We're verging on disaster here.
Even the staunchest Johnny Jones defenders can admit that this loss was a backbreaker. There's just no way LSU should lose to Auburn, Mississippi State and Missouri (combined SEC record: 8-19). It cannot happen. It should not happen. That's three sub-150 RPI teams. Yet here we are.
I feel like I can almost write these from a script at this point. Something about LSU having two future pros. Something about the Tigers shattering fan momentum with a stinker. A drawn-out paragraph with past examples of this exact thing. Yet another year acknowledging that people clamoring for first pitch aren't completely in the wrong. It's all getting really old.
If year 1 of the Johnny Jones era was an unmitigated success and last year was an admittedly small step forward, this year is basically self-immolation. Hell, a week ago LSU was comfortably in the NCAA field. After literally the easiest two-game stretch it'll have in the SEC all season, it is now anything but. And that should make us all weary.
To the actual Auburn game, it all came down to _efense. I left the D out there because LSU's was mostly nonexistent. Especially in college basketball's current state, giving up 80+ points is embarrassing but this was a whole 'nother level. Auburn came in averaging 56 points in four SEC away games. They were 0-7 on the road. They'd lost four in a row overall. And they dropped 81 on LSU in the PMAC.
Auburn - yes, AUBURN - has won seven on the last nine meetings against LSU. That's where this program is at right now.
And really, it all came down to LSU's guards. Tim Quarterman, the lanky active defender he is, got beat off screens and in rotations all game. Josh Gray was too small for Auburn's dynamic duo of KT Harrell and Antoine Mason, who combined to score 52 points. Jalyn Patterson was solid, if unspectacular and Keith Hornsby disappeared on both ends for long stretches.
The barrage of 3-pointers Auburn dropped in the first half opened up the lane and they made sure to get to the foul line, especially down the stretch. They outdid LSU there, making 74 percent of their free throws, including seven of the last eight to ice the game. Even though Jordan Mickey was plenty active around the rim, Cinmeon Bowers still managed just fine, producing a 16 and 10 double double.
Mickey was about the only LSU player who should have his head held fully high right now, though he probably isn't happy with the results. After his 20-20 game in Starkville, he dropped 23 points, grabbed 12 boards and blocked six shots. He's the only LSU player who actually seems to be getting much better.
Which brings me to my next issue. The only thing I can think of that explains LSU's sudden collapse since routing Florida in Gainesville is depth. Patterson missed two games last week, Aaron Epps and Elbert Robinson still can't get on the floor and Darcy Malone gave LSU a whopping four minutes last night. LSU is essentially rolling with six guys every time out.
But even then, the Tigers had five days off since the State loss and Patterson was completely fresh, playing a surprisingly low 16 minutes considering his shooting prowess in comparison to Gray, who missed both 3s he took and shot exactly 50 percent from the foul stripe. It's hard to explain, and the players admitted as much after the game, lamenting a lack of intensity and wondering where it all wrong.
Kind of like the fan base right now. Theoretically, the future remains bright for this program. But it's not like the cupboard is bare. And LSU still can't beat the dregs of the SEC, not just once but three times now. LSU might upgrade players next year, but it won't upgrade coaching. And it's hard to argue Johnny Jones and co. are doing enough with the talent on hand.