LSU basketball is back in the States after a successful trip to Jamaica where coach Will Wade said the team "found a bit of an identity."
The Tigers finished 1-1 on the trip, losing in heartbreaking fashion to No. 15 Utah State 80-78 after leading the majority of the game, but were able to bounce back and beat a one loss Rhode Island squad 96-83 two days later. Wade said the trip was a success overall because of the identity the team started to find despite dropping the first game.
"I thought we played harder then we had all year," Wade said. "That's something we want to keep as our identity but the other thing was I thought we played inside-out, attacked the paint a lot better, especially in the second game drawing fouls. Both of those things are core parts of what we want our identity to be."
Keep in mind, LSU was in a very similar position to start the 2018 season. The Tigers had trouble with turnovers and were settling for jump shots early in the season when they lost in similar fashion to a top-25 Florida State team in Orlando.
The problem was the Tigers backed that loss up with possibly it's worst showing of that magical run to the Sweet Sixteen against Oklahoma State. This go around, the Tigers handily beat Rhode Island fueled by sophomore Emmitt Williams 27 points.
"We were much better against Rhode Island, we moved on very quickly," Wade said. "It wasn't just the players last year, it was the coaching staff as well, that Florida State loss was a gut punch to us. We didn't react as well as we should've reacted. I thought our staff reacted quite a bit better and allowed us to play our best game to date against Rhode Island."
The big difference in the two games, according to Wade, was the bench production, most notably the play of transfer Charles Manning. Manning had all four bench points in the LSU loss to Utah State but was able to follow up with an eight point outing against Rhode Island.
"We don't have much of a bench, only playing a few guys," Wade said. "But really the difference was Manning, he played really well against Rhode Island after not having one of his better outings against Utah State so that was pretty much the difference."
Up next for LSU (4-2) is a home game against Missouri State on Friday, which Wade said will be another tough non-conference test. Wade mentioned the post defense needs to be radically improved as well as the spacing on offense and keeping the ball out of the paint.
"They're big, they're physical, it will be the most physical game we've played all year," Wade said. "It's going to be a battle on Friday night. Hopefully everybody's in town for Thanksgiving and will come to the game because we need a big crowd. It's going to be a really good game, they're well coached. They've lost two games by one point and picked to win their conference for a reason."
The game Friday night tips off at 7 p.m. in the PMAC.