In the LSU men’s basketball team’s past two losses, senior guard Keith Hornsby has had a bird’s-eye view of what cost the Tigers.
It would be easy to point to erratic shooting since LSU has connected on just 37.8 percent of its field-goal attempts in back-to-back blowout losses at Tennessee and Arkansas.
Taking care of the ball was another problem, with 29 turnovers in two games.
But what has been painful to watch for Hornsby, who has only been able to look on from the bench since aggravating his sports hernia injury late in the first half against Tennessee, has been the defense.
“Our defense has just not been good,” he said Thursday. “It’s been pretty atrocious, honestly. (It’s) people getting easy layups, players scoring way above their averages. That’s something nobody wants to see and experience. That’s pretty much second-hand from me.”
Indeed, LSU has had trouble on the defensive end. The Tigers have given up 80 points or more in three of their past four Southeastern Conference setbacks and are desperate to find a remedy going into Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. matchup with Florida in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
LSU (16-12, 9-6) has dropped four of its past five league games to relinquish the one-game lead it had in the conference race just 2½ weeks ago and finds itself in a tie for fourth going into the matchup with Florida (17-11, 8-7). The Gators also are struggling, having lost three of four and four of six.
Considering how it has played lately, LSU could draw on its 68-62 loss to Florida in Gainesville on Jan. 9. That afternoon, big men Ben Simmons and Craig Victor both fouled out, but the Tigers gave up just 68 points — four nights after holding Kentucky to 67 in an 18-point romp.
Florida shot 38.1 percent from the field in that win over LSU.
“We need to get back (on defense) and get stops, and do what we used to do,” guard Antonio Blakeney said. “We used to play better defense than what we’re doing now.”
When asked to pinpoint the problem, Blakeney said, “Man, I don’t know. … I don’t know.”
The statistics indicate that points in the paint and second-half scoring defense have been two of the things that have hurt the Tigers the most.
LSU was outscored by Tennessee in the paint 42-36 in an 81-65 loss before Arkansas mercilessly pounded the ball inside and held a 48-20 edge in the paint en route to its 85-65 win.
That means 90 of the 166 points piled up by Tennessee and Arkansas, a whopping 54.2 percent, came in the paint.
Arkansas big men Moses Kingsley and Trey Thompson combined for 34 points, shooting a combined 12-of-17, with most of that damage coming around the rim.
“It was really noticeable the other night,” LSU coach Johnny Jones said when asked about the paint points. “We have to do a better job defending the post. To our guys’ credit, sometimes they are worried about fouling and how aggressive you can be defending the post. That’s an area that you have to allow the officials to dictate and worry about. We have to make sure that we just play because, when we don’t, what happened the other night can happen. It’s hard when you’re trying to defend and guys are getting those types of high-percentage shots.”
LSU was outscored 101-73 in the second half of those games after trailing by six at halftime at Tennessee and by just two at Arkansas.
“We just have to play harder, but that’s easier said than done,” Victor said. “Teams have been coming out and even though we’re on this little losing streak nobody’s showing us any (pity).
“When we started the season, we had all this hype and stuff,” he added. “Teams aren’t just going to just lay down for us, and we have to understand that going into each game.”