we do.  It’s just two good front lines banging it out.”
 
On the team’s identity moving forward …
“Well, we are more offensive oriented than defensive oriented, I can tell you that with pretty good certainty.  We will feel good when we get Charles (Manning Jr.) back, we will have a full deck of cards, we will have a piece that we’ve been missing or lacking, we will have depth, eight or nine guys we can play, so it will certainly be good to get him back and make a final push.”
 
On back-to-back frustrating losses …
“Everybody goes through it, it’s not always smooth, and that’s just the way it goes. There was one year at VCU where we tied for the league title and we lost to Fordham.  That’s just like Vanderbilt, it’s just the way it goes.  It’s basketball and crazy things can happen; Maxwell Evans can go off, and (J’Von) McCormick hit three threes in 24 seconds.  We have to respond the right way. We can’t focus on all of that stuff; we can only focus of the stuff we can control and the next most important thing. We got to have a great day today to prepare ourselves to have a good day tomorrow so that we can prepare to give ourselves a chance to beat Missouri.  If we can beat Missouri, then we can keep going from there.  I don’t take a sky is falling approach; we got a good team, we have been playing well for the most part, we’ve been very consistent for the most part.  Our effort at Vanderbilt wasn’t what we expected but we turned that around with unbelievable effort on a short turnaround in a really tough spot at Auburn. I didn’t coach well enough down the stretch and that’s the way it goes.  I have no doubt that we will bounce back and close the season strong, whatever that looks like.  We are going to head into the postseason, and we are going to play well.”  

(Press Release provided by LSU Athletics)

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