For the first time during this 2020-21 season, LSU basketball is set to face an opponent for the second time. The Tigers will travel to College Station to take on an inconsistent Texas A&M squad that fell to the purple and gold in convincing 77-54 fashion in the SEC opener.
It sparked a 5-1 start to conference play for Will Wade and LSU (10-4, 5-3), who have since dropped back to back conference games to Alabama and Kentucky for the first time during the 2021 season.
In that first matchup against the Aggies, Wade alluded to the efficient shot making and spacing on offense that led to the 23-point victory and is something that has been missing in the team's last two performances. A lack of turnovers and an improvement on the boards also led to the win back on Dec. 29.
"We made some 3s, which helped. Our spacing was pretty good. We could still improve a little bit with our spacing. They’re a tough match. They’re going to challenge us on the glass," Wade said. "We did a decent job on the glass in this game but it’s going to be a big, physical challenge for us. We have to handle their pressure; I thought we did a nice job not turning the ball over, they cause a ton of turnovers and we only turned the ball over 10 times in the first matchup. Ultimately, that helped us out the most."
Texas A&M (7-6, 2-5) enters this matchup ranked towards the bottom in most statistical categories but it’s that level of physicality that comes with Buzz Williams coached teams that will be the ultimate difficulty for the Tigers. LSU's offense will need to return to form to get back in the win column and that starts with better spacing and continuing to attack the rim.
"Some of it's our spacing, our finishing. We got some good looks at Kentucky we just didn't make some of them that we would normally make. Our offense, we're built more towards offense than defense that's just how we are," Wade said. "Our offense has to keep us in there when our defense is finding its sea legs. Our defense is not nearly as bad. Our transition defense killed us now part of that our offense."
LSU forward Shareef O’Neal will continue to be on a minutes restriction as he works his way back into the rotation after suffering an ankle injury in practice. Wade revealed that O’Neal hasn’t been a full participant in practice for six weeks which has led to managing his minutes.
Against the Aggies, freshman guard Cam Thomas had one of his better games by scoring 32 points on an efficient 12-of-21 from the field. However, it’s been a different tune for Thomas the last three games as he’s gone a combined 19-of-56 (34%) from the field.
Wade has spoken with Thomas and most of his players individually about what they need to do to recapture that offensive production and that was going so smoothly before the last handful of games.
“Talked with a lot of our guys about what they're seeing, what we can do, what I can do as a coach to put them in some better positions, put them in better situations,” Wade said. “Cam's a great player. He's going to bounce back, he's fine. Javonte, same way. Feel good about all those guys and the work they put in. They've all be in the gym this morning already.”
The Tigers will travel today for a game that will tip off at 8 p.m. on SEC Network.