LSU’s next test: Showdown in the paint

Jacksonville, Fl. — LSU is a big, physical team whose offense is sparked by their big men inside. The same can be said for Maryland.

LSU has two starting forwards that are 6 foot 10 or taller. So does Maryland. That being said, LSU interim head coach Tony Benford summed-up Saturday’s match-up between the Tigers and the Terps best:

“What it’s going to come down to I think it’s very simple,” Benford said. “It’s going to be who wins the paint and who wins the rebounding battle. They’re really strong in the paint and we’re pretty strong in the paint and we’re good on the glass and they’re good on the glass.”

LSU has now had 17 games where they’ve scored 40 or more points in the paint, with freshman Naz Reid (6’10”) and senior Kavell Bigby-Williams (6’11”) leading the charge underneath. Reid has 8 double-doubles this season and Bigby-Williams has 10. The two have combined for 88 blocks on the year.

For Maryland, it’s sophomore Bruno Fernando (6’10”) and freshman Jalen Smith (6’10”) doing the heavy lifting in the post for the Terps. Fernando has 21 double-doubles (ranks 7th in the nation and 3rd in the Big Ten) and Smith has 5. The two have combined for 99 blocks on the year.

“It’s going to be a pretty good match-up,” Bigby-Williams said. “Obviously they’re great players and I’m looking forward to the match-up. I know they’re physical, big, long athletic so it’s going to be a good match-up. But I feel like me and Naz, we’re going to be prepared for them.”

With the anticipated physicality of this game underneath, the Tigers are going to need some quality minutes from their bench forwards too, to be able to come in a give Reid and Bigby-Williams a break.

“It’s important because they’re physical bigs, well skilled,” Bigby-Williams said. “They can post-up and make plays inside the post and also on the perimeter. Having those other guys come in to bring minutes is going to help us a lot.”
If LSU gets past Maryland, they’ll advance to the Sweet 16 for the 10th time in program history, and first time since 2006. While the LSU players all said they’re looking at it as just the next game, they all know the stakes at this point in the season.

“This is the most important game of the year for us and they understand that,” Benford said. There’s no more tomorrows. We’ve got to play well tomorrow or we go home. But I think our guys will be ready to play and we’re looking forward to the challenge.”

No. 3 LSU (27-6) and No. 6 Maryland (23-10) tip-off in Jacksonville at 11:10 a.m. CT Saturday.

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