There’s really no time to do it now, but members of the LSU basketball team will probably be kicking themselves on the evening of March 3.
Figuratively speaking, of course.
When the seedings are finalized that evening for the Southeastern Conference tournament that begins four days later, the Tigers might be lamenting the ones that got away in the first three weeks of league play.
Like their SEC opener against Kentucky on Jan. 3, a heartbreaker that went down to the final horn, and last Saturday’s eight-point loss to Alabama that was closer than the final score indicated.
Then, there’s Tuesday night’s 61-60 loss to Georgia in which the Bulldogs slipped out of the Pete Maravich Assembly Center and into the icy, snowy south Louisiana night with a win after LSU did all the right things in a superb first half of play.
That’s three home games and three gut-wrenching losses that will likely have an impact on the seedings for what’s expected to be a tightly bunched 14-team race to the SEC tournament in St. Louis.
Being 2-0 on the road in the SEC, with another victory at Memphis as well, made LSU — as of late Tuesday night — one of only eight Division I teams (out of 351) to remain undefeated in true road games.
But that was little consolation following its third consecutive defeat at home against Georgia.
Going into Tuesday night’s game with Georgia, LSU coach Will Wade was concerned most about the Bulldogs’ impressive rebounding statistics.
Much like Tuesday night’s game, Will Wade’s Tigers have been there in the final six minutes of each. But they haven’t been able to finish the deal.
Duop Reath gave LSU a 60-59 lead with 39 seconds to play, but Georgia got two shots at a game-winner when the Bulldogs managed to grab an offensive rebound after missing a 3-pointer.
Yante Maten, the SEC’s leading scorer at 19.6 points a game, made the Tigers pay with a short jumper in the lane with 5.7 seconds left — sending about 4,000 fans who braved the wintry mess home feeling empty again.
LSU led 34-24 at halftime, but a physically imposing Georgia team took control early in the second half and got back into it.
Still, Georgia’s largest lead of the night was five with 11:33 to play. There were 16 lead changes and the game was tied eight times, which made the loss even tougher to swallow.
“I thought we played decent tonight,” Wade said of his team’s struggles on its home floor. “We just didn’t make enough shots. We missed some free throws down the stretch. We missed some rebounds down the stretch.
“You just have to make winning plays, and we haven’t been able to make winning plays.”
Like the rebound Georgia guard Juwan Parker pulled down with 23 seconds to play, which led to Maten’s game-winner.
When first you meet Will Wade, he doesn’t strike you as fiery sort of basketball coach.
Wade pointed out that Georgia snagged 13 offensive rebounds on 31 missed shots, part of the Bulldogs’ 23-13 edge on the glass in the second half after the smaller Tigers were outrebounded by one in the first half.
Georgia, which led the SEC in field-goal defense and 3-point field-goal defense, held LSU to 35.7 percent from the floor in the second half after the Tigers shot 52.0 percent in building its 10-point halftime cushion.
The Bulldogs did an exceptional job on Tremont Waters, who was LSU’s leading scorer at 16.9 points a game. Waters was shut out in the second half and had just one assist after getting six points and four assists in the first half.
“Yeah, we have to do a better job of giving him some space and allow him to make some plays,” Wade said. “There’s no doubt that’s what teams want to do. They make him work up the court, and it makes it very, very difficult for him.”
When the opponent takes your best player away, it makes it difficult to win — regardless of where the game is played.
But it makes it tougher to take at home.
“It’s very disappointing. … I feel like we have to step up and do much better because we can’t keep letting our fans down,” Reath said. “We can’t keep letting people come in and do whatever they want in our home.”