Coming off the biggest home win in 35 years and their head coach getting subpoenaed, the Tigers are back in the PMAC Tuesday night to keep control of the SEC against the Aggies of A&M.
LSU and A&M met nearly a month ago in College Station and the game was the Tremont Waters show, as the sophomore guard scored 36 of LSU’s 72 points in their 15-point victory. This time around, however, LSU could potentially be without the sophomore point guard as Waters came down with the flu over the weekend.
“He’s doing better,” Will Wade said during his media availability Monday. “He’s certainly better yesterday and I think he’s better today. We’ll have to continue to get him checked out but he’s progressing. Whether or not he progresses to where he can play tomorrow I’m not sure but he is progressing.”
If LSU is without Waters, they showed Saturday morning that they can still play winning basketball. Javonte Smart had the game of his young Tiger career Saturday against Tennessee scoring 29 points and the game-winning free throws with 0.6 seconds to play in overtime. Skylar Mays was also stellar scoring 23 points as LSU had to go to “plan C” and play a more guard-oriented, slashing and driving to the basket type of offense.
LSU was without Waters Saturday and for all intents and purposes was missing Naz Reid, who scored one single point against Tennessee. Reid had plenty of good looks at the basket but, for one reason or another, the shots wouldn’t go. Don’t expect another 0-9 night from LSU’s prized freshman.
Texas A&M is hardly the team that it’s been in recent years. At 12-14 overall and 5-9 in conference, A&M has a very real chance of a bottom-four finish in the league and playing on Tuesday, the SEC Tournament’s opening day.
The Aggies have been playing better ball as of late, winning four of their past five. In the first game against LSU, A&M was a two-man show with guard TJ Starks scoring 21 points and reserve forward Josh Nebo putting up 16 and 11 coming off the bench. Nebo is also the league-leader in blocked shots so expect him to win his fair share of battles with Reid, Kavell Bigby-Williams, Emmitt Williams, or Darius Days.
A&M is expected to use a different starting lineup this time around against LSU. In Starks’ place will be reigning SEC player of the week Savion Flagg, fresh off a 22-point game against Arkansas this past Saturday. Wendell Mitchell will be Flagg’s running mate in the starting backcourt and he also had a 20-point performance, his eighth such performance of the season. The duo have combined to score 40 the past three games and Starks has scored at least 10 in four of the last five for A&M.
LSU is certainly the better team coming into tonight’s matchup and it’s high time the Tigers exerted their will over an inferior opponent. LSU hasn’t convincingly beaten a team since the middle of January; even against A&M the first time, LSU only led by a point at the half. Winning’s the ultimate goal of course, but for LSU to be taken seriously as a threat to win the SEC or make it to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament, the Tigers need to start playing like the top-15 team that they are.