Will Wade felt LSU looked tired and slow Saturday night in Knoxville, leading to the team's poorest performance to date.
The double digit loss to Tennessee was the third time this season LSU was worn down by the end of the game and it showed on both ends of the floor. With the Tigers falling to 3-4 in SEC play and a third straight conference loss, Wade said following the game changes are coming.
"We just didn't work hard enough to get the ball in the spots that we wanted to," Wade said. "We got down early because we took a bunch of jump shots. We're gonna make some changes, the time is now to make some changes."
So what exactly does "changes" mean in regards to this team that's been without starting guard Xavier Pinson for four games and a hobbled Darius Days the last two? Wade said the changes will stem from personnel as well as offensive play calling.
As far as personnel is concerned, there's only so much Wade can do to stretch out the rotation in order to conserve energy. Forward Shareef O'Neal seems like the most likely candidate to earn increased playing time after performing well in three straight games before moving back to the bench on Saturday.
O'Neal was cleared for small bursts of playing time as SEC play began and with the Tigers struggling with injury and foul trouble in the front court, some playing time opened up. He's played a total of 26 minutes this season, scoring five points and grabbing seven rebounds but does give LSU a bit of a different look when on the floor, especially with his aggressiveness in the paint.
Getting the front court rotation of Tari Eason, Darius Days, Efton Reid and Alex Fudge back to consistently playing 28-32 minutes would help conserve energy and inserting O'Neal into the rotation would help achieve that goal.
The backcourt is more tricky with only three options available in Eric Gaines, Brandon Murray and Justice Williams filling up all of the minutes. With Pinson out, Wade has relied on the three young guys to carry the load and there've been mixed results to this point. One way to manipulate the personnel in the backcourt would be to slip Mwani Wilkinson to the two in some stretches, allowing for two of Gaines, Murray and Williams to rest in spurts.
It would allow LSU to play a little bigger but the lack of playmaking already noticeable without Pinson on the floor would be even more glaring in those lineup rotations. There are only so many lineup combinations Wade can go to. The real interesting parts are the potential changes in how the offense is run.
In past seasons and even at the start of this one, Wade has been very lenient with how the offense is run, allowing for his players to play with more freedom. But the obvious shooting and shot creating on this particular team has been tough to watch at times and Wade is tired of seeing it.
"Poor shots, poor execution," Wade said. "We were not very good or very crisp on either end. We gotta finish around the rim, gotta be cleaner with the ball and hit some open shots."
This is not a good shooting team so Wade watching his players settle for jump shots and take 19 threes in the loss to Tennessee was the last straw. Expect Wade to grab more control of this offense after another sub 40% shooting effort to go along with 14 turnovers.
The Tigers return to the PMAC on Wednesday to host another team off to a stellar start in conference play with Texas A&M visiting Baton Rouge. If the purple and gold hope to avoid a fourth straight loss, the offense simply must be better with its execution.