We saw it all unfolding. Gritty second half defense, improved play from the freshmen without the missing starters (Williams, Gilder, and Wilson), and the type of victory that makes you say “we’ll be just fine when everyone gets back.”
We had a 68-66 lead with three seconds remaining, and LSU had the ball out of bounds near their bench. Defend that play, and you’ve got a 1-2 SEC record and a boatload of positive narratives to carry forward.
Instead, this happened.
TREMONT WATERS CALLED GAME!!!@LSUBasketball upsets No. 11 Texas A&M, 69-68. pic.twitter.com/O4tAAPKVbQ— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) January 6, 2018
This one stings. Let’s break it down.
A Game of Runs
The first twelve minutes were almost a preschool exercise in taking turns.
- LSU 10-0 run (sup, lethargic A&M starts)
- Followed by an A&M 12-0 run (nice response and nicer #brand management)
- Followed by a smaller LSU 9-3 run (we had a stretch of zone defense so bad here that Billy called a random timeout. Which he never does.)
And then... the rest of the half was pretty much a dud. Both teams struggled to get open looks, and the result was a low scoring eight minute stretch.
All in all, it wasn’t really a first half to write home about.
Halftime Score: LSU 29, Texas A&M 28
The Part Before our Hearts Broke
Coming out of the break, we looked great. Better than we’ve looked in weeks. We had energy, defensive focus, and a series of crisp offensive sets that led to us either getting a bucket or a trip to the line for the opening 4+ minutes. But a weird thing happened... LSU wouldn’t die. Under the Johnny Jones regime (man I miss him already), the Tigers would have rolled over after a start like that. But Coach Wade’s bunch never let the lead stretch beyond five.
It’s worth noting that at this point we were up 48-43, with 11:49 remaining... and we were 2-19 from beyond the arc. With a little shooting, this could have been a relaxing afternoon.
The next significant moment occurred with 9:20 remaining, when Tyler Davis picked up his 4th foul on a pick and roll 35 feet from the rim. I don’t know why we continue to show hard on picks that far from the basket, but it continues to hurt us. Today, it gave our best big man a critical foul that put him on the bench for the next five minutes.
The team responded great to the stretch without Davis, it has to be said, and we were sitting at 60-60 when he returned to the game with 3:43 on the clock.
And then it got weird.
Hogg opened the last three minutes with a great drive, and Caldwell followed with a tip-in (yes the 5’10” Caldwell) to push the lead to 64-60. LSU responded with a three, both squads missed, then Tonny fed Davis for an easy layup. After another LSU miss, we had probably our best ‘big moment’ possession of the season.’
We resisted the urge to push the ball in transition, worked the ball to Davis with a few seconds left on the shot clock, and he buried a shot from the right block to put us up 68-63 with :19 seconds left.
I’m not going to lie to you guys... I thought that bucket iced the game. Tremont Waters thought differently.
Waters buries a ridiculous three to keep the game alive, LSU fouls Davis (who misses both free throws), and Waters hits the even more ridiculous three to win the game with one second remaining.
I really hate losing to LSU.
Final Score: LSU 69, Texas A&M 68
Other Game Notes
There was a ton of game flow to discuss up top, so let’s take a quick break for some individual notes
- We passed the ball well today. Better than our 13:14 assist-to-turnover ratio would indicate. Multiple times, particularly against the 1-3-1, we broke their defense in half for a wide open three... and missed it. When added to our missed layups (I’m guessing eight, maybe), it’s easy to understand why our assist numbers were a little paltry.
- I really like Jay Jay Chandler. His energy and defensive intensity never dipped. His shooting is a liability, but the first step to turning things around is playing your tail off. He always gives 100%.
- Starks was more aggressive, and his playing time (22 minutes) seems to indicate that he has worked through whatever issues kept him confined to the bench against Florida
- I’ve been calling Tonny out, so I gotta say it: He was much better today. And we needed him, too, with the late announcement that Williams was out sick
- I’m not going to pile on Davis for the free throws. That dude has been the only constant in a sea of shit discipline and unfortunate injuries, and our recent problems are much larger than his performance at the stripe.
Our next game is at Rupp Arena on Tuesday night.
We could get everyone back and win that game. We could fall apart and lose by 30. I honestly don’t know anymore.