Saturday, February 16News That Matters

LSU basketball having a ball with a dozen wins in 13 games: 'We've got a fun team to watch' – The Advocate


When you’ve won 12 of your past 13 games, basketball can be a lot of fun.

And the LSU men’s basketball team, which has lost just once in the past two months, is having an awfully good time.

Part of the reason is no deficit seems insurmountable to Will Wade’s Tigers, much like Saturday’s game with Auburn.

Bombarded early by Auburn’s 3-point shooting that produced eight makes in less than nine minutes, No. 21 LSU trailed by 16 points before battling back and trailing by just three at halftime — setting up more fireworks in the second half.

By the time Naz Reid threw down an emphatic dunk with 8:42 to go, igniting an already-hyped crowd of 12,004 in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, LSU held its biggest lead at 64-54 and was on its way to an 83-78 win.

“I tried to break the rim, to be honest,” Reid said. “Just to switch the momentum from them getting all those 3s … I was just trying to get momentum on our side. I know plays like that hypes your team up, hypes your crowd up.”

Despite the slow start and a sloppy ending in which Auburn misfired on a couple of last-seconds 3-point attempts that could have sent the game to overtime, the big 54-28 run over a 22-minute stretch made for another successful — and fun day — all around.

For the second year in a row, the LSU men’s basketball team was hit by an early barrage of 3-point baskets in its game with Auburn.

In improving to 19-4 overall and 9-1 in the Southeastern Conference, LSU’s 19 wins overall and nine league victories are both one better than a year ago with eight regular-season games — starting with Tuesday night’s huge showdown at No. 5 Kentucky — and at least two postseason games remaining.

With wins at Mississippi State and over Auburn, which was ranked in the AP’s top 10 earlier this season, LSU likely will move up at least a couple of spots when the new poll comes out Monday.

After the latest win, coach Will Wade, who usually is cautious about heaping too much praise on his team, was asked if the Tigers are maturing heading into the final month of the regular season.

“We’re getting better, we’re getting better … we’re improving,” he said. “That’s the name of the game at this point: It’s to keep stacking good steps, and we’ve done that.”

Wade said it’s fun to see after some early growing pains. Those were brought on by mixing just two players from last year’s team in with six newcomers to form the eight-man rotation he’s used for the past two months.

“We’ve got a fun team to watch; the kids play hard, they lay it on the line,” he said. “We’re not always perfect, but we do play extremely hard and our guys take a lot of pride in playing for LSU, playing for Louisiana. It’s a big point of pride for our guys.”

Their talent and athleticism, and outstanding play, has brought the fans back in droves.

When Bruce Pearl was out of coaching and working as a college basketball analyst for ESPN, he went to observe one of Will Wade’s practices at …

Just more than 12,000 enjoyed Saturday’s game after a sellout crowd of more than 13,000 showed up for the Arkansas game Feb. 2 when the Tigers had an 18-game home winning streak snapped with a 90-89 loss.

Even then, LSU rallied back from an 18-point deficit to take a one-point lead on three occasions in the closing minutes before Arkansas pulled it out.

Because of that setback, Wade acknowledged being a little worried early Saturday when Auburn was lighting up the scoreboard.

“I’m glad we won today … I was worried,” he said with a smile. “It was a tough matchup and we had lost against Arkansas and we had a great crowd. If we had lost today, I was worried that they’d be scattering like ants.”

But a determined LSU team wouldn’t let that happen.

After the final horn, the victorious Tigers waded into a jam-packed and boisterous student section that Wade said was also instrumental in the comeback win.

“It’s good to see the crowds coming back,” he said. “That place was loud today. … It’s fun when the PMAC is rocking.

“Hopefully, we can keep it going. We’ve got to do our part to keep winning.”

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