Will Wade didn't want to sugarcoat any of LSU's shortcomings against Alabama on Tuesday night. He used the words "embarrassed" and "dissappointed" as he told his team they were outprepared, outcoached and outplayed.
In those types of situations, Wade harks back on advice that he received very early on in his coaching career. Traditionally teams will play five games above their talent level and five games below the level the talent level.
"But you can't let your five worst games affect you're middle 20 games," Wade said. "I've said this from the start, we've got great leadership on this team and, you know, anybody can captain a boat in smooth waters. It's what happens when the water gets rocky, the water gets a little bit choppy. That's what makes a skilled sailor.”
"It was an all systems breakdown and the only thing you can do from there is respond the right way and focus on the next day. We had a good day of practice Thursday, hopefully we'll have another good day of practice today. We just need to play better and I have confidence that we're gonna play better."
Wade and the Tigers enter a "desperate" game on Saturday against a Kentucky Wildcats team that hasn't had the traditional season we've come to expect from John Calipari and company. The Wildcats sit at 4-9 on the season and are on a three game conference losing streak that's dropped them to .500 in SEC play.
What Kentucky does well that LSU has had trouble with in different spurts this season is three fold. Wade called the Wildcats a unique defensive team, an elite shot blocking team and a great offensive rebounding team.
Some of the struggles the Tigers had on offense in the 105-75 loss to Alabama was predicated on what the Crimson Tide were doing but the No. 1 issue Wade saw on that side of the ball Tuesday was the lack of spacing. LSU spent most of that Thursday practice woking on its spacing on offense because Kentucky, despite its rough start, has big athletes that clog the paint on most teams it plays.
"If we don’t get our spacing better, Kentucky’s gonna have that lane so clogged up they’re gonna be blocking everything," Wade said. "There was nowhere to go because we were guarding ourselves and we made it a little bit easier on them [Alabama]. They’re good enough without us helping them, same thing with Kentucky. Kentucky’s good enough without us helping them out with our poor spacing so we gotta focus on ourselves."
The Wildcats are No. 1 in the conference in blocked shots a game with 6.3 but along with that, they also foul a lot at the rim, which is an area the Tigers have been one of the best in the country at doing. LSU is shooting 76% at the free throw line while also ranking No. 1 in free throws made so attacking the rim and getting to the foul line will be a major point of emphasis on Saturday night.
Kentucky also rebounds 42% of its misses because of the big bodies that are down low, which is another area LSU has struggled with consistently this season.
"You win and lose in the margins, we gotta get back to the basics and fundamentals and focusing on those things which is what we spent the majority of our time doing," Wade said. "They’ve lost a lot of close games, they’ve been unlucky in some games and it’s just been one of those years for them. Coach Cal [Calipari] is a tremendous coach, they’ve got tons of talent still and eventually they’re gonna find the right mix and get it going. I just hope it’s not against us.”