Will Wade’s prime directive to his LSU basketball team Saturday:
Work the ball in to center Duop Reath — or else.
“We put some of those subs in (during) the first half and they decided they didn’t want to throw the ball into (Reath),” Wade said after the Tigers’ 82-66 win over Ole Miss. “So if you don’t want to throw the ball into him and do what we want to do, you’re going to sit. You’re supposed to throw the ball into Duop. He was dominating. But we decided we don’t want to throw the ball into him because we don’t like to win or have leads. I don’t understand why.”
Reath, pestered by foul trouble midway through the game, did his share of sitting as well. He only played 24 minutes, but in that time he controlled the game. The 6-foot-11 senior from Perth, Australia, finished with a game-high 26 points and five rebounds plus a blocked shot.
“We had no answer all night, obviously, for Reath,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. “Whenever he caught it in the post, he scored. We were trying to limit his post touches, but he was efficient.”
Deadly efficient, as Reath helped LSU (14-10, 5-7 Southeastern Conference) squash the Rebels’ uprising. He was 10-of-12 from the field and 5-of-6 from the free-throw line.
It was Reath’s third-most points of the season and second-most in an SEC game after his career high 31 on Jan. 20 at Vanderbilt.
“Coach told me before the game to be aggressive,” Reath said. “He said, ‘They’re going to play one-on-one coverage on you.’ I was trying to be patient and make quick moves.”
Both attributes were on display from the game’s opening moments.
Following Wade’s orders, point guard Tremont Waters lobbed a pass into Reath on the right side of the lane. Backing in against 6-8 Ole Miss forward Bruce Stevens, Reath waited for him to commit, got Stevens in the air with a head fake and spun into the middle of the lane for a soft 6-foot jumper for his first basket at the 18:14 mark.
“Efficiency and patience” were his watchwords, Reath said. “That comes with experience.”
Reath, who transferred into LSU before the 2016-17 season from Lee (Texas) College, had good numbers as a junior, averaging 12.0 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game. But he made marked improvement this season, now averaging 14.2 points per game on .577 shooting after shooting .510 from the field last year. Reath entered Saturday’s game with a .563 shooting percentage, ranked only behind Texas A&M’s Tyler Davis (.570).
Asked what advice he or his coaches have given Reath to help him improve this season, Wade said: “He’s a worker. He wants to be really good. When you work, you give yourself a chance to be successful. He wants to be a good player. It’s all on him. He’s the one who put in the time.”
Reath had just five and eight points, respectively, in LSU’s two previous games against Arkansas and Florida. But when he’s going like he was Saturday, LSU’s best offensive option is to patiently feed the ball into its big man.