BR.lsuslubasketball.120120 TS 130.jpg

LSU's Shareef O'neal (32) blocks a shot by Southeastern Louisiana's Joe Kasperzyk (25), left, in the first half of their men's basketball game at LSU's Pete Maravich Assembly Center, Monday, Nov. 30, 2020.

In his team’s 53-point romp over Southeastern Louisiana on Monday night, LSU basketball coach Will Wade wasn’t exactly enamored with the Tigers’ defensive rebounding.

LSU easily won the battle on the backboards 53-33, but Southeastern’s 14 offensive rebounds — eight of them coming in the first half — were one of the few things Wade could complain about following LSU’s 96-43 win.

The 43 points for SLU were the fewest allowed in Wade's three-plus seasons at LSU, easily topping the old low-water mark of 50 by Texas A&M, Maryland-Baltimore County last season and Incarnate Word in 2019.

That was a major improvement after LSU gave up 81 and 85 points in splitting its two games in the Billiken Classic last week.

Still, the defensive rebounding against SLU left a lot to be desired for Wade, who did find a silver lining on that front heading into Sunday’s 5 p.m. matchup with Louisiana Tech (3-0) in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

With proud papa Shaquille O’Neal watching from the PMAC stands, Shareef O’Neal pulled down nine rebounds against Southeastern to tie teammate Trendon Watford for game-high honors.

“He’s a tremendous rebounder,” Wade said of the younger O’Neal, a 6-foot-10 forward. “His defensive rebounding numbers are off the charts, which is a huge area of emphasis for us. So that’s going to be a big boost for us — his defensive rebounding.”

O’Neal secured those nine rebounds — eight of which came on the defensive glass — Monday night in 19 minutes of playing time.

He also had five in a season-opening win over Southern Illinois-Edwardsville and three in a loss to Saint Louis while playing 13 minutes in each of those games.

O’Neal’s total against Southeastern was two shy of his college career-high of 11 while playing for UCLA against Notre Dame last December.

This season, O’Neal has 17 rebounds in just 45 minutes. He’s averaging 5.7 rebounds a game, second on the team behind Darius Days’ 8.0 — but Days is playing twice as much as O’Neal, averaging 29.7 minutes to O’Neal’s 15.0.

Wade said the problem is keeping O’Neal on the court for longer stretches — not only for his rebounding, but for his scoring as well. He has averaged 2.7 points per game although LSU doesn’t lack for scorers.

O’Neal committed four fouls in his first 11 minutes against SLU and four against SIUE. He also had three in the loss to Saint Louis and leads the Tigers with 11 through three games.

“The best way to get him involved in the offense is to keep him out of foul trouble,” Wade said. “He’s picked up some fouls in these games, so we’ve got to do a better job of keeping him out of foul trouble.”

At the same time, Wade noted the foul trouble hasn’t been all O’Neal’s doing.

“They’re not all his fault,” he said. “He gets put in rotation some by other guys in transition situations. We went over that (in film study).”

Wade will need O’Neal’s rebounding against Louisiana Tech, which comes into Sunday’s game ranked 53rd out of 288 Division I teams with 42.7 rebounds per game. LSU ranks 175th with 35.7 a game.

Tech had 48 rebounds in a 78-62 win over UL-Monroe on Thursday night.

JaColby Pemberton, a 6-5 guard who comes off the bench, averages 11.3 rebounds to go with 15.0 points a game and 6-7, 275-pound freshman forward Kenneth Lofton averages 7.0 rebounds and 10.0 points.

Pemberton, who ranked 16th nationally as of Friday night, had 11 rebounds and Lofton 10 in the win over ULM. Both had four offensive rebounds in the Bulldogs’ victory.

Wade knows that a step forward in his team’s defensive rebounding will be a key against a quality Tech program that has won 20 or more games in seven of the past eight seasons.

“It’s something we’ve got to improve on,” he said. “Shareef can be a big help for us on the defensive glass.”

Email Sheldon Mickles at smickles@theadvocate.com