This might have concluded the toughest week in the history of LSU basketball. I know there are been tougher losses and larger margin of victories, but the opportunity of promise this week showed is what makes this afternoon as dark as the Baton Rouge sky. Last Saturday, LSU lost by 24 points to an awful Ole Miss team. I should have seen the writing on the wall, but I stayed with the team and was leading the bandwagon charge when they built a double-digit lead against Tennessee. The problem doing that is they blew the lead and lost a heart-breaking game in overtime.
That leads us up to Saturday. A LSU wins and it was a mortal lock that the Tigers would have made the NIT tournament. Not that making the NIT would completely change my feelings about where the basketball program is right now and the coaching staff, but it would all us fans the opportunity to cheer on our team in a win or go home scenario. We don’t get to experience that as often as we should, and I don’t count the SEC tournament due to everyone qualifying. Making the NIT meant that a group of people out their like this program enough to give the Tigers a chance at some post-season glory. Basically people out there other than LSU homers would validate the overall success the team had this year. This is big not only for fans, but also for player’s confidence.
Instead of taking care of business and celebrating a big victory on the road, the Tigers laid a two-foot corn infest turd in front of “The Jungle” fans at Auburn Area. The team didn’t play bad, they played horrible. LSU couldn’t shoot the ball (32 percent), play defense (allowed Auburn to shoot 52 percent in the first half), rebound (lost battle 34-32), or control the ball (17 turnovers in the game) all game long.
Too go into the details of the game would only scare children away from possible enjoying this great game, so I will avoid it. Instead here is a really quick break down of the first 20-minutes of the game:
Johnny O’Bryant thought he was Kobe Bryant on the team, forcing up stupid shots time and time again (finished the game shooting 1-7). Auburn was red-hot shooting in the first half against LSU’s man defense, and of course Trent Johnson didn’t consider switching to a zone or any other defense. Thanks to shooting well from three for LSU, Auburn only led at the half 34-29.
A five point game at the break is manageable, right? The entire LSU team struggled in the first half. Surely, Trent Johnson and his band of sweater vest could come up with a plan in the second half? Here was the plan he seemed to devise, don’t score in the first ten minutes of the second half and we will lull Auburn to sleep. The sad thing is the plan could have worked. In the first ten minutes of the half LSU scored seven points! SEVEN! And three of those points came from Chris Bass (his fourth three pointer of the season). Auburn was able to score (no change to the LSU defense) and what was a manageable game quickly turned into a 13 point deficit.
Then we reached the 10:23 mark in the second half. Why is that time important? Kenny Gabriel made a layup for Auburn and extended their lead to 51-36, concluding the field goals Auburn would make in the game. Auburn went 0-10 from the field with five turnovers to end the game, but did shoot 14-20 from the free-throw line. Auburn gave LSU a chance to comeback, but LSU could only close the game to six (46-51). LSU began to panic mid-way through the second half and never played under poise. All of the bad habits LSU looked to have broken during their four game winning streak reared its ugly face; Justin Hamilton was a no-show on the inside, Andre Stringer and Anthony Hickey began to play at 100 MHP, Ralston Turner became the invisible man even after scoring a team high 14 points and the bench looked out classed.
The 67-52 loss sucked the rest of the life this team had left in the season, and that is the biggest complaint I have about Trent Johnson. His team has been playing hard all season long, but still seemed shell-shocked from their Wednesday night loss. His primary responsibility as a coach is to have his team mentally prepared for every game. Also a responsibility is to give his team a chance to compete, he didn’t do that. At no point did he try to make any changes with the lineup or strategy until the game was already out of reach. The lack of effort was gutless, but I’ll pull the reigns in before I turn this into an article about Trent Johnson. (That article looks like it will run next Friday)
The loss almost assures LSU they will be seeded any where between 6-8 in the SEC tournament and could meet Auburn again the first round. LSU’s finished the regular season with a conference record of 7-9. Not a bad year after coming off four conferences wins total in the last two years, but what could have been if they could have gone 2-1 this week instead of 0-3.