Quick pivot: LSU basketball game vs. Missouri postponed; Tigers will now play Saturday at Ole Miss

If there’s anything we learned in the first 1½ weeks of the Southeastern Conference men’s basketball schedule is that it’s not etched in stone — much like it was in football season.

LSU found that out Friday when its weekend road trip took a detour after the SEC announced the Tigers’ game at 13th-ranked Missouri was postponed by COVID-19 issues within the Missouri program.

Instead of going to Columbia, Missouri, LSU (7-2, 2-1 SEC) had its chartered flight sent to Tupelo, Mississippi, where the Tigers bused about 55 miles to Oxford for a 7:30 p.m. Saturday matchup in The Pavilion.

The game will be televised by the SEC Network.

Ole Miss (6-3, 1-1 SEC) was supposed to host South Carolina on Saturday before coronavirus protocols this week in the Gamecocks’ program forced a postponement.

“We’re excited to play, our guys are excited to play,” Wade said on a mid-afternoon Zoom news conference. “We’ve said the whole time our players want to play games, so whatever we have to do to make it happen … this is just one of those things.

“We’ll be be ready (Saturday) night at 7:30 in Oxford, as ready as we can be.”

LSU was scheduled to play at Ole Miss on Feb. 17, but Saturday night’s game will take the place of that contest. A makeup date for the LSU-Missouri game has not been set.

After learning Thursday night that the Missouri might be postponed, Wade and one of his assistants switched gears and started working on Ole Miss in anticipation that the league office would send his team to Oxford.

Wade continued working on Missouri until late into the night and said he and his staff were at the office “very, very, very early” Friday to start on Ole Miss.

He said he didn’t know for sure it would happen until he walked into the gym for a practice that was moved up to 11 a.m. so his team could get more work in. The SEC made the announcement at 1 p.m.

“We were moving on the fly here pretty quick,” Wade said. “We had to get in there and start some film on Ole Miss and get going, so we had to quickly pivot. It’s been an interesting few hours, but that’s the way it goes.”

Wade said two months ago SEC basketball teams would have to be ready to have games changed on short notice, especially after a number of football games were switched in the fall due to COVID-related problems.

But he seemed to be taking it all in stride, especially when asked if his team was in good shape.

“We’ll see, we had all our analytics stuff ready for Missouri,” he said. “That stuff, you just can’t turn around in two hours. So we’re going to have to use it the best we can. We’re a little bit off, but it’s nothing we haven’t done before.

“Look, LSU is going to be there, Ole Miss is going to be there; we just got to play,” Wade said. “We are going to have a normal prep. We tried to cover as much of it as we could today and we’ll get there and go over more film … go over it as much as we can.”

LSU’s game with Missouri was the third to be postponed in the league since the start of conference play in late December.

In addition to the Ole Miss-South Carolina game, the Dec. 29 league opener between Kentucky and South Carolina was postponed when South Carolina paused its program for a second time because of COVID-related issues.

Ole Miss has dropped two of its past five games, but it defeated Auburn 72-61 in its most recent outing Tuesday night.

Wade noted that playing the game at 7:30 p.m. was better than having a morning or early afternoon start because the staff will be able to do more gameday prep than usual.

“I mean for the kids, whether they get on a plane and head for Columbia, Missouri, or Mississippi, I’m not sure how much different it is for them,” he said. “For us, it does create some challenges with the preparation.

“We just had to pivot, this is what we’ve been doing all year. We have had to do this with other games and other situations. Our kids are resilient and we’ll be as ready as we can (Saturday) night at 7:30 p.m.”

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