The LSU basketball team finished with 80 points on Wednesday evening, and Tasmin Mitchell had nearly half of them.
The senior forwards’ final stat line read a career-best 15 field goals, a season-high 38 points and 10 rebounds, a performance that warranted nothing but praise from his teammates and head coach after the loss.
“He put us on his back,” said guard Zach Kinsley.
For headman Trent Johnson, it was Mitchell’s finest 40 minutes.
“I thought this was as good a game as he has played since he has been here,” Johnson said.
Unfortunately, Mitchell’s perfect night didn’t end well for LSU – which the homegrown talent said made the performance all for not.
“I would have taken a victory over anything,” said a deflated Mitchell after the game. “It’s very frustrating. You always want to come out with the win in the end.”
While LSU has allowed contests that were close at the half to slip away over the final 20 minutes, the Tigers were able to hold steady against Auburn for much of the second session.
Yet, LSU went cold over the final three minutes, which allowed the opposition to make a 12-4 run to end the game.
Up 76-75, Frankie Sullivan knocked down a three-point shot with 1:12 to play that gave the visitor’s their first lead since the 11:12 mark.
On the following possession, Mitchell called for the ball in the post and made a move to the basket. When the Auburn defender went flying, the referees hit LSU with an offensive foul call that effectively ended the game.
And on a night where Mitchell left it all on the floor, seeing victory fade in the final minute at the hands of a whistle was nearly too much to bear.
“He just flopped,” Mitchell said. “You hate it when you know you didn’t foul, but I wasn’t frustrated. That’s one thing that I have to do for this team; I have to keep my poise.”
After a foul by Bo Spencer, Auburn extended the lead to 79-76 after converting on one of two free throws from the line.
Whatever chance LSU had of getting the win at that point slipped away when Earnest Ross grabbed the offensive rebound off the second missed free throw.
Following a timeout, Sullivan’s pair of shots from the charity stripe gave Auburn a five-point lead with less than 30 seconds to play.
“We talk about situations where you have to get the rebound and get the stop, but you can’t simulate the quickness that you are playing,” Johnson said. “We work on those final minute situations all the time.”
Despite losing both the game and freshman guard Aaron Dotson (sprained ankle), Johnson’s post-game words about the Tigers’ fourth conference loss in as many games were filled with optimism.
“You can’t fault our effort,” he said. “You’ve got to move on, and it is what it is. I look out there and see what we are playing with, and there are some positives. We have to be realistic as a team.
“I thought our composure was pretty good,” he added. “In timeouts, they were engaged. Everyone on the outside worries about wins and losses, but it’s about the process.”