Not much went the LSU men’s basketball team’s way in Tuesday night’s 77-71 loss to Wake Forest in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
Pulling down only five offensive rebounds wasn’t good.
Turning the ball over 17 times may have been worse.
But what it all boiled down to, coach Johnny Jones said, is that the Tigers didn’t protect their house.
“This is an area that we must protect,” he said. “We did not do a great job of protecting our home court tonight.”
LSU (7-5) had a chance to win late after struggling to find its groove in the first half, going down 34-29 at halftime. With about six minutes left, the Tigers had a four-point lead and the momentum after a 13-6 run.
It was all downhill from there. Wake Forest (9-3) hit 4-of-5 shots from beyond the arc and sank 8-of-10 from the free-throw line in the closing minutes to seal the victory.
“They just did a good job of moving the ball around and getting the opportunity to score. On our end, we didn’t really do that,” LSU senior guard Keith Hornsby said. “When you let a team get as many offensive rebounds down the stretch as they did, it’s hard to pull out a win.”
LSU knew going into Tuesday night that the game might be determined by rebounds. Just a day earlier, Jones said the battle on the boards would play a major factor in the outcome.
The Tigers were consistently beaten on the glass, finishing with 33 rebounds to Wake Forest’s 40. Offensive rebounds in particular were deadly for the Tigers who hauled in only five, the first of which took more than 15 minutes of game time to come.
And if the rebounds weren’t killing LSU, the turnovers were. The Tigers committed their second-most turnovers of the season with 17, including five from freshman forward Ben Simmons — his second-highest total of the season.
“We tried to make too many (home run) plays instead of making good, crisp passes or passes that were going to lead to the next basket,” Jones said. “We have to make sure that we get out of that habit in trying to make big plays. Others, we had opportunities and fumbled the ball away trying to get to the rim. We had opportunities and just did not finish.”
Simmons put things together toward the end of the game after finishing the first half with only one shot attempt and three turnovers. He recorded his ninth double-double of the season with 21 points and 12 rebounds, but 15 of those points came after halftime.
LSU sophomore forward Craig Victor wasn’t far behind with 19 points. Freshman guard Bryant Crawford led Wake Forest with 19 of his own.
“We just played bad,” Simmons said. “We didn’t have a good game. Turnovers, we let them rebound — I think (the players) lost the game. It was who wanted it more. That’s what it came down to.”
The loss leaves LSU, which opened the season in the Top 25, with five defeats heading into the start of Southeastern Conference play Saturday night at Vanderbilt.
“Certainly that’s not where we were aiming to be,” Jones said. “We think we’re a better team than that, but our record is what it is. We have to make sure we can come together and play better.”