Team defense leading to individual success of LSU basketball players

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If you had told Darius Days a year ago that he would be No.2 in the country in terms of individual defensive standings, he probably would have laughed at you.

But that’s how good this LSU team has been defensively over 14 games of the 2021-22 season, allowing a number of individual players to have career years on the defensive side of the ball. As it stands, the Tigers have five players in the top 10 of the country’s individual defensive standings according to Sports-Reference.

1) Tari Eason-71.9

2) Darius Days – 76

4) Eric Gaines – 76.8

7) Efton Reid – 77.2

8) Mwani Wilkinson – 77.7

Gaines, Wilkinson and Xavier Pinson all make the SEC’s top 10 interceptions while Eason and Reid both average nearly a block per game, also leading the conference.

“It’s crazy that I’ve been here for four years, I never thought I would be in the top 10 in defense,” Days said. “It’s very exciting, the guys are getting locked in defense, we are proud to play defense for each other.”

The ball defense this team has played all season has been nothing short of the elite, leading the country in the adjusted defensive standings to 83.2, nearly three points better than second-place Tennessee, that the Tigers face on Saturday night. For a player like Days, who has had to protect opposing teams’ crosses over the last few years with the program, being able to cover players in a way that is more natural to his position and body type has opened up another avenue for his. intense defensive style.

He can now switch wings on the perimeter and have this ability to keep big as well, allowing LSU’s defense to go from one to five when on the ground. Coach Will Wade says individual success in defense only comes if all players are in lockdown and not put out of rotation.

“It’s a little more natural position for him, a little more natural movement,” Wade said of Days. “He’s a little more comfortable with what he’s doing. Look the other way, our help is better, our spread protection is better and you aren’t as exposed because the other guys are working. together.

“We have a very good defensive staff, guys who want to play on both sides of the pitch. The program we have is not that different from last year, but we give our players a lot of credit.”

Gaines and Days both realized this team could be pretty special defensively when they kept their top five opponents 60 points or less, which LSU has done 11 times in their first 14 games this season. A preseason scrum against an undisclosed team was where LSU’s defense really shone against another elite program, holding a potential contender under 60 points.

Players equate success in defense with a good balance of speed, strength, athleticism and pride in the effort they put in on this side of the pitch.

“We have speed with Eric, X[avier Pinson] and Brandon Murray. We have the athleticism of, Mwani, [Alex] Fudge and Tari, then the powerhouse with me and Efton making every effort, Days said. “It plays a key role in our defense, everyone plays a key role.”

Now preparing for one-on-one with one of the nation’s other elite defensive teams, the Tigers are set to really get college basketball up to date with the physical way they defend themselves.

“That’s where the energy comes from,” Gaines said. “The defense wins games, championships and we have done it.”


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