LSU goes cold

LSU faced its toughest test of the season on Saturday as the 15th ranked Xavier Musketeers rolled into town in front of a record breaking crowd in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. The Tigers played the Musketeers close for most of the night and had the lead at halftime, but a long second half shooting drought proved to be too much to overcome as Xavier pulled away for an 80-70 victory.

LSU (15-4) went into halftime with a 37-36 advantage and Marcus Thornton opened up the second half with a 3-pointer to give LSU a 40-36 lead, their largest of the game.


The teams would trade baskets for the next few minutes until Quintin Thornton hit a jumper with 15:23 left to give the Tigers a 47-46 lead. It would be the Tigers last lead of the game, and their next field goal would not come until the 6:08 mark with a basket by Chris Johnson.


The Musketeers (17-2) took advantage of the Tigers scoring drought by going on a 13-3 run and turning a 47-46 deficit into a 59-50 lead. LSU’s only points during that stretch came from Marcus Thornton hitting three of four free throws. All in all, the result of the 9:15 cold streak was LSU going 0-15 from the field on 13 possessions.


“They’re good defensively,” said LSU head coach Trent Johnson. “We took good shots, they were just contested shots. There was the period there where they started to get separation. We opened up the floor for driving lanes, and Garrett made a nice play offensively and didn’t finish. Marcus made a nice play offensively and didn’t finish. It happens. We didn’t score during that stretch because they were defending us, but we got good looks.”


“Jump shots just didn’t go in,” added Tasmin Mitchell. “We just have to make jump shots. It wasn’t fatigue.”


Another significant factor in the loss was the battle on the boards. In two of the three earlier losses this season, LSU has been out rebounded by nine rebounds a game. Tonight the Musketeers proved to be the tougher team on the glass, outrebounding the Tigers 40-27. 


“The game was decided on the glass,” said Johnson. “It was 40-27, and I thought their physicality wore us down. The bottom line is they controlled us with their physicality and dominated the glass.”


“This is the most physical team we’ve played so far,” said Marcus Thornton. “Every position, they were big and strong. We have to get in the weight room and get stronger so we can get ready for everything else if we plan to play in late March.”


Offensively, the Tigers were led in scoring by Thornton’s 30 points. Tasmin Mitchell added 12 points, and Bo Spencer chipped in with 10 points.


After shooting 50 percent from the field and 75 percent from three point range in the first half, the Tigers could manage only 32 percent from the floor and 21 percent from behind the arc in the second half. They finished the game 26 for 63 from the field and 6 of 18 from three point land.


Defensively, the Tigers had trouble stopping the Musketeers front line, especially the versatility of forward Derrick Brown. Brown led Xavier with 22 points on 7 of 11 shooting. He was also 3 for 4 from outside, and many of his baskets seemed to come as the Tigers were attempting to make a run.


“Usually I’m used to guarding post players,” said Chris Johnson. “With the athleticism Brown has and the way he can take you outside off the dribble, he made it difficult. He can drive so I had to back off a little bit. He hit a few jump shots tonight, that happens.”


Xavier also got a significant contribution from guard/ forward BJ Raymond, who added 21 points and was 8 for 8 from the free throw line down the stretch. Centers Kenny Frease and Jason Love added 12 and 10 points, respectively.


The loss dropped the Tigers record to 15-4 on the season. LSU’s next game is Wednesday in Knoxville as the Tigers take on the Tennessee Volunteers. Their next home game is next Saturday against SEC West rival Arkansas.



Rough night for Mitchell


Tasmin Mitchell had his worst shooting game of the season as he finished with 12 points on 5 of 17 shooting.


“Tasmin was 5-17. He took the same shots he’s been taking,” said Trent Johnson. “He’s not trying to miss them. He’s human. He didn’t make some baskets. I don’t fault his effort. He took the same shots and didn’t make them. He definitely didn’t take bad shots.”


Another Big Game for Thornton


Marcus Thornton’s 30 points came on 10 of 18 shooting. He was 3 for 7 from three point range and 7 for 10 from the free throw line.


“Marcus Thornton had 30 points,” said Xavier head coach Sean Miller. “I’m going to say he’s and NBA player. Some of the shots he made, we didn’t necessarily have an answer. We knew that coming in.”


Tonight’s effort was Thornton’s second straight game scoring at least 30 points. It was his fourth 30 point game of the season, and eighth total of his career.


Record Crowd


Tonight's official paid attendance was 13,839. This is the largest crowd ever in the current configuration of the PMAC, since the start of the 2005-2006 season. The official attendance capacity is 13,215. The previous best was 13,468 against Georgia on January 25, 2006.


“The crowd was wonderful,” said Mitchell. “We needed them tonight. They backed us up no matter if we were up or down. That’s what a good crowd does for the home team. They packed the stands and we love to see that. I’m sorry that we couldn’t come out with a victory for them, but we’ve got plenty more to come.”


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