The LSU men’s basketball team will run onto the floor of the Pete Maravich Assembly Center on Wednesday night as a nationally ranked team for the eighth time this season.
The Tigers re-entered The Associated Press poll Monday following a two-month absence, just making it in at No. 25 after being ranked in the preseason and the first two regular-season polls.
Starting out as the No. 23 team in the nation, LSU rose to No. 19 on a 4-0 start before tumbling out of the poll when it lost two of three games in the AdvoCare Invitational over the Thanksgiving weekend.
But LSU, which has won seven games in a row and nine of its past 10, is back as one of six Southeastern Conference teams in the AP poll heading into its 6 p.m. Wednesday matchup with Georgia in the Maravich Center.
Tigers coach Will Wade is certainly hoping LSU (14-3, 4-0 SEC) can hang longer with the nation’s elite this time around, starting with its game against Georgia (9-8, 1-4).
“We did not handle it very well the first time we were ranked,” he said Monday. “Hopefully we will handle it better. But there are no shortcuts.”
After winning its first five games of the season, LSU ran into a strong Florida State team and lost in overtime when it let a late lead in regulation slip through its fingers.
The New Orleans Saints' gut-wrenching loss in the NFC championship game on Sunday turned into a teaching moment Monday for the LSU basketball team.
The Tigers followed that disappointing outcome with a 13-point setback against Oklahoma State and the next day vanished from the AP poll.
“Human nature is to relax. Human nature is to give in a little bit,” Wade said. “You have to fight human nature; double down on what you do, be tougher in what you do, be better with your details, be better with how hard you compete and be better with how connected you are in a group.
“All that stuff has to be better, and hopefully, we have learned from the first time because we handled it very poorly.”
Considering ranked teams often have a target on their chests, it’s a legitimate concern for Wade going against Georgia — even though the Bulldogs, under new coach Tom Crean, have struggled since the start of SEC play.
Their four losses have all been by double digits and by an average of 22.8 points per game.
The big one was a 96-50 crushing in the conference opener at the hands of Tennessee, which assumed the No. 1 spot in the AP and coaches’ polls Monday. The Vols and LSU are the lone unbeaten teams in league play.
Georgia rebounded to hammer Vanderbilt in its second game, but the Bulldogs have since fallen at Auburn by 15 points and to Kentucky by 20 and Florida by 10 at home.
Nonetheless, two losses to Georgia a year ago are still fresh in Wade’s mind — especially when it comes to rebounding.
Georgia prevailed by one point in Baton Rouge when it outrebounded LSU 38-27, then had a whopping 49-34 edge on the glass in an 11-point win in the rematch in Athens.
While Georgia lost the SEC player of the year in forward Yante Maten, the Bulldogs have exceptional frontline size in 6-foot-8 Rayshaun Hammonds, 6-9 Derek Ogbeide and 6-11 Nicolas Claxton.
The Bulldogs lead the SEC and are 14th in Division I with 41.0 rebounds per game, which could pose a problem for LSU. The Tigers are ninth in the league and 102nd in the nation at 37.5 rebounds per game.
Individually, Claxton leads the SEC with 9.6 rebounds per game and combines with Hammonds (6.5) and Ogbeide (6.1) for 22.2 of Georgia’s total of 41.0.
Claxton also tops the SEC in blocked shots with 3.1 per game.
“We’ll have to do a good job on the backboards.” Wade said. “They killed us on the backboards last year. They have a lot of the same personnel back outside of Maten.
"We will have to do a better on the backboards than we did last year.”
WHAT: Georgia at LSU
WHEN: 6 p.m. Wednesday
WHERE: Pete Maravich Assembly Center
TV: SEC Network
RADIO: WDGL-FM, 98.1; WWL-AM, 1350; KLWB-FM, 103.7
UP NEXT: at Missouri, 5 p.m. Saturday (SEC Network)
• In his first 50 games as LSU's coach, Will Wade has a 32-18 record (.641). After going 18-15 in his first season, the Tigers are 14-3 going into the game with Georgia.
• LSU has rattled the rims over the past three games with 27 dunks against Arkansas (8), Ole Miss (9) and South Carolina (10). The Tigers have 89 for the season.
• Sophomore Tremont Waters reached a career milestone Saturday vs. Carolina when he became the 12th player in school history with 300 assists. He now has 303.
Georgia (9-8, 1-4 SEC)
Pos. Name Ht. Cl. Pts. Rebs.
G Teshaun Hightower 6-5 So. 8.0 1.8*
G Jordan Harris 6-4 Jr. 4.5 2.5
F Rayshaun Hammonds 6-8 So. 12.9 6.5
F Derek Ogbeide 6-9 Sr. 9.4 6.1
F Nicolas Claxton 6-11 So. 12.4 9.6
G Tyree Crump 6-1 Jr. 10.1 1.8*
G William Jackson 6-4 Sr. 4.8 1.8*
F E'Torrion Wilridge 6-6 Sr. 3.6 2.4
LSU (14-3, 4-0 SEC)
Pos. Name Ht. Cl. Pts. Rebs.
G Tremont Waters 5-11 So. 13.5 6.2*
G Skylar Mays 6-4 Jr. 12.9 3.4
G Marlon Taylor 6-5 Jr. 7.4 3.4
F Naz Reid 6-10 Fr. 13.1 5.5
F Kavell Bigby-Williams 6-11 Sr. 7.5 5.4
G Ja’vonte Smart 6-4 Fr. 10.4 2.4*
F Emmitt Williams 6-6 Fr. 8.8 6.7
F Darius Days 6-6 Fr. 6.2 4.4