The LSU Tigers fell in their conference opener to the Auburn Tigers 68-63. Although the final score suggests that it was a close game, LSU was essentially beaten well before the final buzzer. I'm a firm believer in the saying that "every game is 40 minutes", but at times you can see when a team has a clear advantage that they won't give up. That happened tonight to the LSU Tigers.
Calling this team mentally weak would be unfair at this point; the team is young and the players seem highly motivated. The problem is that momentum swings are a huge problem for the LSU team, and that was especially apparent Wednesday night in Auburn. Towards the middle of the second half, LSU held a 2 point advantage, and it quickly turned into a double digit deficit after some hot shooting by Auburn.
It was a clear turning point once Johnny O'Bryant got his third foul, even though he remained in the game until he collected his forth foul only minutes later. Auburn would hit a number of big shots because of the inside-outside passing combinations that they were able to use with the soft interior defense. When the shots didn't fall, the forwards and centers were able to get easy tip ins against the out of position LSU forwards.
LSU was led by Anthony Hickey, despite the fact that Charles Carmouche actually scored more points. Hickey's defensive pressure forced a bunch of turnovers, but the Tigers were unable to capitalize on their last minute changes. Foul shooting continues to be a problem for LSU, as the team finished shooting only 40%(4-10), while also squandering a pair of 1 'n' 1 chances late in the game. Shavon Coleman was also very quiet on the day, and seemed flustered to be playing against the 2-3 zone. He was ineffective driving the ball, and couldn't find any space to get his jump shot off in the middle. The guards were unable to hit the shots needed to loosen or completely break the zone, and LSU's offense grinded to a halt.
Unfortunately it doesn't get any easier for LSU as the Florida Gators make the trip back to the PMAC for a game on Saturday afternoon. It's too early to completely write off the season for LSU, especially since they play much better at home right now. At the same time, with the way the schedule is set up, LSU needs this game to avoid falling behind so early in the season. One win could very easily turn into four wins if they can get by the Gators.