Much like in their loss to Auburn on Wednesday night, the LSU basketball team went stride-for-stride with their opponent for 30 minutes.
The other 10 minutes – the final frame of the game – continues to elude the Tigers, who fell to 0-5 in SEC play.
“Maturity, that’s our challenge,” said senior forward Tasmin Mitchell, who, coming off a 37-point performance, logged 16 points and 11 rebounds in 40 minutes of action. “Some people can’t handle the situations; we tend to panic. We have to stay poised.”
Over the past month, the story to the Tigers’ losses has been their inability to slow teams down out of the locker room at halftime.
More recently, the tale is LSU handing the opposition the game down the stretch – whether with poor defense or missed opportunities on offense.
“We are playing against people that are better than we are,” Johnson said. “If we don’t do everything our best, then we aren’t going to get it. We have to find a way to win games.
“The first half we had the tempo and speed of the game to our liking, and then our deficiencies reared their ugly heads,” he added. “It’s stuff we talk about all the time.”
LSU held a 28-22 lead with five minutes to play in the first half, yet a string of buckets by Eniel Polynice and Reginald Buckner turned the Tiger lead into a 38-32 Ole Miss advantage by the break.
Against Auburn, LSU allowed the visitors take the game with a 12-4 run over the final three minutes. So after tying the game at 56-56 with 8:08 remaining in the second half, Johnson’s squad knew the task at hand.
When Rebels head coach Andy Kennedy put extra bodies on Mitchell and Warren and shaded the rest of the LSU shooters, Ole Miss closed the contest with a 17-7 run that put the Tigers out of reach.
“They zoned it up and packed it in on me, and that is going to happen,” Mitchell said. “We didn’t execute well, and we are taking ill-advised shots and turning the ball over.
“We had pretty good rhythm, but they had other guys that stepped up,” he added. “We tried to find people like that; sometimes we have them and sometimes we don’t.”
Though sophomore guard Terrico White was held to no field goals, Polynice, Chris Warren and Terrance Henry all finished with 14 points for Ole Miss, while Buckner, Trevor Gaskins and Zach Graham recorded eight points.
Bo Spencer led all Tigers in scoring with 17, while Storm Warren finished with 11 points and four rebounds.
“It feels like it is the same old thing after every game,” Spencer said. “We have to play all 40 minutes to turn things around.”