That game was an absolute dud. A lot of things went wrong with that game, first and most obviously Marcus Thornton's outside shot disappeared. That happens sometimes with even the most gifted scorer, and we had a real problem overcoming. Thornton had a decent point total, but he wasn't his usual bury-the-big-shot self, and hit barely more than 25% from the field.
We may have overcome it if the rest of the offense had been able to get on track, but no one ever did. The team shot only 31% from the field, which was actually almost as good as MSU shot, but the Bulldogs out-rebounded us and definitely got the better of us at the foul line.
I'm not one to blame a loss on bad officiating, and this loss is certainly not solely the result of bad officiating, but I have to say that the refs were lousy. They let Jarvis Varnado get away with anything inside. Varnado's an outstanding player, and he's a great shotblocker, but a body foul is a body foul no matter who's doing it. Varnado got a few clean blocks, but he also draped himself all over Marcus Thornton and Tasmin Mitchell a couple times. That he finished the game with only one foul is a farce.
The problems weren't limited to not calling defensive fouls on Varnado. They let players get away with going over the back on rebounds, holding, and all sorts of other things. They didn't call Varnado for a couple of walks that he had.
The calls didn't just go MSU's way, as there were a number of questionable calls that went to LSU, but the Bulldogs were clearly the team that benefited overall from strange and inexplicable standards in foul calling. When LSU had the ball, the refs were "letting them play." When MSU had the ball, the game was called tight. The result was that we had twice as many fouls as Mississippi State and they attempted almost 3 times as many free throws. They outscored us by 15 from the foul line, and they won by 10. Do the math.
The offense was lethargic the entire game. Bo Spencer didn't do much. Tasmin Mitchell had a hot streak in the first half but rarely scored outside of that. Literally the only players who shot better than 50% from the field were Storm Warren and Alex Farrer, who were a combined 3 for 3. We had a cold night from outside, and we were going up against a shot blocking monster who could shank you on the way up and not get called for a foul.
It's nothing against Varnado. He's an outstanding player, and a likable athlete. He was just taking advantage of what the refs were giving him. He figured out early that he could go into the body of the offensive players all he wanted, and there was nothing anyone would do about it. He saw the opening and he went through it. We had no counter, and we certainly didn't get the same consideration on the other end, as our 3 big men combined for 9 fouls compared to Varnado's one.
Well, for whatever reason, we are now 1 of our last 4 and heading into the tournament playing our worst basketball of the season. It doesn't bode well. What's worse, you could tell at the end of the game that this was a frustrated and defeated team. It was more like the team we expected at the beginning of the season than the team we were through January and February. Thornton in particular looked like he'd rather be anywhere else by the end of the game.
They have a few days to clear the cobwebs and try to get the swagger back. Let's hope they do it.
I'm rooting for Mississippi State tomorrow. They're a solid team that would be a tourney team if not for that bad stretch that followed their last loss to us. They pretty much need to win tomorrow to get into the tournament, and I hope they do it.