First-year LSU coach Matt McMahon knows his team is very much a work in progress.

Even so, the Tigers won their first two games, and that’s the main thing as they prepare to host in-state rival New Orleans on Thursday night in Baton Rouge, La.

“Don’t ever take winning for granted,” McMahon said. “As we know, there are some areas we need to improve upon.”

LSU has been in tight battles with Kansas City and Arkansas State before winning by 11 and nine points, respectively. Adam Miller scored a team-high 26 points as the Tigers beat the Red Wolves.

Arkansas State got within 45-43 midway through the second half Saturday night before missing 10 consecutive shots, including seven from beyond the arc.

“I loved our defensive effort to hold them to 5 of 25 on their threes,” McMahon said. “We forced 16 turnovers, and we did a better job with our discipline on that end of the floor in not fouling so much. … But we have to clean up our 2-point offense and clean up some of the turnovers.”

New Orleans coach Mark Slessinger, like McMahon, saw areas in need of improvement even in victory.

The Privateers, who opened the season with an 89-53 loss at Butler, bounced back with a 65-63 victory over NAIA program St. Francis (Illinois) in their home opener on Saturday.

New Orleans shot just 35.5 percent from the floor, 33.3 percent on 3-point attempts and 58 percent on free throws. The Privateers were outrebounded 41-30 and allowed the Fighting Saints to shoot 51 percent from the floor and 41.7 percent from 3-point range.

Jordan Johnson and Khaleb Wilson-Rouse each scored 14 points to pace the Privateers.

“This game did not meet the standard for what we need to do,” Slessinger said. “We have a lot of work to do. We have to get better at everything.”

The Privateers’ defense saved them as they forced 33 turnovers, leading to 28 points. But Slessinger knows his team is unlikely to match those numbers against LSU.

“This is going to be a huge week for growth and development,” Slessinger said.

–Field Level Media