LSU coach - Will Wade

Will Wade, LSU basketball head coach

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The LSU basketball team has won its last seven games, is 6-0 in the Southeastern Conference, and head coach Will Wade is just about fed up with it.

He's flat out had enough, and he's not going to take it any more. No, sir, no more Mr. Nice Guy.

The last six of those wins have come by a grand total of 15 points — less than a 3-pointer per gut-wrenching finish — and none were by more than four points. So, sure, the namby-pamby, half-full-glass crowd might wish to rally around the notion that the Tigers play well in tight quarters, maybe even something approaching "clutch" at the buzzer.

Well, Hog wash, says Wade, although the Tigers did manage to beat Arkansas 79-77 with typical drama in the last 30 seconds to start the string of nail-biters.

Plop plop fizz fizz, Tigers win, Tigers win.

Rinse and repeat. And repeat again and again, right through Saturday's spine-tingler of a 69-67 heart attack at Texas in the Big 12/SEC Challenge.

The Tigers are surely keeping folks in the seats until the finish, no matter how comfortable it looks heading into the final minutes.

But, in reality, the team atop the SEC standings might be the worst finishing team in the league. If you're still in football mode, you'll need to recall that the SEC does not have divisions in basketball. It's one big free-for-all and the Tigers are leading the whole stampede, all but the Kentucky Wildcats, by at least two games.

The Tigers are also treading on very thin ice.

Yes, the scoreboards have been agreeable. But the perennial heartburn at the end has been mostly of LSU's doing.

Some, of course, have taken to calling (nicely) some form of Cardiac Cats.

But it's more like, give this team a comfortable lead and they turn into the Katzenjammer Kids.

And Wade doesn't like it one bit.

"You can be blinded by all of that," he said. "But we could easily be sitting here 2-4 in conference because we have blown these simple things and lost our focus.

The win at Texas on Saturday might have been the scariest of them all.

The Tigers led by 16 in the second half, blew every bit of that lead, even trailed briefly before hanging on again at the end.

Wade probably wishes it was an isolated incident.

It wasn't.

LSU does shoot free throws well, especially at the end, otherwise the Tigers might be 1-5 or so in the SEC.

But home, away, doesn't seem to matter, somehow it will be a Halloween ending — Don't open that creaky door, Tigers!

The previous win, at home against Florida, featured an 11-point LSU lead with 1:20 — the Gators ended up with a chance to win at the buzzer before the Tigers held on 84-82.

It fit the pattern.

Mississippi State was a nanosecond late with a tip-in that would have won a game LSU had already exhaled on.

Building double-digit leads has not been a problem, and there's something to say for that.

But fans are learning not to leave early. The most popular viewing spot seems to be from the portals from the beat-the-traffic fans suddenly having to do an about-face and crane their necks.

Wade, of course, would rather the faithful get on to the parking lot without all the drama.

LSU has, for the most part, played well in SEC play since a pedestrian and underwhelming 8-4 preconference start.

That's probably the reason an unbeaten team in the SEC just this week climbed back into The Associated Press poll at No. 22.

"Great," Wade said of the ranking. "It lasted about a week last time, right? … If we don't get this other stuff corrected, we won't be there for very long."

So the question going into a key game at home in the Maravich Assembly Center tonight against Alabama (12-7, 4-2 SEC) is, what unnecessary dramatics might they have in store with the Tide?

Will any lead be safe and cozy against one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the conference?

"Yeah, I'm getting tired of losing all these leads," Wade said. "I've tried to be nice about this and I've tried to talk through it and work through it but I'm done with that.

"We have terrible possessions, we do terrible things. We've got to get it corrected. What we're doing is not going to work if we're going to compete at the top of the league and be a good team. Quite frankly I'm sick of it.

"We could be good ­— that's what is so frustrating. (But) we are fooling ourselves. I know everybody wants to sit over here and pat ourselves on the back for being ranked and 15-4, but it's not going to work. It's not going to work on Wednesday against Alabama. They will come in here and slap us around if we don't get this stuff corrected. We better have people that have our sense of urgency to get all of this corrected."

At least nobody can accuse Wade of being complacent.

After all, it's a fine line between "hanging tough" and the "choke" word.


Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at shobbs@americanpress.com

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