Auburn, Ala.--LSU showed up with too much size, too much strength, too much good shooting and too much intensity for Coach Bruce Pearl’s Tigers to pull off the basketball series sweep as the visitors overpowered Auburn 84-61 on Tuesday night at Auburn Arena.
The Bayou Bengals dominated near the basket, holding a 52-18 advantage for the points in the paint statistic. Part of that was the result of a 36-29 rebounding advantage and LSU’s good shooting (57.8 percent) was also a factor. The Bayou Bengals made 30-43 two-point shots.
Auburn junior forward Jordon Granger, who finished with four rebounds, called Auburn’s 34-point disadvantage for points in the paint “an embarrassing” stat.
The loss was a third straight overall for the Tigers and a sixth straight setback at Auburn Arena. Auburn is 12-16 overall and 4-11 in the SEC. LSU, which is trying to secure a berth in the NCAA Tournament, improved to 20-8 with a 9-6 record in league games.
Cinmeon Bowers led the Tigers in scoring with 16 points and was Auburn’s top rebounder with six. K.T. Harrell scored 14 points for the Tigers while Granger and K.C. Ross-Miller finished with nine points apiece.
Auburn had no answer for LSU’s big man, Jarrell Martin, who scored 25 points while adding a dozen rebounds.
Auburn, which had won 81-77 in the first matchup this season at Baton Rouge, never led in the rematch. After cutting a lead that had been as much 10 points to 49-46 on a basket by Ross-Miller with 15:51 left, the visitors went on a 15-0 run to build the lead to 18 points at the 12:34 mark to take control.
A combination of five three-point plays on the 15-0 run gave the Bayou Bengals a comfortable margin they never surrendered.
Pearl said LSU’s defense did a good job of covering Harrell and Antoine Mason, who were key players in Auburn’s upset win at Baton Rouge. “They did a great job defensively, particularly on Mase (Antoine Mason).
“Defensively, in the second half it is difficult to score when you are constantly taking the ball out of the net,” Pearl said. “It is frustrating and disappointing.”
The coach, who fussed about his team’s lack of defensive intensity in a loss to Kentucky on Saturday, said, “I?thought the effort was better than against Kentucky, but the performance was not much different.
“We hurt ourselves in pressure,” Pearl added. “We really bothered LSU with the press up there and we didn’t get matched up. We played our press with no purpose...We gave them way too many easy looks.”
LSU finished the game with 11 turnovers, five fewer than Auburn.
The visitors jumped to a quick 6-0 lead prompting an early timeout from Pearl and they stayed on top throughout the first half. The visitors’ largest lead in the half was 10 points with 4:34 left in the period.
LSU built its edge by using its size advantage to work for good shots near the basket. At the break LSU held a 24-14 advantage for points scored in the paint. That enabled the visitors to take a 41-34 lead into the locker room at intermission.
Halftime Numbers: Auburn hit 13-28 field goals (46.3 percent) and made 3-13 threes plus 5-5 at the foul line. LSU hit 19-35 field goals (54.3 percent), 3-10 threes and the Bayou Bengals were 0-3 at the foul line.
Bowers, who made 5-7 field goals, led the Tigers in scoring at halftime with 11 while Martin of LSU scored 12 while Mickey added eight points.
Cinmeon Bowers drives to the basket as LSU's Martin defends on Tuesday night.
In the second half LSU outscored Auburn 43-27 while holding the home team to 33.3 percent shooting in the period while making 62.1 percent from the field.
For the game Auburn hit 37.7 percent of its shots, 7-25 threes and 14-17 free throws.
LSU made 37-64 field goals for its 57.8 percent shooting night. The visitors made 7-21 three-pointers and 3-6 foul shots.
“I thought tonight our guys came out and did a great job from the start,” said LSU coach Johnny Jones, who noted his team was highly-focused for the rematch after being out-played by the Tigers in Baton Rouge.
"It did not take a whole trying to get our guys prepared for tonight's game," Jones added. "I thought Auburn came in and played extremely well, probably as well as anyone in our place, about 19 days ago."
Auburn’s Granger said his team did not match LSU’s intensity. “There was no energy,” he said, noting the Tigers need to “get hyped on defense” to be successful The junior added the Tigers didn’t play their team concepts defensively and it cost them.
“Honestly I feel we weren’t locked in really to the game plan, which we prepared well for Sunday and yesterday," Granger said. "I just feel that when we call certain coverage everyone needs to commit to it and we weren’t really doing that tonight as a team.”
Granger said it is tough to see the team struggling, especially with a six-game losing streak at Auburn Arena. “It’s very frustrating and me being in love with Auburn that’s not how I want to represent this community or this school, so we’ve got to pick it up,” he said.
LSU guard Tim Quarterman said it was important for LSU to do a good job of defending Harrell, the SEC's top scorer. "I just wanted to play physical and make sure he didn't start scoring early," Quarterman said. "On every screen I had to stay attached to him and make sure I didn't lose him on the floor. I just stayed alert and stayed focused."
Worth Noting: Mason, who scored 24 points in Baton Rouge, finished with just six on Tuesday night. He only got five shots from the field and didn’t make any of them.”
More From Pearl: Commenting on what he saw from his team, effort-wise, Auburn's head coach said, “We got beat down pretty well, but these guys keep battling. I didn’t see any quit out there. I thought they gave effort and continued to compete. My teams will do that. I’m not worried about that. I am more focused on trying to play well.
"I’m not worried that they are going to stop playing hard," Pearl added. "We have to focus on the next one and the next one. Texas A&M is going to be really difficult at Texas A&M. We have to go to Missouri, they are in the bottom of the league like us. We have to go there and compete.
"Then we have a senior night (on Saturday March 7) against Georgia," he added. "I talked to the players a little bit today about the seniors. This is it for those four guys. How many more games can we win? I talked about the SEC Tournament. We haven’t won a tournament game at Auburn in a number of years. We need to win that game and the next game. Just keep putting something out in front of them. Texas A&M is going to be really tough.”
Up Next: The Tigers will travel to Texas A&M for a 7:30 p.m. CST tipoff on Saturday.