It’s not a skid or a trend or a streak.
The Tigers (11-6, 1-2 SEC) have lost two league road games in a row as they head into Tuesday’s home game against Auburn.
Does that make the 6 p.m. contest a must-win? Nope, but it is a game that certainly has LSU’s collective attention.
“There is no bleeding,” Johnson said Monday. “This is a different team, this is a different year.”
“Before you start jumping on a slide and all those terms, let’s just give this group a chance to play through a little – and it is just a little – adversity. They have already responded, they have already responded in a very favorable fashion during non-conference.”
After a trying nine days for the Tigers fan base on all fronts, the basketball team takes the court at home, with students back for the spring semester and with a goal of keeping pace in what already looms as a wide-open SEC race.
The last two seasons when the losing began, it hung around – for 12 games in 2010 and 10 in 2011.
There was no sense of panic that trend will continue with this team.
“We’re looking to bounce back,” senior forward Storm Warren said. “We’re going to try our best to put a smile on everybody’s face.”
First and foremost, the Tigers have to put themselves in a better mood and that – as usual with this team – starts with defense.
In losses at Alabama and Arkansas, LSU surrendered 69 points after going nine games in a row not allowing a foe to crack 60. The Razorbacks not only dictated tempo, they also torched the Tigers from 3-point range, burying 9-of-18.
|Storm Warren: 10 points and 8 rebounds a game in SEC play|
“We have to tune our defense back up,” said Warren, who is averaging 10 points and 8 rebounds a game since moving back into the starting lineup for the start of the SEC season. “We need to base things on our defense – slow it down and make Auburn play the style of basketball we want to play.”
That plays into AU’s method to some degree.
Auburn has yet to top 70 points in SEC play and only came close with two overtimes in a win against Ole Miss on Saturday.
Similarly to LSU, AU is balanced with three players averaging just over 11 points a game to lead the way.
Under second-year coach Tony Barbee, Auburn is averaging 65.6 points a game.
"Auburn is playing well,” Johnson said. “They’re much improved individually and collectively. They try to slow the pace down. Their game at home against Kentucky was very impressive; four-point game with 3½ minutes to go. I watched them play Ole Miss, and they found a way to win that game. They gritted it out, which is what a lot of teams are doing in this league early on."
In other words, Auburn is a team cut from the same cloth as LSU.
Johnson’s team has struggled offensively in the two losses because of poor shooting. At the core of those woes is s sophomore guard Ralston Turner’s conspicuous swoon.
Turner has missed 20 of his last 24 field-goal tries and has scored only 2 points in three of the last four games. His inconsistency has been present most of the season – he’s scored in double digits only five times – but the lack of production has stuck out like a sore thumb of late.
“It’s on my mind and it’s something I think about,” Turner said. “I’ve put in the work to try and correct it. It’s definitely frustrating to me because I know I’m capable of doing more. I feel like I’m gonna break out of it I haven’t really lost my confidence or anything.”
What hasn’t happened, nor will, is Johnson pulling the reins back on Turner. He said of the 24 shots in three SEC games, Turner has taken 15 in rhythm. The end result simply isn’t what Turner or Johnson is looking for.
“I need to find ways to help more if I’m not scoring,” said Turner, who was the Tigers’ leading point producer in 2010-11 with 12.3 points a game. “I have to keep being aggressive and trying to get to the goal if my shot’s not falling.”
But just like the subtle importance of the Auburn game, it’s key for LSU that Turner rediscover his shot and soon.
“There are things I know my team needs from me and I’m going to keep working hard to score the ball better,” he said. “I’m still confident in myself and I need to be because this is an important game for us to win because it’s the next one.”