It's no time for LSU to push the panic button.
A win in College Station would have been a season-changing result, giving LSU a road trump card that could have solidified LSU's resume. It didn't happen, as A&M rolled in the second half. The Tigers couldn't hit anything, but the Aggies were also jacked up in front of a sellout crowd as a newly-minted top 10 squad. I at least respected LSU's effort, just not the execution.
That's my big-picture takeaway so let's get to the details. This game was tied with 15+ minutes remaining but the Tigers just had no offense to speak of down the stretch. While I've never been a fan of Johnny Jones' high ball-screen offense this season, I thought A&M's length inside gave LSU the kind of fits most teams won't be able to replicate. And that's okay. A&M is the surprisingly overwhelming SEC team at this point, almost a replica of what LSU fans may have hoped for out of their team entering this season.
Tyler Davis and Jalen Jones completely controlled the paint, but they got some help. Craig Victor had one of his worst games despite being a key asset. When he was on the floor and considering the environment, LSU was every bit A&M's equal. Problem was, he couldn't stop fouling. I don't think Victor fouls more than any player, but he does need to pick his spots to be aggressive better. I mean, he picked up his second foul under LSU's basket on a reach-in. He has to be smarter.
For the first half, I thought LSU was ready for the moment. Keith Hornsby and Tim Quarterman especially played well in the opening salvo, as the Tigers were either tied or leading the vast majority of the first 15 minutes. But 5-for-8 shooting from beyond the 3-point line won't last. And that's a problem when the opponent's points are coming via layups.
That's what it comes down to for this team. When Victor and Ben Simmons (and Aaron Epps and god forbid, Elbert Robinson -- okay, no, let's talk about this for a second. Robinson almost singlehandedly sunk LSU's chances in a three-minute stretch at Florida 10 days ago. So Johnny just goes back to the well. Robinson's presence hampered LSU all night. You can't convince me a platoon of Aaron Epps, Darcy Malone and Brian Bridgewater couldn't do better.) don't make effort plays, like box out with technique, front their man efficiently, avoid reaching in or cut off passing lanes, teams can handle LSU inside. A&M was well equipped, both in offensive focus and personnel to bludgeon LSU in the paint.
Simmons remains an enigma, the hilarity of the crowd's "Overrated" chant aside. His contributions do indeed go well beyond the stat sheet, but sometimes fans want and LSU needs scoring. It briefly looked like Simmons had figured this out at the outset of league play. Since then, he hasn't expanded his offensive repertoire and teams are really doubling down on stopping him. A&M was no different, although I felt he played better than he did in the Ole Miss/Arkansas wins. Still, he needs to just be "More" in every facet of his game if LSU can make a run at the NCAA Tournament.
Which, don't let this loss fool you, the Tigers are very much still a contender. At the 1/3 pole of SEC play and with perhaps the toughest league slate to date, LSU is 4-2 and firmly in position to grab a top 4 SEC seed. Just like Victor won't be in foul trouble like that, LSU won't shoot that poorly for an entire game AND Simmons won't be a relative non-factor AND they won't play on the road at a ranked team. The Tigers played fine for large swaths of the game, and the reasons why they lost aren't easily to replicate.
Of course, with this team any and every game is a question mark. The devil is not in LSU losing a game like this on Tuesday night. Even before the season (when we didn't know A&M would be THIS good), this was penciled in as a likely loss. No, the issue was LSU losing several non-conference games it couldn't afford to lose and, in past years, it's been losing SEC games they shouldn't have. We can debate whether LSU is more talented but winning at Texas A&M and Florida (both KenPom top 30 teams) is a tall task for almost anybody. So far they've avoided truly heinous SEC losses.
The major and sole focus for LSU needs to be taking the experience from a brutal road environment and winning road games like the one that awaits it on Saturday at Alabama. The result against the Tide, along with games at Tennessee, South Carolina, Arkansas or Auburn will say far more about this team than a bad-shooting, foul-troubled night against a streaking team in front of an amped sellout crowd could.
It's your prerogative how you want to divvy up your fandom time and effort. This program certainly hasn't done enough to inspire much trust, I get it. Just don't think LSU's season is over because of this loss.