PREVIEW: Tigers-Bonnies Saturday in First Round

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LSU head coach Will Wade talks with his players in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Vanderbilt Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana – The LSU Tigers concluded preparations here on Friday for its opening game in the 2021 NCAA Tournament against St. Bonaventure which is scheduled for Saturday afternoon at 12:45 p.m. CDT in Bloomington, Indiana. 

The Tigers and Bonnies will play in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall on the Indiana University campus in the first of two first-round games scheduled there on Saturday as the NCAA uses six different locations to complete the first round.

The game will be broadcast on the affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network with the “Voice” of the Tigers Chris Blair and former LSU head coach John Brady on-site for their first road game of the season (Guaranty Media flagship in Baton Rouge Eagle 98.1 FM). The game will be televised on TNT with Carter Blackburn and Debbie Antonelli on the call with Dana Jacobson the socially distanced “courtside” reporter. 

LSU is 18-9 overall after finishing third in the SEC this year while St. Bonaventure is 16-4 and the tournament champions of the A-10 Conference. The Bonnies defeated VCU, 75-64, at Dayton Arena to win the tournament title. 

LSU advanced to the finals of the SEC Tournament, defeating Ole Miss and Arkansas before losing to Alabama in the championship game by one point, 80-79. 

LSU is making its 23rd appearance in the NCAA Tournament and back-to-back appearances after going to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 in 2019. This will be the eighth appearance for St. Bonaventure and at nine, its highest seed in the current setup of the tournament. 

LSU Coach Will Wade will become the seventh LSU coach to lead a team to an NCAA Tournament joining Harry Rabenhorst, Dale Brown, John BradyTrent JohnsonJohnny Jones and Tony Benford as coaches to have taken teams to the NCAA Tournament. 

While both teams struggled in late November and early December with COVID-19 issues, there will be quite a difference in styles in this game. The Tigers like to press the pace and doesn’t mind scoring in the 80s with possessions in the high 70s, while St. Bonaventure hasn’t played a game with 70 possessions since Jan. 6. 

St. Bonaventure leads the Atlantic 10 and ranks fifth in the nation in scoring defense by allowing just 60.4 points per game. 

Here are some of Coach Will Wade‘s comments from earlier this week on prepping for St. Bonaventure: 

“You’ve got to guard against frustration,” Coach Wade said. “They’re very deliberate. [Mark Schmidt] is an excellent basketball coach on the offensive and defensive end. For his offensive sets, he stirs you up for about 10 or 12 seconds to get to what he actually wants to get to. So, it’s really good offense, but more importantly for us, we have to defensive rebound the ball. If you guard them for 24 or 26 seconds and they miss the shot, you get to get that so you can go. If you give up another possession, they may just kick it out and run the clock again for another 20 seconds. If we’re not careful and we’re not disciplined, we could end up playing defense for 32 minutes and play offense for eight minutes on Saturday. 

“We’ve got to be very disciplined on what we’re doing defensively. Also, offensively we take some tough shots, but we take some tough shots because we give our guys a lot of confidence. We give our guys some freedom on the offensive end, but we also do it knowing that we’re going to be playing 73 to 75 possessions a game. They haven’t played a 70-possession game since early January.  It’s not just on the defense front, we’ve got to be more cautious offensively with what we do and the shots we take and make sure that we’re taking great shots each time.”

LSU lost some games in December due to a COVID-19 problem and in St. Bonaventure’s case, the Bonnies were supposed to have the very first Division I game of the season, Nov. 25, at 9 a.m. in Bubblesville in Connecticut vs. Towson to being one of the last teams in the nation to play their first game Dec. 15, vs. Akron. 

This will be the first meeting between the Tigers and the Bonnies. St. Bonaventure is 1-8 versus SEC teams while LSU is 7-10 vs. teams from the Atlantic 10. 

Kyle Lofton lead the team in scoring at 14.6 points per game, while Jaren Holmes is at 13.6 points per game. Jalen Adaway is at 12.3 points, Dominick Welch comes in at 11.7 and Osun Osunniyi, who has 57 blocks this season and averages 9.5 blocks a contest, is at 10.5 points a game. 

All five starters average over 32 minutes a game and only one player who has played in all 20 games averages over 13 minutes a game. 

LSU is expected to make no changes from its lineup which has gone 7-3 in the last 10 games with Javonte SmartCameron Thomas and Aundre Hyatt at guards with Trendon Watford and Darius Days for forwards. Thomas leads the team at 22.6 points per game with Watford at 16.7, Smart 15.9 and Days 11.7.

Days leads the team in rebounds at 7.9 points and Watford is pulling down 7.4 a contest. 

While LSU never faced the Hoosier in Assembly Hall, the Tigers did play there once in the NCAA Tournament in 1979. After receiving a first-round bye, the Tigers defeated Appalachian State in the second rounds, 71-57, at Assembly Hall before losing to Michigan State in the Sweet 16 in a game played in Indianapolis. 

The winner of the LSU/St. Bonaventure game will play the winner of the game between the one and 16 seeds in the East, Michigan and Texas Southern, in a second-round game Monday at a time and venue to be determined. 

(Press release via LSU Athletics)

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