CHARLESTON, S.C. — After losing back-to-back games in the Legends Classic in New York last week, games they could have won, the LSU basketball team didn’t know what hit it Monday night.
Well, actually, it did.
Maybe falling out of The Associated Press’ and USA Today coaches polls earlier Monday was an ominous sign for the Tigers, who rolled into TD Arena six hours later and dropped a 70-58 loss decision to College of Charleston in a game that wasn’t nearly that close.
LSU coach Johnny Jones was concerned going in against Charleston, which took Davidson, a 2015 NCAA tournament participant, to the wire before falling 82-81 on the road on Nov. 21.
“This team, what they’ve done with their schedule, the way they’ve played … tonight was a lot of the same,” Jones said.
Yet, Jones knew the outcome was more about his team and what it didn’t do than what Charleston did — although the Cougars did it well from the start.
With a crowd of 4,761 howling its approval, LSU (3-3) never had a chance again after the Tigers trailed by one point at 11-10 with 13:40 remaining in the first half.
From that point, Charleston (4-2) could do no wrong. LSU couldn’t do anything right and couldn’t get out of its own way for most of the night.
The Tigers shot below 40 percent from the field for the third game in a row, connecting on 19 of 61 attempts for a season-low 31.1 percent after hitting just 24.0 percent (6-of-25) in the first half.
Ben Simmons and Tim Quarterman were each 4-of-15, while Antonio Blakeney (0-for-9) and Brandon Sampson (0-3) combined to misfire on a dozen shots.
“We missed shots,” a perplexed Jones said in lamenting the fact his team didn’t play with energy early. “Our guys get excited when the shots go down, but we didn’t do a great job of sharing the ball enough, screening and making tough plays — which (Charleston) did in the first half.
“They made tough plays, they ran their offense.”
Guard Canyon Barry, the youngest son of Naismith Memorial Hall of Famer Rick Barry, led Charleston with 19 points, while Cameron Johnson had 13 and Marquise Pointer 12.
LSU was also out-rebounded for the fifth time in six games this season. Even though it was just a 47-46 deficit at the end, Charleston had 25 to the Tigers’ 16 in the first half.
“We got crushed on the glass,” Jones said. “When they missed shot opportunities, they got it; when we missed shots, they were able to get it. They were the aggressor on both ends of the floor. There was a big discrepancy on the glass in the first half.”
If that wasn’t enough, LSU turned the ball over a season-high 19 times.
The Tigers led just once, at 5-3 on a baby hook by Aaron Epps, and the score was tied twice — the last with 17:24 to play in the opening half.
LSU, which trailed by 23 points late in the first half, fell behind by 24 early in the second half and only got the deficit down to seven (63-56) with 1:08 left on a 3-point basket by Jalyn Patterson.
Charleston led 39-17 at halftime, which was fueled by a 21-4 run after the Cougars held that one-point edge at 11-10.
At halftime, Epps, who started in place of an injured Elbert Robinson III, had a team-high five points. That was one more than Simmons (3), Blakeney (1) and Sampson (0) combined for in the first 20 minutes.
Simmons finished with a team-high 15 points and 18 rebounds, and Quarterman had 14 points. Epps had nine points and five rebounds, and Brian Bridgewater came off the bench for seven points and a career-high nine rebounds.
Even though LSU played better in the second half, cutting the deficit to 10 with plenty of time left at the 9:23 mark, they had too big of a hole to dig out of in a short amount of time.
“It just came down to stops, we just couldn’t get the rebounds we needed,” Quarterman said. “They played more aggressive than us and got the second-chance points and stuff. We have to go clean it up.”
“They just outplayed us,” said Simmons, who also had four assists and seven turnovers — one more than he had in the first five games. “They had more heart. They were the better team tonight, and they showed it.”
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter, @MicklesAdvocate.