Noah Fleischman, Sports Editor
Entering Wednesday night’s meeting between No. 23 LSU and men’s basketball at the Siegel Center, the two teams are eerily similar.
Against North Texas, the Rams used a 20-0 run in the first half to take a 10-point lead after a slow start. Likewise, in LSU’s season opener against Bowling Green, the Tigers used a 19-0 first-half run to take a 15-point lead on the Falcons.
Both teams also struggled with turnovers, as LSU turned it over 16 times against Bowling Green. The Rams gave the ball away 18 times in each of the first two games this season.
“We can’t go in there and turn the ball over like we’ve been turning the ball over,” LSU coach Will Wade said. “If we do that, it’ll be a long night.”
Wade returns to the Siegel Center for the first time since leaving VCU in 2017 to coach the Tigers.
Coach Mike Rhoades said that the Havoc-style defense and aggression is meant to turn over other teams and not themselves.
“We can’t get a steal and give it right back and not get the points,” Rhoades said. “Those are the bad turnovers.”
The Rams forced 18 Mean Green turnovers Friday night but only scored 20 points off the errors. Many turnovers that the Rams forced soon turned into VCU turnovers, giving away the ball soon after they got it.
Limiting turnovers will help the Rams on offense as it did last season, Rhoades said.
“Last year, when we got rid of the bad turnovers, there was a big difference in our play,” Rhoades said. “There’s a big difference in our result, and I think we caught some fire in league play.”
Rebounds are also a focus for both teams heading into Wednesday’s bout. Junior forward Marcus Santos-Silva is a focal point for the Tigers after his 18-rebound performance in the season-opening win over St. Francis (Pa.).
“Marcus Santos-Silva is as good of [an] offensive rebounder that we’ll play,” Wade said. “If we can’t stick a body on him and our guards can’t get in there and get physical and help us rebound down, we’re going to be in trouble.”
Rhoades said the Rams have to grab rebounds on offense to minimize the Tigers’ possessions.
“We can’t give the other team more possessions,” Rhoades said. “We get steals, we turn people over and then we give the ball back on turnovers, or we allow the other team to get offensive rebounds and give them more possessions.”
The Tigers have a dynamic backcourt of Skylar Mays and Javonte Smart, who both scored 21 points in LSU’s season opener.
“We just got to make it really hard for them,” Rhoades said. “Make them take tough shots, they may make a couple. Just keep grinding away.”
Mays and Smart played 36 minutes and 37 minutes, respectively, in the Tigers win over Bowling Green. Rhoades said the Rams have to wear them down physically.
“They’re going to play so many minutes, we just got to do a good job just wearing them down,” Rhoades said. “I’m not sure if you can wear athletes like that down consistently, but let’s give it a shot.”
The Rams host LSU Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the Siegel Center on ESPN2.