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LSU coach Will Wade says Kentucky “will be a big defensive test”

LSU coach Will Wade, right, with Dan Hudson at Marshall County Hoopfest. (Larry Vaught Photo)

LSU coach Will Wade had a lot to say about Kentucky — the team his Tigers play tonight in Rupp Arena — at his press conference Monday.

“This is obviously a different animal than we’ve been playing. Their size, their length, their athleticism, how big they are down low, the way they defensive rebound the ball,” Wade said. ” (Ashton) Hagans at point guard has helped them tremendously since they’ve made that change. He’s just an absolute pest defensively and does a great job blowing up your offense, blowing up handoffs, blowing up ball screens. He does a phenomenal job with that.

“He gets in the paint on offense and distributes it to (Tyler) Herro, (Keldon) Johnson and if you help up, he drops it off to the bigs who just dunk it. It will be a big defensive test for us. Obviously it’s a very, very tough environment against the best program in our league and one of the best teams in our league.”

Here’s more of what Wade had to say:

On not letting any games get too big…
“The bigger the game, the narrower the focus. You have to lock in on what you do. Lock in on doing your job, completely doing your job as well as you can do it. Block out all the external stuff. You’ve got to keep everything as routine oriented as you can and as narrow of lens as you can.”

On matching up against Kentucky head coach John Calipari…
“They’re the best program in the league. He’s a phenomenal coach. He’s won a national championship. He does a great job with those guys – how hard they play, how well they are defensively. To get his teams with the young guys to play like they do is extremely, extremely impressive. Me, kind of going through it for the first time this year, it gives you more of an appreciation for – he doesn’t get nearly enough credit for what a good coach he is. He is a phenomenal basketball coach. What they do on offense – they play to their strengths, they get their guys space and let them move and let them make plays. The way he has them connected defensively and how hard they play defensively and how they just share the court defensively – I think they’re giving up 55 points a game for the last five or six games, and it’s even less than that at home. What he does with his clubs to get them to be connected and guard like that is extremely, extremely impressive. I have a new found appreciation for him. I’ve always thought he’s a great coach and does a great job, but I have a new found appreciation for that.”

On not wanting to have to come from behind double-digits at Kentucky…
“We’re not going to get as many possessions. We’re going to have to shoot it better. We’re not going to be able to go grab 20 offensive rebounds against Kentucky. We’re going to need to be able to make some shots. We need to keep it within a working margin. We’re not going to be able to get down 16 points, 14 points like (we have recently). We’re not going to be able to get down all of that and just chip our way back against a team like Kentucky. We’ve got to keep it within a working margin.”

On the impact of Tremont Waters playing against bigger guards…
“Well it’s different but Tremont has answered the call as the game before he played (Lamar) Peters who is a really good point guard and (Ashton) Hagans is excellent and maybe as good as there is in our league. That is part of why you come to the SEC so you can play against excellent players. You have Tre’ (Waters) going against Hagans. You also have Naz (Reid) going against P.J Washington and Kavell (Bigby-Williams) against Reid Travis. They are both fifth-year seniors who transferred from the PAC-12 so we have big match-ups all over the board and that is why come to play here and play at a high level.”

On LSU’s size advantage upfront against Kentucky…
“I do not know about that. They have Nick Richards and (EJ) Montgomery who are just two huge bodies off the bench. Those guys are like Naz and Kavell so I do not think it matters who is starting or not because it is going to be a physical game inside the paint. They have four big bodies and we have four big guys of our own.”

On the importance of Naz Reid and Kavell Bigby-Williams
“We need them to play extremely well and there is no secret about that. We need those guys to play well and stay on the court.”

On how ready the team is to play in a game of this magnitude…
“We are going to have to play our best and play consistently throughout the whole 40 minutes of the game to be able to go in and compete. We have played other games on the road but this is a different weight class here. Playing in front of 23,000 fans is a different atmosphere. I’m pleased with what we have done so far but to win we are going to have to play a complete game. Now we do not have to play a perfect game, but we are definitely going to have to play one of our better games. We are going to have to stay connected because Kentucky is going to make shots and go on runs and Reid Travis is probably going to dunk it once or twice. We are going to have to stay tight and do what we do. Hopefully we will be able to hang in there and get to a six-minute game and we will play it out from there. We are going to have to be very good with the details as we are not going to be able to give up anything from the baseline out of bounds or sideline out of bounds. We are going to have to be really good with the game within the game. We did really well with those kinds of things against Auburn and we are going to have to do the same things at Kentucky to be able to give us a chance late in the game.”

3 comments

  1. You have to be concerned with LSU’s height, experience, and comeback ability. IMO both Nick and EJ will be a major key in this game. If we get their normal contribution and lack of minutes it could be a very difficult night for us.

  2. This may be a step up game for EJ, but it is going to be physical. Nick still doesn’t know how to play against guys who are as big as he is, or bigger. My guess is he will get in foul trouble quick once he gets in the game. It will be key for Reid and PJ to stay in the game as long as possible. In some ways, LSU poses more matchup problems that UT does. My gut tells me that Quickley and Baker are going to hit multiple 3’s…maybe that will be the difference in the game.

  3. Nick and EJ will certainly never be able to add the name “Bruise Brothers” to their resume. I agree that Nick will be the first to head back to bench because of propensity to foul quickly. There is no excuse for Nick not being able to know how to play against big guys when he has had them in practice for almost 2 years.
    For some reason he still doesn’t show that much fight or confidence in what it takes to advance his game.

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