Sometimes a story can write itself, the subject matter so attainable, the action easy to describe.
For LSU right now, though, nothing is easy and that includes trying to conjure up something new and different about another double-digit loss.
Saturday’s result – an 85-73 loss to Texas A&M – was fittingly a few days after Groundhog Day, because the Tigers have to feel a lot like Bill Murray’s character right now.
Ok, so this one had a few different elements to it. Some actual signs of hope and improvement for LSU (9-13, 1-9 SEC).
The Tigers actually grabbed an early lead and held it for nearly 8 minutes by running effective offense, hitting shots and controlling the backboards.
With nice balance and a spark from freshmen Wayde Sims and Skylar Mays, LSU plugged to a 9-4 advantage by the first media timeout when Antonio Blakeney buried a 3-pointer. Sims jammed hope a pass from Brandon Sampson on an alley-oop to push the lead to 11-4 at the 14:31 juncture and it seemed like it might be the Tigers’ night.
“We were just executing the offense,” Sampson said after a 21-point night that was buoyed by a 9-for-9 performance at the free-throw. May was 4-for-4 as LSU shot a perfect 13-for-13. “(LSU coach Johnny Jones) told us that we broke down plays and were getting away from things that were working for us. We got back to running our offense and we got more points.”
Added Jones, “Early when we started off our offense, we were running the weave. We were getting into the clock a little bit, and I thought we executed at a good level. We had good looks. We had good shots. When we didn’t and shots didn’t go down, we were effective in terms of getting back defensively and getting stops.”
Those feelings slipped away quickly, though, and LSU’s leaky defense was, as usual, the primary culprit.
A&M (12-10, 4-6) found success where most teams have vs. the Tigers to claw back. J.C. Hampton buried a 3-pointer from the left corner, and Admon Gilder sandwiched two more treys around Sims’ long bomb.
Moments later, Aggies’ guard D.J. Hogg stole the ball, sprinted down the floor and fed Tonny Trocha-Morelos for a layup and A&M’s first lead.
Mays found daylight behind a Sims’ screen and pumped in a 3 to put LSU back in front 17-15, but the Aggies had established the tone they wanted.
Over the ensuing 7:05, LSU turned the ball over four times and missed eight shots in a row. A&M methodically produced nine unanswered points to move in front 24-19 and never really relinquished control on the way to a third victory in a row over the Tigers.
Two follow shots from Duop Reath and Brian Bridgewater helped LSU whittle the deficit to 27-23, but that was about when the Aggies started to dominate the paint with Robert Williams and Tyler Davis.
That duo teamed up for seven points in the last 1:32 of the first half and then 11 when A&M opened the second half with a 15-7 surge to balloon the lead to 49-34.
“We’ve got a really good front line and we spent a lot of time on just jamming it inside,” Aggies’ coach Billy Kennedy said. “They doubled us early, which has given us problems, but I thought we passed out of it.”
So while LSU avoided falling into a massive hole in the first half, the Tigers found themselves there early enough in the second to change the complexion of the game.
To their credit, the LSU players kept playing hard – something that hasn’t always been the case – and matched the Aggies most of the rest of the night.
During one productive flurry, the Tigers generated 13 points in 2:48 and crept within 70-58 on two Sampson foul shots.
As has been the case so much during SEC play, however, the deficit was too much to gobble up.
“Obviously, it was another tough night for us with the way the game ended,” the embattled Jones said after his team’s ninth consecutive loss, the program’s longest skid since the 2011 team dropped 11 straight.
“I thought our guys did a good job of having two really good days of practice, in terms of preparation for this game. I thought we got off to a good start (Saturday), and unfortunately, we did not do what was necessary to sustain the effort, focus and everything that we had early on. I know, obviously, what it has to do with, the youthfulness on the team. Those are areas that we continue to not be as effective, but at least these guys are trying and at least putting forth the effort. They continue to battle back there late in the game, as well.”
But they continue to lose and a season that loomed as a transitional challenge has morphed into a disaster.
Now the Tigers make the trek to Kentucky to take on a Wildcats’ team coming off a humiliating 88-66 loss at Florida on Saturday.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
- Reath finished with 16 points and a season-best 16 rebounds, 11 in the first half.
- Sims scored 15 points on 7-for-11 shooting and snared 8 boards. The Tigers edged the Aggies on the glass, 36-34.
- Mays notched 12 points and dished out 4 assists in 35 gritty minutes.
- The Aggies are the seventh league opponent to score 80 points or more this season, all LSU losses.
- A&M shot 2-for-8 in the opening 4:55, then 27-for-55 after that. The Aggies missed all four 3-pointers they launched in that early cold spell but buried 8-0f-17 the rest of the night.
- Five Aggies snagged 5-7 rebounds.
- A&M’s 8 turnovers were its fewest in a conference game this season.