Preview: LSU Basketball Hosting Shorthanded, Eager South Carolina Team

Gamecocks will be without coach Frank Martin and have only played twice since the beginning of December.
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LSU has found its stride and now that the Tigers have played the way the team knows will lead to great success, the goal is all centered around consistency and execution. That goal will continue when the Tigers welcome a South Carolina team that's chomping at the bit to play another SEC opponent.

The Gamecocks have played just one SEC game and two games total since Dec. 5. The last two conference games have had to be postponed due to COVID-19 protocols and to add insult to injury head coach Frank Martin and two assistant coaches won't be making the trip to Baton Rouge.

LSU (9-2, 4-1) has already been through that same situation this season when Will Wade and multiple assistant coaches were forced to miss the Tigers' game against Sam Houston State. Wade told reporters Friday that not having Martin is something that works both ways in terms of impact on the team.

"A lot of times, just like you've seen with us, you can get an emotional bump and it can be a benefit to that team," Wade said. "Can you sustain that over three games? That's not sustainable but for one game, you can certainly get a bump. Look at us when Trendon [Watford] went down or Cam [Thomas] went down. They're gonna play extremely hard tomorrow, extremely excited because they haven't played in a while."

The Gamecocks will come in as one of the lengthier teams the Tigers have faced and have big bodies to attack the glass, which is an area that LSU has shown steady growth in over the last handful of games. 

In just five games this season, South Carolina has forced 37 steals and force 16.4 turnovers a contest which is No. 3 in the conference. Because they force so many turnovers, Wade said that the Gamecocks like to push the ball out in transition and are No. 9 in the country in transition conversion rate.

On offense, the Tigers will have to account for 6-foot-6 guard AJ Lawson, who's averaging 17.3 points per game on 46% shooting, which is No. 6 in the conference. 

The Tigers will be without Shareef O'Neal for a fourth straight game but what has been among the most impressive parts of LSU's start to the 2020-21 season is the growth in which the players have learned and accepted their roles on the team. From the veteran leaders who are being asked to carry the majority of the offensive load all the way down to the freshmen, each individual player understands what is being asked of him.

In recent games, the importance of Mwani Wilkinson, Eric Gaines, Jalen Cook, Josh Leblanc and Aundre Hyatt have created total domination in wins over Ole Miss and Arkansas. That doesn't happen if everyone isn't pulling in the same direction. 

"I clearly sat down and met with everybody on their responsibilities, we have a responsibility chart in their lockers and everybody knows what everybody else's responsibilities are," Wade said. "It's very clear what you need to do to help our team win and I think everybody knows that. We've got a really good group."