MBB vs. Arkansas

A basketball sits on the court Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021 during LSU's 92-76 win over Arkansas in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center on N Stadium Drive in Baton Rouge, La.

On Oct. 23, the LSU men’s basketball team traveled down to Thibodaux to take on Nicholls State in an exhibition game that raised money for Hurricane Ida relief in Thibodaux and throughout South Louisiana.

LSU played in an event similar to this two years ago, when the team traveled to Ruston to play LA Tech to raise money for tornado relief. The game with Nicholls State was a massive success in raising money and a great event for both the schools and the people of Louisiana.

On the court, it was the first opportunity for this new group of players to play together in a competitive setting. LSU was missing multiple key players with Darius Days, Xavier Pinson, Efton Reid and Shareef O’Neal all out with minor injuries. Days, Pinson and Reid are all expected to start for LSU when the regular season comes, so the matchup with Nicholls State was a good opportunity to see what kind of depth LSU has off the bench.

The answer to this question was a promising one, with Tari Eason, Eric Gaines and Brandon Murray all stepping up and playing quality minutes for the Tigers in what ended as a 74-62 win. Eason led the way for LSU with 22 points and 13 rebounds, showing his versatility on the offensive end. Gaines was LSU’s second leading scorer, adding 15 points to go along with nine assists. Murray was also solid. He put up 10 points and proved that he can play quality minutes for the Tigers as a freshman. 

Head Coach Will Wade spoke about what he took away from the game while talking to radio show host Jordy Culotta on Monday.

“My biggest takeaway was that our guys played extremely hard,” Wade said.

Wade immediately took time to talk highly of sophomore forward Mwani Wilkinson, who had 12 points in the win. Wilkinson began the 2020-2021 season as a starter but received less playing time as the season went on; however, Wade talked during the offseason about how much he had improved.

“Wilkinson played as hard as I’ve seen a player play here in a long time,” Wade said. “He was all over the place and played extremely hard.”

Wilkinson is a returning player who is expected to step into a much bigger role in the 2021-22 season. He has improved massively as a shooter during the offseason and is expected to be a major contributor on both ends of the floor.

Another huge concern going into this game, and the season, was how the Tigers would look defensively. Defense and rebounding were two of LSU’s biggest weaknesses last season, but against Nicholls State, there was progress despite missing multiple key players. LSU held Nicholls State to just 62 points and 36.1% shooting from the field. On the glass, LSU outrebounded Nicholls 44 to 29 and held them to just seven offensive rebounds. This was a point of emphasis for Wade and was something that he was very satisfied with after the game.

“We weren’t as crisp as we wanted to be but we were better,” Wade said. “The defensive rebounding was better, we gave up 17 offensive rebounds to them last year, we gave up seven this year, so I thought those areas were improved, but we’ve got to get much better as we get ready for SEC play."

Overall, the game was a great event for everyone involved and was an opportunity for LSU’s overhauled roster to begin to get used to playing together. The Tigers tipoff the regular season in just under two weeks when they return to Baton Rouge to play Louisiana-Monroe.

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