LSU will play its second consecutive game without head coach Will Wade when it hosts New Orleans on Wednesday night at Baton Rouge, La.
The Tigers (4-1) did just fine without Wade, who has tested positive for COVID-19, in an 88-66 home victory against Sam Houston State on Monday. Associate head coach Bill Armstrong led the team in Wade’s absence.
“Coach Armstrong did a tremendous, tremendous job,” Wade said.
Armstrong credited “the culture” that Wade has built in the program in his four seasons for how the team handled the head coach’s absence.
Ja’Vonte Smart scored 25 points to lead three Tigers in double figures in the victory.
“Smart stepped up and got the team to do what they needed to do,” Armstrong said.
LSU played without leading scorer Trendon Watford, who has an ankle injury that’s likely to keep him out of Wednesday’s game, too.
The victory against Sam Houston State began a busy stretch of four scheduled games in nine days for LSU leading up to Christmas.
“Coach Wade preaches every day,” Smart said, “whichever team fights through all of this — during COVID, missing games — will be the one that wins at the end. We just want to keep fighting and keep working every day. Every day we get in the gym, just keep working.”
New Orleans (1-6) also is busy, playing on back-to-back nights on the road. It lost at another in-state opponent, Louisiana, 73-63, on Tuesday night, as the Ragin’ Cajuns completed a sweep of the season series.
The Privateers led for much of the game and trailed by just three points with a little more than five minutes to play. But Louisiana closed the game on a 15-8 run. New Orleans had 21 turnovers.
“This game hurts,” Privateers coach Mark Slessinger said. “It’s frustrating because we didn’t play our best. We had opportunities. We had some costly turnovers down the stretch.
“But we’re excited because we have an opportunity literally in less than 24 hours to compete against the flagship school of the state.”
New Orleans, projected to finish eighth in the 13-team Southland Conference, already has played BYU and Texas A&M. A scheduled game against Utah was canceled.
“We want to play the games that prepare us to win our conference tournament,” Slessinger said. “They can only make us bigger and better.”
–Field Level Media