LSU men's basketball coach Will Wade wasn’t about to let a program-building moment slip away Friday night.
As the final seconds ticked off the brilliant new video boards and scoreboards in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, Wade shook hands with Alcorn State coaches and players and then quickly reached for a microphone.
While he was obviously pleased with LSU’s 99-59 blowout of Alcorn State in his coaching debut with the Tigers, Wade took the opportunity to deliver an important message.
As the remainder of 11,856 paid attendees darted for the exits, Wade thanked them for their attendance, considering the options they had on a Friday night — high school football playoffs, or resting up for the LSU football team’s bright-and-early Saturday kickoff just across the street.
There were more kudos during his postgame radio interview.
“I want to thank everybody who came,” Wade said. “It made a difference for our team; it made a difference for our players. Thanks for taking time to come out. … It meant a lot to our players.”
A search of the record books Saturday found that it was the largest opening-night crowd since 1991.
Wade certainly wants those fans to come back to watch his team, whose play on both ends of the court brought loud cheers early and often — especially on defense.
“Our guys responded; our guys played,” he said. “We weren’t perfect, but we played extremely, extremely hard. We had back tips, we had blocks, we had guys flying around the court. That’s what it’s going to take to win.”
It didn’t hurt that freshman point guard Tremont Waters had a huge collegiate debut, which had the huge crowd buzzing.
Waters connected on last eight field-goal attempts after starting the game 1 of 5 and finished with 27 points. He added six assists, five rebounds and five steals to wow the crowd.
“It was just a tremendous game from him, but we see it all the time in practice,” Wade said. “He’s a floor general. … He’s a really good player, which is why a lot of schools wanted him. I think most people saw that tonight, and we’re real fortunate to have him.”
There were a lot of other good things as well.
Offensively, LSU protected the ball and had just seven turnovers while using solid ball movement to shoot 61 percent from the field — including 57.9 percent from 3-point range.
About the only thing Wade was concerned about was the Tigers’ 66.7 percent shooting from the free-throw line.
Defensively, Alcorn State was limited to 39 percent shooting. The Braves shot just 16.7 percent from beyond the arc, going 4 of 24. LSU also forced 16 turnovers and turned them into 24 points.
Wade’s team, which will host Samford on Thursday night, also enjoyed a 35-26 edge in rebounding.
“All in all, we’ve got a lot that we can get better at,” he said. “We have to get better at the free-throw line. But there were a lot of positives, and now we’ve got some live game action to teach from.”