"It was a game within itself," point guard Mo Williams said. "It could have gone either way. It's a minor setback, but we still have confidence going into the SEC Tournament."
LSU started the game capitalizing off the first of 15 Tide turnovers with a Torris Bright three-pointer. The only lead the Tide could take in the first half was a 10-9 lead early on, but LSU answered with a quick two by Collis Temple. The Tigers had a seven-point lead with three minutes left, but the Tide ended the half on a 7-0 run, capped off by Earnest Shelton's three-pointer at the buzzer to tie the score at 29.
"I thought that gave us momentum at the half," Gottfried said. "We tied it with a three and had the ball coming out of the half. Then they came out and had a couple of steals, and scored seven of their own."
The 7-0 run gave the Tigers a 36-29 lead early in the second half, but the Tide battled back to take a 52-48 lead. The Tide didn't score again for nearly six minutes, but by then it was too little, too late, as a 16-2 run by LSU put the Tigers up 64-54. That was the deciding run in the game, as the Tigers held off a late Tide rally to win by four.
"We had a few breakdowns and we were missing some shots (at the end)," guard Terrance Meade said. "They were making some clutch plays. That was the difference in the game."
Mo Williams led the Tide with 19 points, but only shot 5-of-14 from the field. Freshman Kennedy Winston scored 14, but shot only 6-of-21. The Tide only shot 38 percent from the game, compared to LSU's 50 percent.
What was even worse for the Tide was that Erwin Dudley was held in check by LSU forward Jamie Lloreda, who was suspended for the last meeting between the two, a 75-66 Tide win in Tuscaloosa. Dudley scored only seven points, five of them in the last 15 seconds of the game.
"It hurts him," Gottfried said. "We rely on him, and he knows it, and he struggled today. Hopefully it will motivate him for the next time we play."
The Tigers had five double-digit scorers, paced by Ronald Dupree's 14 points. Temple and Torris Bright each scored 13, while Lloreda and Darrel Mitchell scored 11. In addition to Lloreda's 11 points, he pulled down 13 rebounds and blocked seven shots.
"I thought Jaime Lloreda was the difference in the game," Gottfried said. "They guarded Erwin as a team but he made some key baskets at the end of the game."
Now the Tide must focus their attention on the SEC Tournament, where they must find a way to perform well to impress the NCAA Selection committee enough to select them for the NCAA Tournament. No SEC team with a 7-9 conference record has ever made the tournament since the league expanded to 12 teams in 1991.
"We've got to find a way to win and get in the Tournament," said Shelton, who scored 13 points for the Tide. "Its in their (selection committee) hands now. They think we're a team that deserves to be in it. We've got to make ourselves look like a top 65 team."
His head coach agreed, and said that confidence was at utmost importance for the Tide now.
"I believe we will find a way to get into the NCAA Tournament," Gottfried said. "Our team needs to believe that."
Gottfried believed that as a result of what the committee looks at, his team should be in good shape.
"If you look at our non-conference strength of schedule, RPI, wins vs. top 100 teams, the schedule we chose to play—I'm hoping those things count for us in that regard," Gottfried said. "The difference is which criteria is weighted the most. If it's conference record, then they've changed it since the last two years."