No. 23 LSU Basketball Gears Up For Non-Conference Battle With VCU

Glen West

For the first time since he took the head coaching position at LSU, coach Will Wade will be facing the team he helped lead to two straight NCAA tournaments from 2015-17.

The No. 23 ranked Tigers are fresh off an 88-79 opening night win over Bowling Green Saturday that saw five players score in double figures. VCU, on the other hand, has started off the 2019 season with consecutive wins and lie just outside the top-25 in the AP Poll.

Wade said playing against a team he's very familiar with presents its fairs share of challenges but that at the end of the day, VCU presents an opportunity to play a very good team that will be beneficial to the team down the road.

"You don’t like playing familiar faces all of the time, but that’s how it goes in college basketball," Wade said. "At the end of the day, it’s two really good teams playing each other in a high-level environment, and I think it’ll help both of us. It’ll help us for our games and SEC play and I’m sure it’ll help VCU as they get going in their schedule."

This will be the first early test for LSU in 2019 and after coming off a win that was a little too close for comfort, especially down the stretch, Wade said there's plenty of areas to work on. One of those areas is in the turnover department as the Tigers coughed the ball up 16 times to allow Bowling Green to make a second half push.

"We’ve got to clean up a lot of the turnovers," Wade said. "We’ve got to clean those up. Part of it was we got a little bit fatigued. I’ve got to do a better job subbing and making sure our guys aren’t out there as tired as they are. We’ve got to clean that up.”

Wade said point guard Javonte Smart, who played 37 minutes Saturday, was visibly exhausted in the second half and that guard depth is something that will have to be figured out in the early part of the season. In addition to Smart, Skylar Mays logged 36 minutes, Charles Manning went 32 minutes and Emmitt Williams played 31 minutes.

One player Wade could see receiving more minutes in the immediate future is freshman guard James Bishop, who played just 11 minutes in the opener.

"It’s tough. You put the guys out there that you trust the most," Wade said. "You develop trust through your practice and your practice habits and through your work habits. I’ve got to get (James) Bishop on the court more. I trust him. He’s a good player. It’s just tough when you’ve got Javonte and Skylar and you’ve got to take one of them out sometimes."

However, one player that wasn't on the floor was senior guard Marlon Taylor, who has been hampered with a foot injury since the summer. Wade said a decision about Taylor's injury would be made later in the day Monday  and didn't have a firm timetable on a potential return to the lineup.

"He could play Wednesday or be out another two or three weeks. We have to make a call on it in the next hour or two," Wade said. "He was going to play Friday and tried to practice on Wednesday or Thursday but couldn’t move well enough to practice. We’re going to reevaluate it this afternoon then make a decision based off that."

LSU will leave for VCU on Tuesday afternoon with tip-off coming Wednesday at 5 p.m. on ESPN2.