LSU faces Louisiana-Monroe in opener: New-look team vs. veterans

NCAA Basketball

Louisiana-Monroe has most of its team back from last season, and most of LSU’s team is gone.

The in-state rivals will open the season against each other Tuesday in Baton Rouge.

“I like what we have,” LSU coach Will Wade said. “Every year is fun, every year is a different puzzle. You’ve got to put the pieces of the puzzle together.”

The biggest piece to the puzzle is senior forward Darius Days, a preseason first-team All-SEC selection and the only returning starter from last season’s team.

“He’s been through a lot with us,” Wade said of Days, who averaged 11.6 points and 7.8 rebounds a game. “He believed in us when there wasn’t a whole lot to believe in.”

The Tigers were 19-10 overall and 11-6 in the SEC last season. They defeated St. Bonaventure in the first round of the NCAA Tournament before losing to Michigan.

Wade bolstered his roster by adding three transfers, but the biggest one, former Illinois guard Adam Miller, recently suffered a season-ending knee injury. Former Missouri guard Xavier Pinson brings three seasons of experience to the point position.

According to 247Sports, LSU also has the No. 6 recruiting class, led by five-star center Efton Reid.

“Our frontcourt is tremendous,” Wade said. “I think it’s a huge strength of our team. We haven’t been able to say that very often.”

The Warhawks had eight newcomers on last season’s team, which finished 7-19 overall and 5-13 in the Sun Belt Conference. This team has eight returning players, including three starters.

“I really like this team a lot,” said Keith Richard, who is entering his 12th season as Louisiana-Monroe’s coach. “The experience has shown, and they’ve gotten better. And (we have) four new guys who all are going to contribute and help. Mix it all together and it looks good so far.”

The returning starters are Russell Harrison, Koreem Ozier and Elijah Gonzales, who combined to average about 31 points last year, nearly half of the team average (64.2).

“All these returning players have gained experience last year and in practice and through summer,” Richard said. “And it shows on the floor.”

–Field Level Media

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