After three straight impressive wins over quality SEC talent, LSU coach Will Wade believes this team might be turning a corner, or at least is getting closer to being the team it thinks it can be.
Just hours before meeting with the media for his pre game zoom call, Wade held a staff meeting and explained the 8-10 different areas that the team can still improve on as the regular season winds down and the sights get set towards the postseason.
"We're getting closer. We've got some buttons we can still push and I think we've got two or three guys we can still get more out of production wise, both offensively and defensively," Wade said. "The Tennessee and Auburn games have been closer to our best 40 minutes. We haven't gotten there yet but it's been closer."
Up first is a second meeting with Georgia, a team that gave LSU fits on the offensive end of the floor when the two met about a month ago. LSU would pick up the win in overtime in Baton Rouge behind a combined 77 points from LSU's "Big Four" of Cam Thomas, Javonte Smart, Trendon Watford and Darius Days.
It took a late run in the second half and some clutch shot making in overtime to pull out the win the first go around but since that time Georgia's season has nosedived as the Bulldogs are currently three games below .500 in SEC play. Georgia has lost three of its last four to Tennessee, Florida and Alabama but Tom Crean's team is an explosive offense capable of high scoring games.
Georgia is averaging 77.5 points per game and is getting to the free throw line nearly 21 times a contest, which is also among the conference's top numbers. Offensively, Georgia is led by Sahvir Wheeler and Toumani Camara, who combined for 35 points in the two point loss to the Tigers earlier this season.
"We're gonna have to get back in transition, have to limit our live ball turnovers and we'll have to block them out," Wade said. "We haven't turned the ball over as much and we certainly haven't had as many live ball turnovers. Georgia plays so fast, they have one of the 25 fastest paces in the country and they really make it challenging on you to guard them."
LSU's offense has been spectaular over its last three games as well, averaging 92 points and shooting no less than 53% from the field in any game during that span.
The play from LSU's top weapons have been the starting point but it's the bench play from Josh Leblanc, Mwani Wilkinson, Aundre Hyatt and Eric Gaines have been the big difference over the recent hot streak.
"Mwani can make some game changing plays for us. Leblanc, he's gotta be consistent, we've gotta get back to back good performances from him. He's teased us a little bit. Hyatt's starting to show some consistency and Eric Gaines is somebody who's some low hanging fruit," Wade said. "He can really take us to another level, he can really help us offensively. Hopefully over the next couple of weeks we can get going so I feel good about those eight guys."
This week is an important one for the purple and gold as two road opportunities against the Bulldogs and No. 20 Arkansas could exponentially improve their NCAA tournament standing. The Tigers are currently No. 27 in the rankings and received 32 votes in the AP top 25, which is good for No. 30 in the poll.
"Everybody's gotta know where we are, know what we're playing for and know what's ahead," Wade said. "Knowing the positives and the negatives about what's ahead and what the repercussions are both good and bad.
"I think we've struck a good balance. We've found a good balance right now. Just got to stay the course with it, win or lose. The results have been better, but our preparation has been better. Everything that goes into winning has been a lot better as well."