While his players were busy studying and taking final exams in the classroom this week, Will Wade was administering a different kind of test on the practice court.
It started Monday and lasted through the completion of finals Saturday. And it'll continue as LSU dives into its final five nonconference games before Southeastern Conference play begins.
After having bonus time to fix issues that cropped up in the first month of the season, LSU (6-2) will play for the first time in eight days, against Incarnate Word (5-5) at 1 p.m. Sunday in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
The first thing Wade will be looking for is toughness.
“Just being tougher,” he said when asked what he wanted to see after some two-a-days this week. “In general, just getting tougher, grittier and grimier.
“Being able to dig out some wins down the stretch … being able to dig out wins when everything doesn’t go our way and the game isn’t played exactly how we want it to be played.”
Being more physical and more aggressive was just the beginning for LSU, which returned to work Monday, two days after ripping Grambling 78-57 to end a two-game losing streak.
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Wade noted Thursday the Tigers’ practice sessions had been more intense.
“You practice tough, you typically play tough; you practice soft, you play soft,” he said. “We’ve been practicing a little bit tougher and I think we’ll be a little bit tougher.
“We need to make drastic improvement right now.”
That’s because a big stretch of games, especially in the coming week, awaits LSU before its SEC slate begins Jan. 8 against Alabama.
After Incarnate Word, the Tigers embark on a six-day road trip Monday. They’ll play at Houston on Wednesday night, then fly to Las Vegas the next day for a Saturday night date with St. Mary’s.
After that, LSU plays just twice in a 23-day span before meeting Alabama.
“We’ve got a lot of time to grow as a team and get better as a team,” Wade said. “This is a time you can really improve, because you don’t have class and you limit some of the outside peripheral stuff.
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“This is a time where we need to grow as a team, get better as a team.”
After some self-scouting this week, Wade and his coaching staff set out to work on three major issues that have cropped up — particularly in losses to Florida State and Oklahoma State in the AdvoCare Invitational.
Most troubling were turnovers, transition defense and rebounding — particularly turnovers — which were difficult to fix while playing eight games in a 26-day stretch.
“Really, it’s the first time we’ve been able to focus on ourselves, study our own tendencies and try to change what we’re doing to fit our scheme a little better around our personnel and put guys in a little bit better position,” Wade said.
In their first four games, the Tigers committed 11.8 turnovers a game; in the next four, it rose to 16.2 per game with 19 coming in the Grambling win.
It was the highest turnover total in Wade’s 41 games at LSU, topping the 18 the Tigers had two games earlier in an overtime loss to Florida State.
“Usually, in practice, we give them 10 turnovers on the house because that’s what we want in a game (10 or fewer),” he said. “But the house has been upset this week, so nothing is free.
“If you have a turnover, you immediately go do some conditioning on the side. We’re trying to get turnovers under control.”
Fans bringing a new, unwrapped toy to the main ticket window at the PMAC will gain free admission to Sunday’s game. The upper concourse box office windows open at 11:30 a.m. for the 1 p.m. contest.
WHAT: Incarnate Word at LSU
WHEN: 1 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: Pete Maravich Assembly Center
TV: SEC Network
RADIO: WDGL-FM, 98.1; WWWL-AM, 1350; KLWB-FM, 103.7
UP NEXT: at Houston, 8 p.m. Wednesday
• LSU sophomore point guard Tremont Waters ranks second nationally and first in the SEC with 3.3 steals a game on 26 takeaways.
• Incarnate Word leads the nation in free-throw percentage at 82.2 percent, connecting on 171 of 208 attempts in its first 10 games.
• UIW, a Southland Conference school playing its sixth season in Division I, will be going against an SEC school for the first time.
Incarnate Word (5-5)
Pos. Name Ht. Cl. Pts. Rebs.
G Morgan Taylor 6-3 Fr. 13.4 3.0*
G Dwight Murray 6-0 Fr. 2.8 1.7
G Augustine Ene 6-4 So. 7.8 2.1
F Christian Peevy 6-6 So. 13.8 2.4
F Charles Brown 6-7 Sr. 7.6 1.4
G Cody Graham 5-10 So. 4.8 2.2
F Antoine Smith 6-7 Fr. 8.7 3.2
G Jordan Caruso 6-3 Fr. 2.1 1.6
Pos. Name Ht. Cl. Pts. Rebs.
G Tremont Waters 5-11 So. 11.8 6.1*
G Skylar Mays 6-4 Jr. 14.0 3.4
G Ja’vonte Smart 6-4 Fr. 10.9 3.1*
F Darius Days 6-7 Fr. 7.1 5.1
F Kavell Bigby-Williams 6-11 Sr. 6.9 4.1
F Naz Reid 6-10 Fr. 11.6 4.6
F Emmitt Williams 6-7 Fr. 8.5 7.1
G Marlon Taylor 6-5 Jr. 5.0 1.9