Cougars go for eighth straight against LSU
Coming off a convincing 77-58 road victory against the St. Louis Billikens, the 8-1 Cougars are now tied for first place in the American Athletic Conference with the Wichita State Shockers. The team now shifts its focus to Wednesday, when they travel to Baton Rouge to play Louisiana State.
This is the third straight season the two teams will face each other. The Cougars won the 2015 matchup 105-98 in an overtime thriller at Hofheinz Pavilion. But last season they were blown out 84-65 in Baton Rouge. They will certainly have that on their mind coming in to Wednesday’s game looking for their eighth straight win.
Two areas that the Cougars can improve on are turnovers and fouls. The Cougars average 14 turnovers and 22 fouls a game, allowing opponents to get free points at the charity stripe. LSU is a team that shoots 76 percent from the free-throw line, so the Cougars need to limit their fouls to put them in the position to win the game.
Under first year head coach Will Wade, the Tigers are 5-2 and will provide a tough test for the Cougars on the road. Led by the backcourt duo of freshman guard Tremont Waters and sophomore guard Skylar Mays, the Tigers have a potent offense that has been able to put up points and shoot 53 percent from the field. The Tigers’ struggles this season have come on the defensive end, where they allow an average of 78 points a game.
Despite LSU’s high-powered offense, the Cougar guards are well-equipped and no strangers to playing against elite guards. Starter juniors Corey Davis Jr. and Galen Robinson have embraced the task of guarding the other team’s best scorers, as they slowed down the Arkansas guards in a 91-65 victory.
The Cougars’ defense will need to step up and prevent the LSU guards from getting open looks, as the Tigers have three guards that average 10 or more points per game. They will also have to play good defense without fouling, something the Cougars have struggled with, as the Tigers are tied for 35th in the nation in free-throw percentage.
Since inserting Davis Jr. and Robinson in the starting backcourt, the Cougars have been able to establish a fast-paced offensive attack that tries to score early in the shot clock and get open looks for 3s.
“We have two rules: We try to score as many baskets as we can with four seconds or less, and when we move it up with the dribble, the ball has to cross half court in three seconds or less,” Cougars’ head coach Kelvin Sampson said. “Everything we do revolves around pace.”
This needs to continue against the Tigers as they have been subpar defensively. Look for the Cougars to push the pace and get as many transition baskets as they can.
The Cougars take on the Tigers in Pete Maravich Assembly Center at 8 p.m. Wednesday. The game can be viewed on the SEC Network.