Coming off the heels of the biggest regular season win in recent program history, LSU is challenged with putting the Kentucky win behind them and turning their attention to trying to beat the Georgia Bulldogs in their building.
LSU and Georgia met once before in January and the Tigers earned a 92-82 win that Wednesday night. But LSU led by as many as seventeen points in the second half before Georgia was able to whittle it down to seven. LSU allowed 46 second half points causing Will Wade to say the Tigers needed to improve their team defense.
Since their first meeting on that Wednesday night in January, the Tigers and Bulldogs have been going in two different directions. LSU’s won five of their last six and worked their way up to No. 19 in the AP poll, while Georgia has dropped five of six and sit in 13th place in the SEC. The results haven’t been particularly close either, only one of those five losses have been within double digits and the past three have been by 16 points on average.
For Georgia, everything starts and stops with sophomore forward Nicolas Claxton. Claxton is one of only four players in Division I basketball to lead his team in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks, and he’s also the SEC leader in rebounding and blocked shots. Standing at 6’11”, Claxton is one of the few opposing players in the league who can match Naz Reid and Kavell Bigby-Williams’ height.
In the first contest, Georga was able to keep pace with LSU in rebounding and hit on eight of 17 attempted threes; Claxton and Rayshaun Hammonds, who had a team-best 18 points, combined to shoot five for eight. The Bulldogs also shot 53 percent from the floor and had 13 assists on 30 made shots; LSU on the other hand only had eight assists and had a miserable 5-20 effort from three.
“Our transition defense was awful, our post defense was even worse and our on-ball defense was not very good,” Wade said after first Georgia game.
Athens has not been kind to LSU basketball. Georgia owns a 28-22 record over LSU in Stegeman Coliseum and the Bulldogs have won the last five. The Tigers, however, are unbeaten away from Baton Rouge in conference play.
In some ways, playing against a bad Georgia team four days after beating Kentucky in Rupp might actually be harder than playing Big Blue. The Tigers are the toast of campus right now and an emotional letdown could very much be in play Saturday evening. For LSU today’s goal is simple: get in, exert your dominance, and get back home with a win.