The LSU men’s basketball team has learned the hard way what happens when big men Ben Simmons and Craig Victor get into foul trouble — especially in Southeastern Conference road games.
Both were plagued by fouls in a 68-62 setback Jan. 9 at Florida, and Victor spent nearly half of Tuesday night’s 71-57 loss at Texas A&M on the bench after picking up two quick fouls in the first half and two even quicker ones in the first 3½ minutes of the second.
The Texas A&M loss was tough to take considering LSU was hanging in with the league-leading, No. 10 Aggies in a hostile environment before Victor had to sit and the Tigers went ice cold from the field — which contributed greatly to the 14-point loss.
It’s nothing new for LSU. Poor shooting has been a problem away from home this season for the Tigers, who have shot under 40 percent in five of six losses away from the Pete Maravich Assembly Center — including 35.7 percent at Florida and 37.3 percent at A&M.
As a result, executing on offense will be a focus for LSU (11-7, 4-2) in Saturday’s 1 p.m. matchup with Alabama (10-7, 1-4) in Coleman Coliseum.
LSU was 5-of-7 from the field to start the second half at Texas A&M before its shooting touch went away, with the Tigers making just 2-of-17 field-goal attempts at one point.
“The second half got off to a really good start and, unfortunately, foul trouble plagued us in the post area,” coach Johnny Jones said. “Then, we just did not execute at the level we needed to on the offensive end of the floor.”
Guards Tim Quarterman and Antonio Blakeney combined to go 8-of-16, but the rest of the team was only 14-of-43 — which didn’t help when Victor had to sit out for such a long time.
“When you have guards that have the ability to score, really, whenever they want, it’s vital that they are consistent with their shot-making,” said guard Keith Hornsby, who’s hitting 47.9 percent for the season. “A&M did a really good job defensively, packing in the lane and focusing on our (perimeter) shooters. That was one of the toughest defensive teams I’ve gone against since I’ve been here. We just have to be more consistent.”
“The environment definitely plays a factor in it, just like when people come here to our place,” Blakeney said. “On the road, everyone has to be together because all you really have is yourself as a team.”
While the hostile environment and playing two of the SEC’s top defensive teams factored into the losses, Jones said it’s not anything they can’t overcome, even though LSU hasn’t won at Bama since 2004 — dropping 10 in a row there.
“You execute your offense based on what’s available,” he said. “We have guys who are good shooters. If they get good looks, squared up and we’re shooting the ball well, that’s what we do.
“If we have post guys with guys on their back or we have side-post action if we can get it inside with clean looks, we will do that. We are a team that is up-tempo; we’re not sitting there trying to hold on to it.”
It doesn’t hurt when Victor and Simmons are in the game together; their presence takes some of the pressure off the guards.
“At Texas A&M, the ball stayed on one side of the court when we were on offense too much in the second half,” Victor said. “We’ve talked a lot about moving the ball from side-to-side, but we took some quick shots early in the shot clock.
“It’s the small things that get great teams over the hump,” he said. “Paying attention to detail is one of them, and that’s something we didn’t do in that game.”
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter, @MicklesAdvocate.