COLLEGE STATION, Texas — The LSU basketball team has gotten used to having a great deal of success shooting the ball in the second half of its early-season games.
In fact, it’s been a recurring theme for Johnny Jones’ team: Go in and regroup at halftime and shoot better in the second half, which has been the formula for 10 of its 11 wins.
On Tuesday night, in a hostile environment against a top-10 team, it wasn’t there.
LSU opened the second half going 5-of-7 from the field. But as the Tigers soon found out, that was as good as it was going to get in a 71-57 setback against 10th-ranked Texas A&M in Reed Arena.
After that sizzling start to the second half, which helped the Tigers erase a 38-34 halftime deficit, LSU made two of its next 17 attempts en route to going 4-of-21 over the game’s final 15 minutes.
It doesn’t help when forward Ben Simmons is having an off night and is shooting far less than his season’s average of 56.3 percent, and forward Craig Victor, who’s hitting almost half his shots, is plagued by foul trouble.
No one knew that better than Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy.
“Obviously, it was pretty good,” he said when asked about his team’s defense on LSU’s big men. “Ben Simmons creates a lot of help, and we were able to rotate, get some deflections and get some steals.
“They missed some shots in the second half that they made in the first half,” Kennedy said. “LSU is a scary team. They’re very talented, they’re young, and they’re still searching, it looks like, at times. Getting Victor in foul trouble was a key, because Craig Victor is a very good player.”
Victor played just 10 minutes in the first half before being saddled with two fouls. He picked up his third and fourth fouls in the first 3 minutes, 10 seconds of the second half, which got him a seat on the bench again.
He wound up playing 23 minutes and had 10 points and two rebounds, watching helplessly as Texas A&M freshman center Tyler Davis continually exploited LSU’s defense in tying his career high with 18 points in the Aggies’ ninth consecutive victory.
Combined with a game-high 20 points from guard Jalen Jones, who scored 14 points in the first half, and A&M remained undefeated at home through 11 games as a record crowd of 13,888 howled its approval with each missed shot by LSU in the second half.
As a result, LSU, which was second in the Southeastern Conference in scoring with 82.8 points a game going into the contest, was held to its lowest point total of the season — nearly 26 below its average.
Its previous low came in a 70-58 loss at the College of Charleston on Nov. 30.
“Texas A&M did a tremendous job tonight,” Johnny Jones said. “I thought we did a good job there in the first half, but the second half I thought (A&M) did a great job.
“After about the first six to eight minutes (of the second half), they had a spurt and wound up getting a lead. They did a great job of executing on their end of the floor and defending against us on our end.”
Naturally, the shooting woes were most concerning to Jones, whose team failed in a bid to tie Texas A&M for the SEC lead.
“I don’t think we were patient enough offensively against a really good, solid defensive team like this to grind it out,” he said. “I thought they did a great job showing patience and with the resilience they had in making the plays that they needed to make down the stretch.”
While Texas A&M was making plays and executing in the final 15 minutes, LSU, which shot 32.1 percent in the second half and 37.3 percent in the game, couldn’t get anything going.
“We had trouble with some shots right around the rim,” Jones said. “We missed some early, then we had some open 3s that didn’t go down.
“I thought we were shooting the ball a little early and not allowing ourselves to get into the clock to force their defense to have to work.”
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter, @MicklesAdvocate.