Win slips away from LSU against Georgia

LSU held a one-point lead against 18th-ranked Georgia with a minute to play but missed a chance to extend its lead on its second-to-last possession. And after the Bulldogs took a one-point lead with 23 seconds remaining, the Tigers failed to get a shot off and left the court 55-54 losers Saturday afternoon at the Maravich Assembly Center.

The Tigers got the ball to Ronald Dupree in both instances and set up a chance for him to score, but the Bulldogs deflected his shot from the baseline with LSU leading 54-53. After Rashad Wright gave Georgia the lead with an 18-footer on the left wing, the Tigers brought the ball to their end of the court and called a timeout with 14 seconds to play to set up another play for Dupree.

Dupree attempted to drive baseline after receiving the inbounds pass, but Chris Daniels - who had deflected Dupree's previous shot - got a hand on the ball and made it bounce off Dupree's leg and out of bounds with three seconds left. The Bulldogs successfully ran the remaining time off the clock to preserve their win.

"I thought we played well enough and had two great opportunities to win the game," said LSU head coach John Brady. "But we could never get the (lead) to four."

LSU's chance to build a bigger lead in the late going came on free throw opportunities, but the Tigers were 2-for-4 from the line when it mattered most.

Dupree was fouled with 2:47 to play with LSU leading 50-48 and made the second of his two shots for a three-point LSU lead. But on Georgia's ensuing possession, Ezra Williams connected on a three-pointer to create the 14th tie of the game.

Torris Bright put LSU back ahead by two with a shot from the right wing with 2:03 remaining, and the Tigers had a chance to pull away after Georgia missed from close range on its end. But when Bright was fouled with 1:27 to go, he made just one of free throws to keep Georgia within a possession of tying the game.

With the Bulldogs fighting hard for a second chance basket, Brad Bridgewater was called for a foul on Georgia forward Steve Thomas. He made both of his free throws with 1:13 on the clock to set up LSU's downfall in the final minutes.

The Tigers worked out of a spread offense and called its "13 clear" play in order to get the ball to Dupree in the corner with a chance for a one-on-one opportunity for him to drive the ball on the baseline or toward the middle of the floor. With the shot clock running down, LSU got the ball to Dupree but the Georgia defense didn't follow the LSU decoy to the other side. The Bulldogs placed two players in Dupree's face as he tried to get off a shot and forced the turnover.

"We get the ball in the hands of our best player the last two possessions," Brady recalled. "We shoot a forced shot and then we turn it over. I'd like to have been able to construct a play where you get a wide-open layup, but it's just not the case."

Brady called another version of the 13 clear after Georgia took the lead, but Daniels got a hand on the ball as Dupree was preparing to drive toward the basket.

"I was trying to get out the corner and cross back toward the middle, but (Daniels) slapped the ball and it went out of bounds," said Dupree. "The referee said it was off me, but I should have never let them put their hands on the ball."

The loss dropped LSU to 14-13, 4-10 in the Southeastern Conference, with two more games remaining in the regular season. The Tigers have to win one to ensure themselves of a winning season and probably have to get two more wins – either in the final week or in the SEC Tournament – to be considered for the National Invitational Tournament.

Georgia improved to 20-7 (9-5 SEC), marking only the tenth time in the history of the Bulldogs' program that it posted that many wins.

Just as much of a defensive struggle the final score indicates, the game was also a battle between two teams suffering accuracy problems. Georgia won with 41.4 percent shooting (24-58), including a 3-for-15 day on three-pointers. LSU was 38.8 percent (19-49) from the field with 3-of-19 shooting behind the arc.

"It was kind of a root canal game," said Georgia coach Jim Harrick. "We got into a tempo and I didn't like our speed and quickness and how we were pushing the ball. We weren't smart on some plays and we were settling for outside jump shots."

Despite the low score, LSU got one of its most well balanced offensive efforts of the season as four players finished in double figures. Antonio Hudson led the Tigers with 13 points and four assists, Dupree finished with 12 and Bright and Bridgewater scored ten each.

"We're a better offensive team than that," said Hudson. "We held them, played good defense but our shots still wouldn't fall for us."

Jarvis Hayes led Georgia with 14 points, while Williams finished with 13 and Daniels added ten points and four assists. Harrick credited Daniels with containing Dupree throughout the game.

"He did a great job on Ronald Dupree," said Harrick. "It's the first time since I've been here that we've had someone who can guard him. (Dupree) got 12 points and if we give him 12, we should be able to win the game."

With the score tied on 14 different occasions, neither team enjoyed much a comfort zone throughout the afternoon. Georgia's biggest lead was six points, earned in the first four minutes of the game with an 8-0 run after LSU scored the opening basket.

Coming out of a media timeout at the 15:51 mark, the Tigers outscored the Bulldogs 10-2 to take their first lead. A pair of Hudson free throws gave LSU a 12-10 edge with 13:25 left in the half.

LSU never went ahead by more than three points before halftime but never let Georgia score more than four unanswered, leaving the score 28-28 at the break.

The Bulldogs never went ahead by more than four in the second half, enjoying that edge for the last time when Hayes connected from underneath at the 10:35 mark for a 39-35 Georgia lead.

Hudson drew the Tigers closer with a three-pointer and Bright gave his team a 40-39 lead with a pair of free throws with 8:36 to play.

It looked as though LSU might be putting a run together when Dupree successfully completed a three-point play with 5:53 to go to make the score 46-43, but Georgia answered with a three-point play of its own. Hayes sank a six-footer with Hudson draped all over him and made the foul shot to tie the score.

Jermaine Williams provided two free throws with 3:41 remaining to set up Dupree's chance to give LSU a four-point lead nearly a minute later.

"If (Georgia's) the 19th best team in the country and they can sweep Kentucky and beat Florida," Brady said and followed with a pregnant, pensive pause, "gee, we're so close."

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