BR.lsuarkansasmain.010920 HS 108.JPG

LSU head coach Will Wade speaks with an official during a game against Arkansas, Wednesday, January 8, 2020, at LSU's Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge, La.

Shortly after an excruciating, one-point overtime loss at No. 11 Auburn on Saturday, Will Wade didn’t need a lot of time to find a positive in his team’s second Southeastern Conference loss in less than 72 hours.

Unlike Wednesday night, when then-No. 18 LSU was rudely handed its first setback in conference play by a Vanderbilt team that hadn’t won inside the league in almost two years, Wade wasn’t as disappointed.

He didn't reach for the panic button after letting the Auburn game slip away, preferring to focus on the fact that LSU, which dropped to 25th in the AP poll Monday, is still in first place in the conference race.

Still intact are the Tigers’ chances of defending the regular-season title they won last March, a fact that didn’t change Monday.

“You just have to stick with it,” he said after a 91-90 loss left LSU in a three-way tie with Auburn and Kentucky atop the league. “Shoot, we’re still in first place. We’re tied for first place, so we have to go to work.”

With just eight regular-season games to play, the work begins now.

Even though the two-game cushion LSU (17-6, 8-2 SEC) held just six days ago has evaporated, Wade’s team will try to retain at least a share of the lead when it faces Missouri (11-12, 3-7 SEC) at 8 p.m. Tuesday in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

Not that he ever needs any motivation, but Wade only had to look back to December when LSU lost back-to-back nonconference games to East Tennessee State and USC before the Tigers reeled off 10 consecutive wins — eight in league play.

But they came up short in their bid to finish the first half of the SEC slate 9-0 at Vanderbilt, then stumbled at Auburn — which dropped back-to-back league games by 19 and 22 points just three weeks ago.

“Everybody goes through it, it’s not always smooth … that’s the way it goes,” Wade said. “There was one year at VCU where we tied for the league title and we lost to Fordham.

“That’s just like Vanderbilt, it’s just the way it goes. It’s basketball and crazy things can happen. … We have to respond the right way. We can’t focus on all of that stuff; we can only focus of the stuff we can control and the next most important thing.”

The thing that had Wade so optimistic Monday about getting back on track is the way his team played in a tough environment at Auburn.

Even though LSU led by as many as 15 points in the first half and 14 in the second, Wade credited Auburn, which has lost just twice, with keeping the pressure on.

It fought until getting over the hump at the end of regulation and when LSU took a one-point lead with 9 seconds left in overtime to secure the victory.

“We played our asses off Saturday,” he said, noting he should have done some things differently when LSU had the ball at the end of regulation. “We played so well. I screwed it up at the end, but our kids played well enough to win.

“You can't ask for a team to play much better than that on a short turnaround. (Auburn) had an extra day of rest, extra day to prepare. We didn't get back until 3 in the morning from Vanderbilt because of the weather. We played as hard as we could play.”

They’ll need that against Missouri, which defeated Arkansas 83-79 on Saturday and has won two of its past four games since starting 1-5 in the league.

Missouri will be even tougher if guard Mark Smith, its second-leading scorer at 10.9 points per game, is ready after missing three games with a lower back ailment.

Missouri ranks 13th in the SEC in scoring at 66.0 points a game and 13th in overall field-goal accuracy (40.3%) and from beyond the 3-point arc (30.1%).

But it gives up just 64.1 points a game, which is third in the conference.

“If we can beat Missouri, we can keep going from there,” Wade said. “I don’t take a sky-is-falling approach. … I have no doubt we will bounce back and close the season strong, whatever that looks like.”

The basics

WHAT: Missouri at No. 25 LSU

WHEN: 8 p.m. Tuesday

WHERE: Pete Maravich Assembly Center

TV: SEC Network

ONLINE: www.ESPN.com/watch

RADIO: WDGL, 98.1; WWL-AM, 870; KLWB-FM, 103.7

UP NEXT: at Alabama, 3 p.m. Saturday

Briefly

• LSU scored 90 points in its past two games and lost both of them, the first time that has happened since March 1989.

• With 380 free throws made in 23 games, LSU has converted 32 more freebies than their opponents have taken.

• LSU outscored Missouri 15-1 in the final 2:08 of regulation last Jan. 26 to claim an improbable 86-80 overtime win.

Probable lineups

Missouri (11-12, 3-7 SEC)

Starters

Pos. Name Ht. Cl. Pts. Rebs.

G Dru Smith 6-3 Jr. 11.3 4.1*

G Xavier Pinson 6-2 So. 8.6 2.0

G Javon Pickett 6-5 So. 7.5 4.6

F Kobe Brown 6-7 Fr. 5.9 3.3

F Reed Nikko 6-10 Sr. 4.1 3.3

Key reserves

F Mitchell Smith 6-10 Jr. 5.0 5.0

F Tray Jackson 6-8 Fr. 3.1 2.0

G Torrence Watson 6-5 So. 5.2 1.5

* assists

LSU (17-6, 8-2 SEC)

Starters

Pos. Name Ht. Cl. Pts. Rebs.

G Javonte Smart 6-4 So. 12.3 4.3*

G Skylar Mays 6-4 Sr. 15.9 4.7

F Trendon Watford 6-9 Fr. 13.9 7.2

F Darius Days 6-6 So. 11.7 7.3

F Emmitt Williams 6-6 So. 14.0 7.0

Key reserves

G Marlon Taylor 6-6 Sr. 4.7 4.4

G Aundre Hyatt 6-5 Fr. 2.0 2.3

G Marshall Graves 6-4 Sr. 1.1 0.5

* assists

***


Need tickets to the game? Try Ticketmaster:

Events at the PMAC | Alex Box Stadium | Tiger Stadium

Email Sheldon Mickles at smickles@theadvocate.com