BATON ROUGE --- Bo Spencer tallied 13 second half points, while Dennis Harris chipped in a career-best 12 points, but the LSU men's basketball lost a 66-49 decision to Alabama in the SEC opener for both schools Saturday at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
Harris connected on all five of his shots from the field to reach double figures for the second time in his career. He also secured three rebounds in 12 minutes of action off the bench.
"The positive thing is that I think Dennis (Harris) played well,” said head coach Trent Johnson. “I thought he jumped up and made some play and shots.”
Tasmin Mitchell also poured in 11 points and grabbed nine rebounds to extend his double figures scoring streak to 11 games.
LSU (9-6, 0-1 SEC) dropped its league opener to the Crimson Tide (11-4, 1-0 SEC) for the second straight season and have suffered back-to-back home losses for the first time in the Trent Johnson era.
"Obviously, it's not the way you want to start in the league, but it is really simple for me,” Johnson said. “They are flat better than we are.”
Alabama held a 33-18 halftime edge behind an 18-8 spurt over the final 10 minutes of the first half. The Crimson Tide scored 22 points in the paint as JaMychal Green notched 12 of his game-high 14 points during the opening stanza.
Alabama pushed its lead to 48-24 after six consecutive Chris Hines points with 15:28 remaining in the second half. The Tigers used an 11-4 run aided by back-to-back Spencer triples along with five straight Harris points to pull back to 64-48 at the 2:13 mark.
“They had 38 points in the paint and 19 on turnovers, but that can be deceiving,” Johnson said. “Once we had a turnover, they got it at half court and pounded it. They set a tone. Look at how they handled the ball on the glass, and they did a good job of taking Tasmin (Mitchell) and Bo (Spencer) out, which enabled Aaron (Dotson), Zach (Kinsley) and Chris (Bass) to get open shots, but they just didn't go down.
“You have to give Alabama credit,” he added. “We knew coming in that it was going to be tough. We just have to find a way to fight through. Sometimes I feel that we are playing three or four on five.
Alabama used a balanced attack as Senario Hillman and Mikhail Torrance tacked on 13 and 12 points, respectively to join Green in double figures for the Crimson Tide.
LSU opens a two-game road swing Wednesday at South Carolina. Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m. CST.
“I addressed the group and told them the bottom line is that the things we've talked about and worked on, we have to continue to talk about and work on,” Johnson said. “Things that help our ability to be fundamentally sound, such as our ability to set screens and stay aggressive when things aren't going well, and as a group our ability to stay together because when there is a little adversity, sometimes people on the outside make it seem worse than it is.
“The deficiencies we've known we had as a basketball team all year are just becoming magnified and exposed,” he added. “We just have to get back in the gym and do what we can to get better."