Year 1 of the Will Wade era of the LSU basketball program came to a sobering but optimistic end on Monday night.
Facing off against No. 2 seed Utah in the second round of the 2018 NIT, LSU couldn’t keep up with a scorching Utes offense, leading to a 95-71 Tigers loss. LSU trailed by as many as 27 points midway through the first half as Utah shot 58 percent for the game and made 14 3-pointers, the team’s most in a single game since Dec. 20.
LSU finished with an 18-15 record for the 2017-18 season, an 8-win improvement over 2016-17. And the future only looks brighter for as Wade has built the No. 4 recruiting class in college basketball for 2018, bringing in 5-star forwards Naz Reid and Emmitt Williams as well as 4-star guard Ja’Vonte Smart and 4-star forward Darius Days. That’s not to mention the likely return of freshman phenom point guard Tremont Waters as well as regular starters Skylar Mays and Daryl Edwards.
What went wrong for LSU basketball?
The first quarter went about as badly as any 10-minute stretch could have gone for the Tigers. Utah raced to a 30-11 lead while shooting 70.6 percent from the field and 57.1 percent from 3-point range. LSU, meanwhile, slogged through the quarter shooting 38.5 percent from the floor with more turnovers (4) than assists (3).
After more of the same to open the second quarter, LSU fired back in the final 90 seconds. The Tigers closed the first half on an 8-0 run thanks to 2 3-pointers from sophomore point guard Skylar Mays and 2 free throws from a still-masked Waters. The quick run trimmed Utah’s lead to 17 points heading into the second half.
The Tigers couldn’t parlay that end-of-half success to a quick start in the second half, however, as Utah returned to its dominant ways. The Utes shot 53 percent from the field in the third quarter, while LSU went 1 for 8 from 3-point range in a frenzied attempt to comeback.
This trend continued into the fourth quarter, as the Tigers kept heaving and kept missing.
Waters led LSU with yet another valiant effort to close his freshman season. He scored 19 points and had 8 assists and 4 steals, all of which led the team. Mays added 16 points, converting 4 3-point attempts.