That’s the number of points LSU (15-2, 3-2) scored over the final 9:02 of the second half which would ultimately lead to the Tigers’ demise at the hands of Arkansas (12-5, 2-3).
“Arkansas made a ton of plays down the stretch,” Will Wade said after the game. “We turned the ball over too much and got out-rebounded. We missed some free throws. That is going to get you every time. We just weren’t as clean as we needed to be coming down the stretch.”
For the second game in a row Xavier Pinson was on the sidelines for LSU in sweats and his absence was felt over those final nine minutes. Eric Gaines played well in his stead (14 points, 6 rebounds, 4 steals, 4 assists) but when a game starts slipping away like that you want to have your senior ball handler out there who can create shots for himself or others.
As Wade said, LSU got worked on the glass by Arkansas (41-31 in favor of the Hogs) and turned the ball over 16 times. LSU was also victimized by whistle happy officials and got called for 21 fouls. I don’t know if LSU’s overly aggressive defense has finally run its course or maybe the Tigers aren’t defending smart, but for the second game in a row LSU had a pair of guys foul out. At Florida it was Tari Eason and Efton Reid; Saturday it was Darius Days and Brandon Murray, who was on the wrong end of a controversial charge for his fifth and final foul late in the game.
“We made aggressive plays at the end of the game trying to get to the basket,” Wade said. It just didn’t go our way. We’ve got to be better. We were not at our best today.”
If there is a bright spot to Saturday it was freshman forward Alex Fudge having the best game of his young career. He scored 13 points and was a perfect 2-2 from three. He also had a thunderous dunk (the only points LSU would score over those final 9:02) to tie the game at 58.
We also saw that once Pinson does come back LSU can legitimately play 10 guys and not lose anything on the floor. That kind of depth can help keep the Tigers alive once tournament play begins.
Of course all the depth in the world won’t help LSU if they have more outings like Saturday. LSU’s been held under 65 in four of five SEC games this year and today’s performance dropped them 100 spots in KenPom’s adjusted offensive metrics.
I’d advise not putting too much stock into Saturday’s game because college basketball is the most unpredictable sport there is. I mean look no further than defending champion Baylor who lost twice this week. Days like Saturday are going to happen—seven ranked teams lost to unranked opponents Saturday— but it’s also hard to ignore the story from Saturday’s game: two points over the final 9:02.
LSU has a brutal week in store from them as the Tigers have to travel to Alabama on Wednesday (6:00 P.M., on ESPN2) and Tennessee Saturday (5:00 P.M., ESPN). Let’s see how LSU fares in those two games before recalibrating our March Madness expectations.