With a little momentum and an 11-point lead in the second half, everything looked like it was on pretty solid footing for the LSU men Wednesday night.
Looks were deceiving.
The Tigers coughed up the comfortable lead against South Alabama, and the Jaguars made one clutch play after another down the stretch to force overtime and prevail in the extra session, 79-75 at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
Jaguars’ reserve guard Freddie Goldstein forced overtime when he swished a 17-foot jumper from the wing as time expired and then iced the win with a pair of free throws in OT.
The loss dropped LSU to 3-3 and extinguished the moderate head of steam the Tigers brought home after winning their final two games at the Charlotte Classic.
But those two – like every other Tiger – struggled to find shots down the stretch when South Alabama (2-2) staged a 17-7 surge to erase a 56-46 lead and forge a 63-63 deadlock.
“We didn’t move the ball,” LSU coach Trent Johnson said. “When we got up 10, I thought we had guys try to go off on their own a little bit – didn’t kick it to the open man at the particular right time.”
There were nine empty possessions in that span, three turnovers.
|Andre Xavier Roberson scores two of his 19 points over LSU's Storm Warren|
“I don’t think it’s what they did,” said Stringer, who connected on 6-of-10 floor shots and 5-of-6 free throws. “In the urge to get a shot off to get the lead back up, we took a couple of tough shots.”
So did the Jaguars, but they made a bunch of them.
Six different South Alabama players scored in a span when it clawed back within 63-57. Antione Lundy came off the bench to pester the Tigers with a nice mid-range game, hitting a pair of 15-footers to close the gap to 63-61. Javier Carter squared the score up when he grabbed a weakside rebound and followed Goldstein’s miss at the 3:32 juncture.
That the Jaguars clawed back into the game in part because of rebounding was no surprise. They beat LSU on the glass, 42-31, paced by Carter’s 10.
“Our lack of energy, to get outrebounded, and all the 50-50 balls South Alabama came up with them,” Johnson said.
“42-31 on the glass? Come on. That’s a shame that team is outworking you.”
Following Carter’s putback, the Jaguars grabbed the lead when Augustine Rubit hit the second of two foul shots with 3:01 left, triggering a tug-of-war when the teams swapped the lead four times.
Stringer gave the Tigers a 69-66 edge with 1:11 to go, but South Alabama got a surprising boost from Goldstein.
Hickey missed a driving layup after a timeout with 22.4 seconds to go and fouled Goldstein on the other end. Goldstein made the first but missed the second.
Didn’t matter because the Jaguars Roberson corralled the offensive rebound.
Goldstein dribbled out the final seconds before pulling up for the game-tying shot as the horn sounded.
In overtime, Roberson scored twice off the dribble after Carter evened the score with a pair of free throws and the Jaguars never trailed again.
After a sluggish start, South Alabama shot 50.8% from the field, anchored by a 15-for-26 (57.7%) second-half performance.
That deft shooting, coupled with the rebound margin, created an ending reminiscent of last season when the Tigers coughed up second-half leads and lost several games that seemed within grasp.
“Defensively we were very undisciplined, which again after competing and defending like we did our last few games, that really surprised me,” Johnson said. “That tells me there were some guys who thought they could just show up at home thinking we had arrived.”
Instead, LSU took a big step backward, making the next several practices a key to where the Tigers go from here.
“They outworked us and we need to take ownership for that,” Turner said. “We came out flat and didn’t make plays down the stretch. All we can do now is worry about what’s ahead of us. We’ve got to put that behind us.
“We need to stay together. We can’t linger on the past. We need to pick up our energy some more. We won the last two games with defensive effort and (Wednesday) we didn’t show that kind of defensive effort.”
The Tigers are back in action Tuesday when they travel to face Houston at 7 p.m. at Hoffheinz Pavilion.