COLLEGE STATION, Texas — On the day after, there was a little bit of good news coming out of the LSU men’s basketball team’s second loss to Texas A&M in a month Tuesday night.
There usually isn’t any good news associated with a Southeastern Conference loss, especially when you give up a second-half lead for the second time in 32 days and drop a 68-62 decision — which the Tigers did in Reed Arena.
But here it is: With a road loss to a top-50 RPI team, LSU dropped only one spot from No. 53 to 54th in the updated NCAA.com ratings.
Think, for a second, what a road win over the top-50 RPI team would have done for the Tigers’ NCAA tournament résumé — especially when you consider Texas A&M climbed nine spots to 35th on Wednesday.
But what’s done is done. And LSU, which was in control after building a five-point halftime lead to eight with just more than 12 minutes to play, let an A&M team that was left off two projected brackets Monday morning play its way onto a line on the computer screen.
In the process, the Tigers will be squarely on the bubble for the final five games of the regular season and the SEC tournament — making it that much more difficult to make a run at the school’s first NCAA tournament appearance since 2009.
Yet it can still be done.
With games at home against Florida, Ole Miss and Tennessee and road contests at Auburn and Arkansas, LSU still has time to make its case.
Losing two games the way the Tigers did against the Aggies, which is in third place in the league standings, isn’t the way to do it.
In their earlier meeting on Jan. 17 in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, LSU appeared ready to put A&M away with a 13-point lead early in the second half. And the Tigers still had an 11-point advantage with less than 10 minutes left.
On Tuesday night, LSU was clicking on all cylinders from the field — making 16 of 25 shots over a roughly 20-minute stretch to end the first half and start the second.
But that was when it went bad for the Tigers. The Aggies had a more physical presence, especially down low against forwards Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey, and seized the opportunity to get back in the game.
When it was over, Martin and Mickey had combined for one of their worst games of the season with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Going into the game, they combined for 33.0 points and a shade under 20 rebounds per game.
Martin got into foul trouble, and Mickey was mostly neutralized by A&M bigs Kourtney Roberson and Tonny Trocha-Morelos.
Mickey had two points and just one rebound in the first half, and Martin had four points and two rebounds in the first 20 minutes even though LSU held a 36-31 halftime lead.
LSU coach Johnny Jones lamented the fact that Mickey, who was averaging 17.1 points and 10.8 rebounds going into the game, had one rebound in 15 minutes of playing time in the first half.
“He had one rebound,” Jones said of Mickey, who wound up with six points on a 2-of-9 shooting night and four rebounds. “Unfortunately, he wasn’t there. … He wasn’t as effective as he has been this season.”
When the LSU guards cooled off, which coincided with the start of a 12-0 run by Texas A&M, the Tigers were in trouble even though they tied the game five times — the last with 2:32 to play — after the Aggies surged into the lead.
LSU led by two at 56-54 on a basket at the 7:10 mark by Brian Bridgewater, who came off the bench to score nine points, but Texas A&M was too strong inside down the stretch.
Roberson scored 16 points and pulled down 11 rebounds, helping his team to a 38-31 edge on the boards — even though they ranked around the middle of the league while LSU led the conference.
It meant a huge advantage in second-chance points (18-5) and points in the paint (36-22) for A&M and was a key to the win, Aggies coach Billy Kennedy said in complimenting the 6-foot-9 Roberson.
“To hold Jordan Mickey to six points when he plays the amount of minutes that he does shows you something about how we played on defense tonight,” Kennedy said. “I think our depth wore those guys down.”
“You’re talking about LSU, one of the most explosive teams in this league; 62 points may be the lowest outing they’ve had in the league (it was). That says a lot about what (Roberson) did defensively. On offense, we got him the ball in the paint. Every move he made, he had an advantage and finished.”
And for the second time in a month against A&M, LSU couldn’t.
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter @MicklesAdvocate.