FEINSWOG: LSU brings out the opponent's best

The LSU basketball team has the unfortunate quality of being able to bring out the best in people.

Opponents, that is.


That's as big a reason as any that a team once ranked No. 5 in all the land is reeling from a five-game losing streak, all in the Southeastern Conference.


On one hand the Tigers are their own worst enemies. To wit: Clank-o-rama from the outside and untimely, late-game turnovers.


On the other hand, this is simply an unlucky bunch that seemingly can't catch a break.

Like in Saturday's defeat at Mississippi State. LSU was trailing 65-64. Its best defender - maybe its only perimeter defender - Garrett Temple jumps out to contest a 3-point shot by State's Reginald Delk.


Temple uncharacteristically bumps Delk, who hits a ridiculous shot while falling down and then gets a free throw.


The lead was suddenly five and LSU never recovered.


It was typical in a season when so much seems to go wrong after a season when so much went right. A year ago LSU came off a tough non-conference preseason in which the Tigers struggled to win close games. But then they got hot in the SEC, made every play, caught every break, saw the ball bounce their way and fought their way all the to the Final Four.


This season just the opposite has occurred. LSU scored nice pre-conference victories over UConn and Texas A&M. But a defeat at Washington on Dec. 20 was a harbinger of things to come.


That night in Seattle every ball bounced Washington's way. Its big men hit shots that were sick. And the Huskies hit shots from the outside that you were pretty sure they weren't going to hit again all season. For example, against LSU, Washington was 8 of 13 on 3-pointers. Two days later, in the same arena against a weak Weber State team, the Huskies hit 2 of 17 beyond the arc.


When LSU played host to Vanderbilt on Jan. 24, you could recognize right away that Vandy was pretty good. But every long rebound went to the Commodores against an LSU team that is pretty fierce on the boards. Vandy also hit 10 of 25 3's that night, even better than it normally shoots.


All that aside, LSU is 13-9 overall and 2-6 in the SEC. The Tigers have two huge problems:


They can't shoot from the outside and, outside of Temple, don't seem to want to defend outside. What's more, as former national coach of the year Eddie Fogler, the analyst for Fox on the State broadcast, continually pointed out, LSU's transition defense was awful against the perimeter. That comment would come after State hit yet another fast-break bomb.


The good news? Even at 2-6, LSU is just two games off the pace in the SEC Western Division.


Things are never easy in the SEC. LSU is its own worst enemy at this point. But two games is a closeable gap if the Tigers snap out of it, work just a little harder on defense and hit a key shot or two.




Baton Rouge sportswriter Lee Feinswog is the host of the weekly television show Sports Monday. He's covered LSU athletics since 1984. His book HoopDaddy is available at www.HoopDaddy.net. Contact Lee at sportsmonday@aol.com or (225) 926-3256.

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