The LSU Basketball team was back at practice on Tuesday preparing for Wake Forest on Thursday — the Tigers' first true road test of the season.
LSU has been on what guard Antonio Blakeney said could be called a revenge tour of sorts for the Tigers, who have beaten two opponents already in Houston and Charleston that beat them last year.
This Thursday, the team takes that act on the road.
“That (Charleston) was the getback game and this one will be on the tour. You can call it a revenge tour," Blakeney said.
Added forward Craig Victor: “That was a loss that we had and coach wasn’t too happy about it. We’ve been out for revenge the last few games.
Blakeney said on Tuesday that he believed it was the nonconference performance by the team last year that lead to the squad missing the NCAA Tournament. This year, Blakeney knew things would be different.
“I feel like we’ve came far because we get better game by game and just do better than we did last game,” the Blakeney said. “I expected coming back with the guys I knew, I knew everybody was good chemistry wise and tat we could do something.”
Against Wake Forest, it'll certainly be a tougher task as the Demon Deacons find themselves in the Top 20 in the RPI.
“It’s the growing, learning from mistakes and not making the same mistakes twice,” the sophomore said. “Looking for growth and just trying to get a win. They’re an ACC school so they’ll have a lot of fans there.”
Johnny Jones said getting the team's first true test on the road will show him what he's got heading into SEC play with a roster mixed with experience and youth.
“It’s different. We’ve played on neutral site, but this is another step. It’ll be on someone else’s court and our first true road game,” Jones said. “We have an opportunity to see how our freshmen and junior college transfer guys will perform and that’s exciting to get to do it before conference play.”
Jones said Wake Forest will give him a true look at how his team handle things like runs, teams coming out of timeouts with new looks, pressure, etc.
“How does the team handle runs and as the team continues to mature, the team will handle them better. We’ve had leads and teams have come back, but they’ve finished strong,” Jones said. “We’ve got to develop that other mindset to build on those leads so there may be a bigger margin of victory at the end.”
Big man Duop Reath says LSU has a lot to prove in SEC play and that he’s excited that it’s coming their way soon.
“We’re trying to show them this is a different team,” Reath said.
Jones said that LSU has a quick turn on this game and he's liking the direction the Tigers are headed right now.
“Really pleased with our guys effort and the direction they’re continuing to drive this team,” Jones said. “It’s a tough challenge, but it’s one we’re looking forward to as we go on the road. We feel like they’ll compete for the upper half of their league. I think our guys are trending the right way.”
What's been the most important part of LSU's close games at home this season? Experience in pressure situations.
“It’s very good that they’ve had to play in the type of environment that they’ve had to. Would much rather be in some crucial situations where they’ve had to execute late in the games so it’s not uncharted territory for them,” Jones said. “In the last two minutes, we’ve executed on the offensive end of the floor and gotten the stops to get the necessary victories.
“It gives them reason especially late in games to understand what it takes and to grind so they understand what they need to do.”
Reath added that it's the little things like free throws that can give a team confidence.
“Even at the end of the games when it’s close games, we’ve got to make free throws, some tough makes and not give up at the end of the game,” Reach said. “Gotta let them know that they’re not getting anything easy.”
Victor reiterated on Tuesday after saying it on Monday night after the win over Charleston, the Tigers finished that game strong with Reath's block on the last play. That is something the team can carry forward.
“Last night, seeing that block at the end of the game, seeing that block will help us. On the road, we don’t have many fans so we have to be there for each other,” Victor said.
The Tigers tip off against Wake Forest on ESPNU at 8 pm CT in Winston Salem, N.C. and will do so with forward Brian Bridgewater, who sat out the last few games with injuries, but Jones said he'll be back.