COLLEGE STATION, Texas — The LSU basketball team went into Tuesday night’s game with Texas A&M leading the Southeastern Conference in field-goal accuracy at 47.5 percent.
The Tigers, however, picked the wrong night, the wrong time and the wrong team to go cold, ice-cold, against.
After tying the game at 44 against 10th-ranked Texas A&M with 15:44 left to play, LSU was only 4-of-21 from the field the rest of the way — going 2-of-17 at one point — in a 71-57 setback in Reed Arena.
LSU (11-7, 4-2 SEC) was hanging in with Texas A&M after center Elbert Robinson dropped in a hook shot to tie it at 44, but it was simply no contest after that.
It didn’t help the Tigers when forward Craig Victor went to the bench with his fourth foul at the 16:50 mark with his team trailing 44-42.
By the time Victor returned with 9:33 to play, Texas A&M (16-2, 6-0 SEC) was in total control of the game with a 10-point lead in hand at 57-47.
Instead of going on the road for an NCAA resume-building win, LSU had its two-game winning streak snapped in front of 13,888 raucous fans — the largest crowd to watch a basketball game in Reed Arena.
LSU was 9-of-28 from the field in the second half for 32.1 percent and the Tigers finished 22-of-59 for 37.3 percent for the game. They cooled off considerably after making five of their first seven shots from the field coming out of the locker room.
“I thought their guys played well,” LSU coach Johnny Jones said. “They have a veteran team and they played especially well down the stretch.”
LSU, which lost twice to Texas A&M last season after holding a lead in the second half, never got to that point Tuesday night.
The Tigers did tie the game twice in the second half after there were eight ties in an entertaining, if sloppy, first half in which LSU committed 12 turnovers and A&M 11.
The story of the first half was the 1-2 scoring punch of Texas A&M’s Jalen Jones and Tyler Davis. Jones, a 6-foot-7 guard/forward, poured in 14 points and Davis, a 6-10 center, had 13 to give their team a 38-34 edge at the break.
It was the fourth game in a row in which LSU trailed at halftime, but the Tigers managed to come from behind in the previous two to beat Ole Miss and Arkansas — both at home.
There wasno comeback this time even though Texas A&M guard Danuel House, a preseason All-SEC first-team pick, and guard Alex Caruso were held scoreless in the first 20 minutes.
“I thought our guys did a good job in the first half and we started the second half pretty well,” Johnny Jones said. “But Texas A&M started executing at a high level. When they did, we started missing some shots.”
House and Caruso each finished the game with five points, but the Aggies got more than enough firepower from Jones, who had a game-high 20 points despite battling foul trouble, and Davis, who had 18.
Guard Admon Gilder came off the bench to add 13 points for A&M.
Johnny Jones was happy with his team’s defensive effort on House and Caruso, who were a combined 3-of-13 from the field.
“You would think you’re going to win the game with those numbers,” Jones said. “That’s good enough numbers to win. But with the veteran team they have, they had some guys that really stepped up.”
Jalen Jones was 9-of-14 from the field and Davis was 7-of-9 as Texas A&M shot 48.3 percent for the game on a 28-of-58 shooting night.
LSU used a handful of defenders in trying to slow down Jalen Jones, who came in averaging 17.2 points per game.
But it mattered little who was on him. He had 13 points in the first 10½ minutes on a variety of shots — including a thunderous dunk on a baseline drive.
Jones followed that with an easy basket on an alley-oop pass, then knocked home a 3-point shot to pull his team to within 27-24 after Tim Quarterman and Keith Hornsby hit back-to-back 3-point shots for a 27-21 LSU lead.
At the same time, Davis was simply too big of a presence around the basket — especially when Victor went to the bench with his second foul late in the first half and picked up two quick ones in the second half.
Victor, LSU’s top defender down low, played only 10 minutes in the first half and 23 for the game. He finished with 10 points and four rebounds.
Quarterman led LSU with 12 points off the bench, while Ben Simmons and Victor had 10 each.
Quarterman was 5-of-10 from the field and Antonio Blakeney was 3-of-6, but the rest of the team was 14-of-43. Simmons was shooting 56.3 percent from the field for the season, but made just three of his nine shots.
Simmons did have a game-high 11 rebounds, five assists and four steals, but LSU never could recover after Victor went out.
“That hurt when Craig had to sit down,” Johnny Jones said. “He’s been the force for us in the paint since he became eligible and it hurts when he’s not on the floor. He had to play cautious with four fouls, and that’s not a good recipe for us.”
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter, @MicklesAdvocate.