In a game that featured quite a few lead changes and ties all the way up until the final minute, the #23 Virginia Cavaliers were finally able to put away the LSU Tigers 57-52. Both teams are known for their stout defense, and it was on display Monday night as, once again, both teams held their opponent under 60 points. It was UVA that would come away with the win, however, after a couple of three pointers by Joe Harris and Sammy Zeglinski in the final minutes.
For LSU, it's certainly a disappointing loss given how well the Tigers have been playing over the past month, but it's certainly not a crushing loss. That's essentially why I withheld giving this post a title, it's just another game. Sure, beating them would have helped with a resume and given them a reason to be ranked. In the end, however, UVA proved they were a better team, even if it was ever so slightly, and they came away with a win.
Sometimes it sounds cliche, where you might say "LSU didn't win the game, Alabama lost it"(and I don't believe that whatsoever), but this is the opposite of that. LSU really didn't lose this game, they played very well and Virginia won it. Credit to them for playing a better game in the final 10 minutes. It was essentially the double teaming of Justin Hamilton that gave them the win, and LSU wasn't able to find a way to score without him.
Speaking of Justin Hamilton, he once again had a monster game with 21 points, 9 rebounds, and 4 blocks. I think it's becoming clearer that Hamilton is our most complete, and perhaps best player. In a game where virtually every other forward was non-existant, Hamilton carried the load for the team.
Also, a big welcome back to Andre Stringer, who returned to the starting line up following a 5 game absence from practice and game action. Stringer had a relatively quiet 8 point game while only shooting 2-7 from 3, however, I thought he played very well and most of his shots were taken within the flow of the offense. I wouldn't expect him to come back on fire right away, and it's somewhat surprising he was able to play as long as he did(24 minutes).
The only other player that really deserves any credit is Chris Bass. The senior guard didn't really do all that much when compared to Hamilton, but he was key in taking some of the load off of the guards who were all struggling. He didn't make any mistakes in the game, and provided a solid 13 minutes off the bench without missing a shot or having a turnover. His defense was also very solid as well.
After that, however, the youth of the Tigers showed. Johnny O'Bryant had a pretty bad game with only 4 points and 3 rebounds. It was his single made field goal and 3 turnovers that were the problem. His decision making wasn't as good as it needed to be against a veteran UVA line up. The guards for UVA were able to strip the ball from him on double teams, and his shots were all pretty bad shots because he was getting frustrated.
Both John Isaac and Anthony Hickey would have the same paragraph written about them. The stats show how off they were tonight, shooting just 4-15. On a night when Ralston Turner was out with 4 fouls for much of the second half, neither was able to fill in for him and make some shots. I'm not worried about them, bad nights happen against good defensive teams.
Going forward, LSU is still in a good position to win some games in SEC play. The SEC overall is quite down, and as of right now every game on the schedule is winnable for the Tigers. There are just enough good teams, however, for LSU to score some wins and build a resume for NCAA tournament play. With 3 teams currently ranked and two others in the "others receiving votes" category, opportunity is there.
I originally planned for LSU to have "the possibility of an 11-3 record going into SEC play", and they essentially had exactly that. Instead, they fall to 10-4, but hope is not lost as it might have been in years past.
Next up is the SEC home opener against the 9-4 Ole Miss Rebels. Currently the Rebels are on a 3 game losing streak, and LSU would be more than happy to extend it or start a new one, as they take on the SMU Mustangs tomorrow.