In two games against Alabama a year ago, the Crimson Tide was a matchup nightmare for an LSU basketball team pieced together by first-year coach Will Wade as best he could.
Alabama’s length was a major concern for Wade going into both games, and it became an issue for the Tigers in an eight-point setback in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center and in the Tide’s 15-point blowout win in Tuscaloosa.
A season later, Wade is eager to see how this year’s team, 10-3 going into its Southeastern Conference opener, measures up with Alabama (10-3, 1-0 SEC) when they meet again in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center at 8 p.m. Tuesday.
“Last year, we had some 6-foot-4 guys out there guarding 6-10 guys,” said Wade, who has only two players back from a season ago. “This year, we’ll have 6-10 guys guarding 6-10 guys. That will be a little bit of a help.”
Wade said Alabama coach Avery Johnson, the former Southern University star and NBA player and coach, values length — and it shows.
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Of Johnson’s top eight players, only one is under 6-5. That’s 6-3 freshman point guard Kira Lewis, who leads the Crimson Tide with 14.8 points and 3.1 assists per game.
“He’s a great coach … great person,” Wade said of Johnson, a New Orleans native. “He does a really, really good job with their team and personnel. He recruits long, athletic guys.”
With Lewis, the rest of Alabama’s probably starting lineup includes 6-5 guard Dazon Ingram, 6-6 guard/forward Tevin Mack, 6-7 guard Herbert Jones and the biggest of the big in 6-9 forward Donta Hall.
Hall, who missed the first game with LSU last season because of a wrist injury, crushed the Tigers in the rematch in Tuscaloosa with 20 points on an 8-of-10 shooting night. He also had eight rebounds, two steals and two blocks.
“It will be a big challenge for us,” Wade said of Alabama, which ranks sixth in the SEC with 39.1 rebounds a game. “Donta Hall does a great job protecting the rim, playing behind the defense and getting high-percentage shots.”
Wade hopes to at least slow down Hall a little with two bigs who weren’t on the floor last season: 6-10 forward Naz Reid and 6-11 forward Kavell Bigby-Williams.
Reid, who averages 12.8 points, has pushed his rebounding average up to 5.8 with back-to-back games of 10 and 12 rebounds in wins over Furman and UL-Monroe. Bigby-Williams gets 4.5 rebounds a game.
That duo should receive some much-needed help from a pair of 6-6 freshmen forwards in Darius Days, who gets 5.0 rebounds a game, and Emmitt Williams, who leads the Tigers with 6.6 per game.
LSU is tied for 10th in the SEC with 36.7 rebounds per game.
Wade, who started four guards along with Reid in the most recent game against UL-Monroe on Dec. 28, figures to alter his lineup against a bigger Alabama team even though he wouldn’t reveal his plans Monday.
Just having bigger players isn’t the solution, he said.
“You have to play well and do the right things when you’re out there,” Wade said. “Just because you’re as tall doesn’t mean anything. You need to be executing how you’re supposed to be executing.”
Wade’s concerns grew in Alabama’s SEC opener on Saturday. Bama beat Kentucky 77-75 when the Crimson Tide beat the Wildcats on the backboards 40-32.
Alabama also shot 45.8 percent from the field, including 43.5 percent from beyond the 3-point arc.
“We’re going to need to do a good job keeping them off the glass, which has obviously been an area where we’ve been up and down this year,” Wade said. “We need to do a good job of keeping them off the glass.”
WHAT: Alabama at LSU
WHEN: 8 p.m. Tuesday
WHERE: Pete Maravich Assembly Center
TV: SEC Network
RADIO: WDGL-FM, 98.1; WWL-AM, 1350; KLWB-FM, 103.7
UP NEXT: at Arkansas, 5 p.m. Saturday
• Since taking over at Alabama for the 2015-16 season, former Southern star and New Orleans native Avery Johnson is 5-1 vs. LSU with five wins in a row.
• LSU has won 15 games in a row in the PMAC dating to last season. Alabama was one of three SEC teams to win in Baton Rouge before the Tigers won their last six home games.
• LSU freshman forward Naz Reid, a five-star recruit, is averaging 14.0 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks during the Tigers' three-game winning streak.
Alabama (10-3. 1-0 SEC)
Pos. Name Ht. Cl. Pts. Rebs.
- G Kira Lewis 6-3 Fr. 14.8 3.1*
- G Dazon Ingram 6-5 Jr. 8.4 4.6
- G Herbert Jones 6-7 So. 7.5 4.8
- G/F Tevin Mack 6-6 Jr. 9.9 3.3
- F Donta Hall 6-9 Sr. 11.1 8.3
- G John Petty 6-5 So. 10.7 4.8
- G/F Riley Norris 6-7 Sr. 5.2 2.6
- F Alex Reese 6-9 So. 7.2 2.3
LSU (10-3, 0-0 SEC)
Pos. Name Ht. Cl. Pts. Rebs.
- G Tremont Waters 5-11 So. 12.5 5.5*
- G Skylar Mays 6-4 Jr. 13.5 3.4
- G Ja’vonte Smart 6-4 Fr. 10.2 2.6*
- G Marlon Taylor 6-5 Jr. 6.0 2.6
- F Naz Reid 6-10 Fr. 12.6 5.8
- F Emmitt Williams 6-6 Fr. 8.9 6.6
- F Darius Days 6-6 Fr. 6.6 5.0
- F Kavell Bigby-Williams 6-11 Sr. 6.8 4.5