Fresh off winning the Emerald Coast Classic, LSU wants to avoid any kind of letdown on Wednesday night when it hosts Ohio in Baton Rouge, La.
The Tigers (7-0) beat Penn State 68-63 in overtime and Wake Forest 75-61 on back-to-back nights in the tournament in Destin, Fla., over the long weekend. It was the first championship in a regular-season bracketed tournament for LSU since 2004.
"Our program has come a long way in five years," coach Will Wade said. "This was one of the final steps. We've done a lot of firsts in the program in the last five years.
"It was all about playing harder than the other team and being feistier and tougher."
That tenacity has shown up on the defensive end, where the Tigers are one of the best teams in the country. Entering Tuesday, LSU ranked fifth nationally in scoring defense (54.1 ppg allowed), fourth in field-goal percentage defense (34.3), third in steals per game (12.7) and tied for sixth in turnovers forced (20.4 per game).
Offensively, the Tigers are led in the front court. Darius Days is averaging 16.6 points per game. Tari Eason is chipping in 13.9 points and 8.3 rebounds, and freshman center Efton Reid has contributed 10.4 points and 5.0 rebounds.
That frontcourt size and active defense will be formidable challenges for Ohio (5-1), the defending MAC Tournament champion. The Bobcats were outrebounded 53-17 at Kentucky earlier this season in another SEC matchup; the Wildcats pulled away late for an 18-point victory.
Ohio bags 9.5 3-pointers per game and relies on balance. The Bobcats already have had three games with five double-figure scorers this year. Mark Sears (16.3 ppg), Ben Vander Plas (15.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg) and Jason Carter (14.8 ppg, 7.5 rpg) have been the driving forces in the diverse attack.
"They're really long and athletic," Ohio coach Jeff Boals said of LSU. "They're going to press us, get after us and try to get us to turn it over."
--Field Level Media