With a tough stretch of games coming up in the next couple of weeks, LSU men’s basketball coach Will Wade isn’t interested in thinking about the future.
He has no time to think about Sunday, or next week, or next month for that matter.
For Wade, it’s all about the here and now.
And now can only mean Saturday’s 5 p.m. rematch with Arkansas in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center after LSU claimed their first meeting, 94-88 in overtime, on Jan. 12 in Bud Walton Arena.
“We talk about winning today,” Wade said Thursday. “The more stuff that’s going on, the narrower your focus has to be.”
Winning is something LSU (17-3, 7-0 Southeastern Conference) has talked about lately.
The Tigers have won 10 consecutive games and a victory over Arkansas (12-8, 3-4) would give the program its longest winning streak since the 1985-86 team won its first 14 games en route to a Final Four berth.
While that may be a talking point for the team’s fans, Wade’s not willing to go there with 11 regular-season games and the SEC tournament still to come.
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On Wednesday night, the focus was on Texas A&M. On Saturday, it’s Arkansas.
“We worry about today. … We have to do a great job today,” he said of preparing for the Razorbacks. “We have to do a great job with our recovery, a great job with our film session and a great job with our free throws.
“We have to lock in and narrow what we are doing,” he added. “If you let all of that other stuff seep in, then you’re in trouble.”
Wade quickly turned the page following LSU’s fourth road win in a row, a 72-57 beating of Texas A&M on Wednesday night, to the rematch with Arkansas.
Just three weeks ago, LSU pulled out a win against Arkansas in overtime after letting a 12-point lead slip away in the final 9:17 of regulation.
But the Tigers recovered in overtime to prevail, withstanding a monster performance by 6-foot-11 sophomore forward Daniel Gafford.
The preseason All-SEC first-team pick scored a career-high 32 points in going 14 of 19 from the field and added seven rebounds and two blocks.
Wade said his team will have to do a much better job of keeping Gafford from going off again.
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“We’ve got to do a much better job with our post defense than we did in the first game,” he said. “We just gave him too many angles and he was able to score too many at the rim. We didn’t have a lot of help and we didn’t make him work as hard as we need to make him work.”
Gafford, a likely first-round NBA draft pick this summer if he chooses to come out, is seventh in the SEC in scoring with 16.1 points a game and is second in rebounding with 9.0 per game. He leads the conference in field-goal accuracy at 66.3 percent.
But he’s not the only one LSU has to be concerned with.
Guard Mason Jones finished with 22 points in that first meeting and guard Isaiah Joe, who scored just five points that night, ranks second in the league in knocking down 43.1 percent of his 3-point field-goal attempts.
Then, there’s the familiarity of playing four times in the past 13 months.
“They have more film and we have film going against each other,” Wade said. “What worked the first time will not work the second time. We have to make some changes and anticipate some changes they will make.
“Arkansas is one of those teams that will play differently on the road than at home. We will probably see some more matchup zone. They might not come out and press us as much as they did at home, but maybe they will because they turned us over a lot when they made the run in the second half.
"We have to take lessons from the first game and from the Texas A&M game.”
WHAT: Arkansas at LSU
WHEN: 5 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Pete Maravich Assembly Center
TV: SEC Network
RADIO: WDGL-FM, 98.1; WWL-AM, 1350; KLWB-FM, 103.7
UP NEXT: at Mississippi State, 8 p.m. Wednesday (ESPN2)
• LSU shot below 40 percent in its past two games (35.3 at Missouri, 37.1 at Texas A&M). That's only the second time it has happened twice in a row in Will Wade's 53-game tenure.
• If tonight's game comes down to a free-throw shooting contest, LSU will have the edge. The Tigers rank second in the SEC at 75.8 percent; Arkansas is last at 64.9 percent.
• LSU has won 13 of the past 19 matchups with Arkansas. The Tigers swept the series a year ago and won the first meeting this year on Jan. 12, 94-88 in overtime.
Arkansas (12-8. 3-4 SEC)
Pos. Name Ht. Cl. Pts. Rebs.
G Jalen Harris 6-2 So. 8.9 6.0*
G Isaiah Joe 6-5 Fr. 13.9 2.4
G Mason Jones 6-5 So. 14.3 4.8
F Adrio Bailey 6-6 Jr. 6.4 3.3
F Daniel Gafford 6-11 So. 16.1 9.0
F Reggie Chaney 6-8 Fr. 6.1 4.2
G Keyshawn Embery-Simpson 6-3 Fr. 4.4 1.3
F Gabe Osabuohien 6-8 So. 3.1 3.1
LSU (17-3, 7-0 SEC)
Pos. Name Ht. Cl. Pts. Rebs.
G Tremont Waters 5-11 So. 15.3 6.0*
G Skylar Mays 6-4 Jr. 13.3 3.3
G Marlon Taylor 6-5 Jr. 7.3 3.6
F Naz Reid 6-10 Fr. 12.9 5.7
F Kavell Bigby-Williams 6-11 Sr. 7.4 5.5
G Javonte Smart 6-4 Fr. 10.2 2.4*
F Emmitt Williams 6-6 Fr. 8.1 6.2
F Darius Days 6-6 Fr. 5.9 4.5