In a game that the Tigers absolutely had to have to keep control of the SEC, the LSU men’s basketball team (17-6, 8-2) came up short Saturday afternoon, blowing a late overtime lead to Auburn (21-2, 8-2).
LSU blew lead after lead all afternoon and their luck finally ran out by way of a J’Von McCormick floater with 0.1 seconds to play. LSU led 90-89 with nine seconds left in overtime and couldn’t hold the lead; nor could LSU maintain control of its 12-point halftime lead or when it led Auburn by eight with 1:36 left in regulation.
LSU has had a flair for the dramatics in recent weeks and at one point won six games by four points or fewer. But the act has gotten old. This is a team that has played with fire far too many times and now its inability to close games out has come back to bite them.
After giving up 99 points Wednesday night to Vanderbilt, the defense wasn’t much better Saturday. LSU showed poor basketball IQ on the defensive end, consistently going underneath screens and allowing Auburn to hit EIGHTEEN threes. What’s worse is 17 of those 18 came from three players: Samir Doughty was 5-11, J’Von McCormick was 5-10 and Devan Cambridge, who hadn’t scored a point in his previous four games, erupted for seven three-pointers. LSU either couldn’t find the only shoothing threats Auburn had, or wrongly decided to go underneath screens and allow those three to have extra space to hit uncontested bombs.
Auburn did something Saturday very few teams have been able to do against LSU the past two years: own the glass. Auburn out-rebounded LSU 46-36 and doubled up the Tigers offensively 17-8. Auburn center Austin Wiley led all players with 13 rebounds; Darius Days, who fouled out, had seven rebounds for LSU while Emmitt Williams, who was also bogged down with four fouls, had five boards.
Skylar Mays damn near won the game by himself for LSU. Mays had 30 points, along with eight assists and seven rebounds. Mays only turned the ball over once, but it was costly. With LSU leading 74-72 and 16 seconds to play, Mays grabbed a defensive rebound off a McCormick miss; but McCormick stole the ball right back and got the ball to Doughty who laid in the tying shot with three seconds to play in regulation.
Auburn opened the overtime period with three pointers from Doughty, McCormick and Cambridge and built a seven-point lead. But LSU would quickly erase the deficit with threes by Mays and Javonte Smart, and four successful free throws by Mays. But LSU couldn’t hold on and now the Tigers have lost control of the SEC and its schedule only gets tougher from here.
The Tigers, once so good on the road, have trips to Alabama, Florida and Arkansas looming and has a massive home game against Kentucky February 18. Even more alarming is that LSU has given up 99 and 90 points in consecutive games and the lack of a true point guard is growing more and more ominous. Teams that go deep into the NCAA tournament almost always have stellar guard play and currently LSU’s assist to turnover ratio is about 1:1. LSU’s season is far from over, but the signs that will lead to its demise are growing more and more obvious.
LSU is back on the court Tuesday evening as the Tigers return to Baton Rouge to host Missouri.