Shortly after the LSU basketball team won for the 12th time in its past 13 games Saturday, Will Wade took a little time to savor the Tigers’ ninth Southeastern Conference victory of the season.
For Wade, though, a little time meant an hour or two. That’s the amount of time he allowed himself to enjoy a five-point win over Auburn before turning his attention to Tuesday night’s matchup with Kentucky in Rupp Arena.
With one fewer day to prepare, Wade wanted to devote as many hours as possible to getting ready for what is arguably the program’s biggest game since LSU hosted top-ranked Oklahoma in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge on Jan. 30, 2016.
LSU more than held its own that day before OU, which two months later advanced to the Final Four, hit the game-winning basket with 3.8 seconds to play and danced away with a 77-75 victory.
While Wade wasn’t around for that game, Tuesday’s 6 p.m. showdown between No. 19 LSU (19-4, 9-1 SEC) and No. 5 Kentucky (20-3, 9-1), who are tied for second place in the league race just one game behind No. 1 Tennessee, is similar in importance.
It’s probably more important considering they’re going against the league’s longtime powerhouse, one Wade called the SEC’s “standard-bearer.”
“This is obviously a different animal than we’ve been playing,” he said Monday. “Their size, their length, their athleticism, how big they are down low, the way they rebound the ball.”
The LSU men's basketball team is back where it was two weeks ago in The Associated Press Top 25 poll that was released Monday morning.
That’s just the start of it as far as he’s concerned.
When his team walks into a sea of 23,000 blue-clad fans in one of the toughest places to play in all of college basketball, it’s going to be something they haven’t experienced with the exception of junior guard Skylar Mays. He was a part of the 2017 team that played there and lost 92-85.
LSU has won all five of its road games in conference this season, but Wade knows the Tigers have a different challenge in front of them in Rupp.
“We are going to have to play our best and play consistently throughout the whole 40 minutes of the game to be able to go in and compete,” he said. “We have played other games on the road, but this is a different weight class here. Playing in front of 23,000 fans is a different atmosphere.”
Earlier this season, Wade talked about going up in weight class when league play started.
The Tigers went up another weight class with some tough games last week, defeating Mississippi State on the road and Auburn at home on Saturday. Both teams were ranked in the AP poll earlier this season.
Now, LSU is preparing to take a step up to the heavyweight division against Kentucky and Hall of Fame coach John Calipari with Tennessee coming in on Feb. 23.
The efforts of the LSU men's basketball team in the past week were recognized Monday when point guard Tremont Waters and forward Naz Reid swep…
“They’re the best program in the league,” Wade said of Kentucky. “He’s a phenomenal coach. He’s won a national championship. He does a great job with those guys; how hard they play, how good they are defensively.
"To get his teams, with the young guys, to play like they do is extremely, extremely impressive.”
Wade pointed out that Kentucky, which has won 10 games in a row, has given up just 56.5 points a game in its past six outings.
Only once have the Wildcats allowed more than 60 points during that stretch, and that was in a 71-67 win at Mississippi State on Saturday.
“What (Calipari) does with his clubs to get them to be connected and guard like that is extremely, extremely impressive,” Wade said of Kentucky, which allows 65.2 points a game for the season and 60.3 per game in league play to lead the conference.
That, Wade said, means the Tigers’ high-scoring offense, which leads the league in scoring at 86.8 points a game, will have to find a different way to win after coming from 10 points down at State, then overcame a 16-point deficit to beat Auburn on the strength of 22 offensive rebounds.
"We’re not going to get as many possessions; we’re going to have to shoot it better,” Wade said. “We’re going to need to be able to make some shots and we need to keep it within a working margin.
“To win, we’re going to have to play a complete game. … Now, we do not have to play a perfect game, but we are definitely going to have to play one of our better games.”
WHAT: LSU at Kentucky
WHEN: 6 p.m. Tuesday
WHERE: Rupp Arena, Lexington, Ky.
RADIO: WDGL-FM, 98.1; WWL-AM, 1350; KLWB-FM, 103.7
UP NEXT: at Georgia, 5 p.m. Saturday (SEC Network)
• LSU will be shooting for its 20th win of the season, which would be the school's first since the 2014-15 team went 22-11 and earned a bid to the NCAA tournament.
• LSU has won its first five conference road games for only the fifth time in program history. The Tigers also did it in 1953 (7), 1954 (6), 1981 (8) and 1991 (5).
• Kentucky leads the all-time series with LSU 89-26. The Wildcats have a 44-5 edge in Lexington with the Tigers' last victory there coming in 2009 (73-70).
LSU (19-4, 9-1 SEC)
Pos. Name Ht. Cl. Pts. Rebs.
G Tremont Waters 5-11 So. 15.7 6.1*
G Skylar Mays 6-4 Jr. 13.4 3.1
G Marlon Taylor 6-5 Jr. 7.0 3.7
F Naz Reid 6-10 Fr. 13.9 6.3
F Kavell Bigby-Williams 6-11 Sr. 7.8 5.9
G Javonte Smart 6-4 Fr. 10.2 2.3*
F Emmitt Williams 6-6 Fr. 7.8 5.8
F Darius Days 6-6 Fr. 5.4 4.3
Kentucky (20-3, 9-1 SEC)
Pos. Name Ht. Cl. Pts. Rebs.
G Ashton Hagans 6-3 Fr. 7.3 4.5*
G Tyler Herro 6-5 Fr. 13.3 4.2
G Keldon Johnson 6-6 Fr. 13.9 5.3
F Reid Travis 6-8 Sr. 11.7 7.0
F PJ Washington 6-8 So. 14.2 8.0
G Immanuel Quickley 6-3 Fr. 6.0 1.7
F Nick Richards 6-11 So. 3.5 3.1
F EJ Montgomery 6-10 Fr. 4.1 3.9