LSU basketball coach Will Wade after Kentucky win: 'We should have high expectations'

Tim Buckley
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

After winning the way No. 21 LSU did against No. 13 Kentucky on Tuesday night, Will Wade seemed oddly subdued.

He was understated.

Unenthusiastic, almost.

“Good win,” Wade said shortly after the Tigers beat the Wildcats 65-60 on Dale Brown Night at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. “Wish we closed it out better.”

VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS:No. 21 LSU vs. No. 13 Kentucky Wildcats men's basketball

Toward the tail end of his postgame comments, however, the downplay-it approach started to make sense.

Wade was asked, essentially, why he didn’t seem very happy after LSU (13-1, 1-1) won its first SEC game of the season.

LSU Tigers guard Xavier Pinson (1) dunks in the second half of Tuesday's win over Kentucky.

It’s all about expectations, especially against bluebloods like Kentucky (11-3, 1-1), evidently, and setting the bar higher than some in Baton Rouge have grown accustomed during his five seasons in charge.

“I’m very happy,” Wade said, almost defensively. “I’m in a good mood.

“We just won. We won a top-25 game at home. … It’s a good deal. It’s not every day we can beat Kentucky. So, it’s good.”

But on this night, when Tari Eason led LSU with 13 points and Xavier Pinson scored 11 and Brandon Murray added 10, what the Tigers did was better than good.

It was far from perfect, certainly.

LSU failed to box out and gave up a late first-half basket off an offensive rebound, making Wade go ballistic heading into halftime.

Kentucky came out of the break hitting three straight 3-pointers, and six in the first six minutes, before the Tigers got a bit more aggressive with their man defense.

“Our defense was solid once we cranked it up there,” Wade said. “We let it get away from us there a little bit at the beginning of the second half, but our defense has been very good.

“We’ve got to keep that up. Not everybody is a believer in our defense yet, so we’ve got to keep working.”

Kentucky trimmed a nine-point LSU lead with less than three minutes left to one with 27 seconds to go before Eason and Pinson closed it out with dunks off turnovers.

LSU’s offense, seemingly directionless early on, also went cold, as did Kentucky’s, with no baskets during a stretch of more than five minutes later in the second half.

And Darius Days hit just 3 of 12 field goal attempts, including 3-of-11 from 3-point range.

But the Tigers won anyway, and that really was way better than good for a team that, after sailing through a soft non-conference schedule, opened SEC play with a disappointing 70-55 loss at Auburn.

Therein lies the rub.

Wade wants more. Much more.

He wishes nights like Tuesday were anticipated even more than they are celebrated.

“The reality is, guys, like, we’ve got a good team too,” Wade said. “Like, there’s no reason … I mean, the problem is around here we act all crazy when we do stuff.

“But we should expect. We should have high expectations. … That’s part of our problem, is we don’t have high expectations.

“It’s a game we ‘expect to win’ at home. Now, it will be different when we go there (Feb. 23),” he added. “But it’s a game, if you’re gonna contend at the top of the SEC, you’ve got to hold court at home and you’ve got to win home games.”

Unsaid is that Wade, now 2-3 against Kentucky, apparently felt too few around Baton Rouge were confident LSU could do what he it did.

“I know everybody gets off on beating (Kentucky), and that’s great. It’s a good win for us,” Wade said. “I mean, Tennessee is just as good. We play them (at home) on Saturday (5 p.m. CT, ESPN2/U), so we’ve got to move forward quickly.

“But our expectations here is to win at the top of the SEC, and if you’re gonna do that you’re gonna win some games at home, and this was certainly one of those.”

However pleasing, or not pleasing, Wade really wanted it to be.