Preview: LSU Basketball Facing Best Defense in the SEC with South Carolina

Glen West

It was hard not to catch LSU coach Will Wade's frustration with freshman forward Trendon Watford in Tuesday night's 79-76 loss to Kentucky. The Wildcats had just taken a 15-point lead over the Tigers in Baton Rouge and Wade could be seen expressing his displeasure with his freshman's focus on the defensive end.

Wade has a theory as to why the freshman lost his composure and it has to do with his frustration on the offensive end. Watford is the only only freshman in the SEC averaging 13 points and six rebounds.

"Trendon is very smart, he has one of the best IQs of the players I have ever coached," Wade said. "He is highly intelligent and he shouldn’t be making some of the mental errors he makes, but he makes them because he gets frustrated with his offense sometimes and it bleeds over to his defense."

Wade has primarily described himself as an offensive mind since becoming a head coach, saying Friday if a player is engaged on offense and having success it will lead to more focus on the defensive end.

"It goes back to why I try to coach offense a lot. That has been my theory," Wade said. "Every coach sits up here and says you have to be able to guard when you are not making shots. I think it is hard to get people to do stuff defensively if they are not seeing success on offense. He couldn’t get his typical shots off. I think that led to him having some defensive mistakes that he wouldn’t normally make because of how smart he is."

While an assistant coach, Wade said all he focused on was defense but when he got his first head coaching gig at Chattanooga, he realized that his players' ability to have success on offense would keep them more engaged on defense. 

"I realized real quick, we better score or these jokers ain't gonna play very hard," Wade said. "I changed what we did, because I think all that stuff sounds nice but it's just wrong."

"He’s a freshman, he’s never had this type of resistance. Usually when things go bad, his talent could take over, but it is part of college basketball," Wade said of Watford. "He has been phenomenal all year and we’ve needed him. We are counting on him."

Wade is hoping a simplistic approach to the defense can help get LSU out of the doghouse. But the Tigers will need Watford and the rest of his teammates to step up on the offensive end when the team travels to Columbia to take on the Gamecocks Saturday.

South Carolina statistically features the best defense in the conference, allowing 68.7 points per game in the SEC. 

"You can't move the ball, they have the best defense in the league statistically so they do the same thing they always do," Wade said. "You're not going to be able to reverse the ball very easily so you're forced to play a  lot of one on one. "

Offense hasn't been the problem as the Tigers are averaging 85 points in league play. The issue, Wade said, will be for the Tigers to match the physical nature in which the Gamecocks play. 

"We're not the most physical outfit you've ever seen so that'll be very tough for us, to match their physicality," Wade said. 

In the past Wade and LSU have been used to playing the Gamecocks at a much slower pace but said this is the fastest team Frank Martin has had while in Columbia and also one of the best shooting teams as well.

"They're shooting it the best of any of his teams in eight years there so it won't be quite as slow as usual," Wade said. "He's got a point guard [Jermaine] Couisnard, he’s a good player. He was an academic red shirt last year. He’s a really good player. I think they trust him a little bit more than they have some of their point guards in the past. They play a lot faster than they have been playing."

LSU and South Carolina tip-off at 5 p.m. on Saturday with the game available to watch on ESPN2.