In its first game since a 25-point drubbing at No. 11 Auburn on Saturday, the LSU basketball team will be a bit short-handed Wednesday night.
And with just nine players available — two of them walk-ons — Will Wade won’t have a lot of size to put on the floor when his team takes on another ranked opponent, No. 18 Tennessee, in Knoxville.
Being undermanned was the last thing on Wade’s mind Monday when he handed one-game suspensions to reserves Wayde Sims and Brandon Rachal and announced that two more backups, Galen Alexander and Mayan Kiir, were taking leaves of absence for the remainder of the season.
But Wade said LSU (12-8, 3-5 Southeastern Conference) will work with what it has coming off its second-worst defeat of the season when the Tigers meet Tennessee (15-5, 5-3) at 5:30 p.m. in Thompson-Boling Arena.
Without the four players who measure between 6-foot-5 and 6-9, the average height of the nine remaining Tigers will be a shade under 6-4½. Only two LSU players available Wednesday — 6-11 forward Duop Reath and 6-10 forward Aaron Epps — are taller than 6-5.
“We’ll figure that out. ... We can play small,” Wade said. “Teams have to guard you if you play small. That’s on me as a coach to figure that out. We’ll put a plan together and do as best we can.”
Figuring it out will be key against a Tennessee team that was picked to finish 13th in the SEC preseason poll, one spot ahead of LSU.
From the start, Monday was a tough day for Will Wade.
Tennessee, which has won six of its past seven games and has gone 5-1 in the SEC over that stretch, has been one of the two biggest surprises of the first half of conference play, along with league-leading Auburn.
The Vols gained some early attention in shocking Purdue, which is now No. 3 in the nation, and playing tough in a nine-point loss to current No. 1 Villanova in their first two games in the Battle 4 Atlantis in November.
Two of their three SEC losses were by two points in overtime at Arkansas and by four at Missouri. The other setback was by 10 at home against Auburn.
Wade certainly didn’t forget what his team has ahead of it Monday, when he started his news conference with the announcement of the subtractions to the active roster.
“We do play Tennessee on Wednesday; they happen to be a very good team,” Wade noted. ”We have a lot of work to do to get ready.”
Tennessee’s lineup includes one of the SEC’s premier players in 6-7 forward Grant Williams, who had a monster game with 16 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks a year ago as a freshman in a 92-82 loss at LSU.
This season, Williams leads UT in scoring (16.2) and rebounding (6.4).
These are the pains that come along with the growing the LSU men’s basketball program is trying to do.
He’s a huge concern for Wade, whose team was shredded by Auburn forward Desean Murray (among others) for 18 points, eight rebounds and five assists in just 20 minutes Saturday.
“Grant Williams is a phenomenal player,” Wade said. “We couldn’t guard Desean Murray, and Grant Williams is just as good if not better than Desean Murray.
“If we don’t correct what we did at Auburn, it’ll be the same result because Tennessee plays as hard as Auburn. It’s the same deal ... if we don’t improve in some areas, it’s going to be tough.”
The main areas would be 3-point defense, where Auburn buried 11 shots from beyond the arc in the first half alone and finished with 14, and rebounding.
In the past two games, LSU has been outrebounded by 20 against Texas A&M and 14 at Auburn.
Even with the suspensions, Wade is expecting better against Tennessee.
“If you are a competitor and watch that game and see how we played, you are certainly embarrassed by the effort, embarrassed by how we represented our program, our school, and our state,” he said. “That should snap us back to attention. I hope we play with a lot more focus and disciplined effort.”
WHAT: LSU at Tennessee
WHEN: 5:30 p.m. Wednesday
WHERE: Thompson-Boling Arena, Knoxville, Tenn.
TV: SEC Network
RADIO: WDGL-FM, 98.1; WWWL-AM, 1350; KLWB-FM, 103.7
UP NEXT: vs. Arkansas, 2:30 p.m. Saturday (SEC Network)
• Duop Reath continues to roll, hitting double digits in scoring in seven SEC games and averaging 17.3 in league play.
• Tennessee has been a fast-starting team, outscoring its opponents 36.3 to 28.3 in the first half of the Vols’ first 20 games.
• LSU snapped its school-record 15-game losing streak last March 1 with a 92-82 win over Tennessee in the PMAC.
LSU (12-8, 3-5 SEC)
Pos. Name Ht. Cl. Pts. Rebs.
G Tremont Waters 5-11 Fr. 15.2 5.8*
G Skylar Mays 6-4 So. 11.2 4.0
G Randy Onwuasor 6-3 Sr. 4.9 2.1
F Aaron Epps 6-10 Sr. 9.6 5.8
F Duop Reath 6-11 Sr. 14.1 5.6
G Daryl Edwards 6-3 Jr. 6.1 1.3
G Brandon Sampson 6-5 Jr. 7.7 2.4
G Marshall Graves 6-2 So. 2.0 0.6
Tennessee (15-5, 5-3 SEC)
Pos. Name Ht. Cl. Pts. Rebs.
G Jordan Bone 6-3 So. 7.6 3.2*
G Jordan Bowden 6-5 So. 10.1 3.5
F Admiral Schofield 6-5 Jr. 12.7 5.9
F Grant Williams 6-7 So. 16.2 6.4
F Kyle Alexander 6-11 Jr. 5.9 5.8
G Lamonte Turner 6-1 So. 10.4 3.5
G James Daniel 6-0 Sr. 6.8 3.5*
F Derrick Walker 6-8 Fr. 1.9 2.1