The LSU Tigers lost three games in non-conference play this season by two points: VCU, Utah State, and USC. LSU was so successful last season because it won close games with great regularity. Finding a way to win in overtime was an essential part of the Tigers’ SEC championship journey.
By Matt Zemek
As the 2020 SEC season dawned, a new story needed to be written after the series of narrow defeats in out-of-conference games.
It is early in the SEC season, but the first few games of league play show that Will Wade’s team has managed to display the resilience which has marked LSU basketball over the past 12 months.
LSU defeated Arkansas, 79-77, on January 8, and followed that up with a late rally against Mississippi State on Saturday. LSU trailed 53-44 but rallied to defeat the Bulldogs, 60-59, on a Skylar Mays jumper at the buzzer. LSU is 3-0 in the SEC, once again rising to the top of the conference standings.
Let’s see what LSU has to do to remain perfect in the conference, heading into College Station for a battle with the Texas A&M Aggies.
1 – Tempo
The Texas A&M Aggies are in a rebuilding year under first-year head coach Buzz Williams. The Aggies were horrible in the early part of the season but have gradually found their sea legs. A&M doesn’t have high-end talent, so Williams knew he would have to mold his 2020 team around a defense-first approach. That philosophy emerged in full in a 69-50 win over Vanderbilt this past weekend. A&M will spend this season trying to drag its opponents into the mud and play slow-paced basketball in which every possession requires a maximum of effort. The Aggies will try to rope their opponents into bruising, contentious slugfests. LSU can’t allow that to happen.
The Tigers need to push the pace and get down the floor before A&M can set up its halfcourt defense. LSU has the more skilled players in this game. The Tigers need to put themselves in positions where that natural skill can emerge.
2 – Offensive rebounding
LSU grabbed 23 offensive rebounds in the win over Arkansas last week. If A&M succeeds in slowing down the tempo of the game, LSU’s counter to that is to crush the Aggies on the glass. A&M’s initial defense might be hard to solve, but LSU can still gain the upper hand by crashing the boards and earning more possessions.
3 – Ball security
Tempo and rebounding are things LSU can proactively do to win this game. Ball security is more aligned with an “avoid this if you don’t want to lose” point of emphasis. One of the few ways A&M can win is if it forces a lot of turnovers and gets some easy fast-break baskets off those miscues. As long as LSU can minimize turnovers, it will deprive the Aggies of a path to victory.