The LSU men’s basketball team is officially in a tailspin as the Tigers (15-4, 3-4) dropped its third straight game losing to Tennessee (13-4, 4-3) 64-50.
The game was essentially a carbon copy of LSU’s SEC opening loss to Auburn. The Tigers got down 14-0 before finally scoring a basket. LSU and Tennessee would play to a stalemate after finally getting on the board but you can’t spot anybody a 14-point lead—especially an NCAA Tournament caliber team in their place—and expect to win.
For the fourth straight game LSU was without Xavier Pinson and Darius Days, who came into Saturday battling an ankle injury, left after re-aggravating it. The LSU offense—which was already suspect at best—spun its wheel, shooting 38 percent overall and was 4-19 from three.
To LSU’s credit they battled back throughout the first half and only went into the break down five. They would also score the first points of the second half to get within three. But from that point on, Tennessee would go on a 19-6 run to push its lead to 15.
LSU was able to get within six points with five minutes remaining, but the Volunteers would go on one final 13-0 run to put the game away.
Some people want to throw dirt on the 2021-2022 men’s basketball team already. I think that’s a bit premature. We knew all along the Tigers would have an absolutely brutal seven game stretch to open SEC play; four of those games LSU didn’t have their senior starting point guard, and the past two LSU either didn’t have Darius Days (Wednesday at Alabama) or would lose him.
The schedule will also get a lot easier for LSU as the calendar flips to February. LSU just played seven straight teams in the KenPom Top-50; seven of LSU’s next eight opponents are outside the top-50. There’s a very real chance LSU can string together six or seven wins and get back into the race for a double-bye in the SEC Tournament. At 3-4 LSU’s in ninth place in the SEC, but only two games out of second place, 2.5 out of fourth. Remember, fourth place gets a double-bye in the conference tournament.
All that said LSU simply has to start playing better basketball, especially on the offensive end. LSU has only scored 70 once in conference play and has been held in the 50s in two of the last three games. Surely that improves whenever Pinson and Days come back but what happens until then?
That’s what Will Wade and staff need to figure out, and they need to figure it out quickly otherwise the LSU season could slip away from them.