LSU’s dramatic 90-89 loss to Arkansas on Saturday was:
D) All of the above.
The Tigers ventured into the escape room once too often during their now-snapped 10-game winning streak. A streak that included a pair of overtime wins at Arkansas and at Missouri.
Finally, time ran out before they found a way out.
The win at Mizzou was the kind of improbable comeback they will be studying for years at coaching clinics, 14 down with 2:14 to play to force overtime before winning 86-80. Then there was a lackluster defensive effort in a 92-82 home victory over Georgia and a 72-57 win last time out at Texas A&M, a game the Tigers dominated but led only by one at halftime.
One week ago, the LSU men’s basketball team had the “Miracle in Missouri.”
This time LSU rallied from 18 down with just under 14 minutes remaining to forge three separate one-point leads in the closing moments.
It wasn’t enough. Up one, an ill-advised alley-oop from star guard Tremont Waters for Marlon Taylor soaring in from the left baseline flew too far out of his strike zone. The ball sailed out of bounds and Arkansas, which shot a scalding 58.3 percent from the field, came down and got the winning basket with 22 seconds left on a drive to the hoop by Mason Jones.
Now things get quite real for the Tigers.
The loss left No. 19-ranked LSU at 17-4 overall and 7-1 in the Southeastern Conference. If someone had pegged the Tigers with those marks at this point before the season began, coach Will Wade would have taken it for sure.
Of course, despite winning and winning for a month, you can forgive Wade if he wanted to win just one more to get to 8-0 in SEC play. Success, like money, is great, but just a little more is even better.
Especially since the Tigers are heading into the toughest three-game stretch of the season at Mississippi State on Wednesday (8 p.m., ESPN2), at home next Saturday against Auburn and then at Kentucky, teams with a combined record of 49-12.
With a tough stretch of games coming up in the next couple of weeks, LSU men’s basketball coach Will Wade isn’t interested in thinking about t…
Perhaps, though, the lessons dearly bought from this defeat are worth it in the long run, right, Coach?
“Nah,” Wade said. “I like winning.”
Wade has to say that publicly, perhaps, but he has been beating the drum for several games that the way his team was playing, or rather not playing for the full 40 minutes of regulation, would get it beat.
Wade’s prophecy of doom that came true Saturday, all right. Credit the Razorbacks (13-8, 4-4) for playing their best basketball of the season to pull out the win. But LSU did not play with full intensity on either end of the court for a full 40 minutes. Like the Missouri game, LSU tried to use a flurry of full-court pressure, determined drives to the basket and muscular rebounding to pull out the victory. But the Tigers were set up to fail long before Waters’ pass for Taylor went awry, even though LSU amazingly out-rebounded Arkansas 44-20 and made 32 free throws to the Razorbacks’ seven.
Wade’s players knew it, too.
“We just were not playing hard,” said junior guard Skylar Mays, one of five Tigers in double figures with 17 points. “Once we got down, we were able to do some of the same things we did at Missouri, but it just was not enough today.”
LSU’s players, spent and frustrated in the postgame news conference, indicated that they got the message. Like a student who didn’t study hard enough and got an “F” on an exam, the Tigers vowed to study harder for the difficult tests to come. Teams, quite frankly, tougher to beat than Arkansas.
A nine-win season in Ed Orgeron’s first season as full-time head coach saw a dip in LSU football’s massive profit margin.
“We need to be ready to go from the jump against any team,” said freshman forward Naz Reid, who led LSU with a double-double (19 points and 10 rebounds).
Though the challenges of the next three games will be immense, LSU can still come out the other side with wins in at least two of them, particularly at State and at home against Auburn. Frankly, I don’t see them winning at Kentucky the way the surging Wildcats are playing. Kentucky moved into a tie with LSU for second in the SEC, a game behind Tennessee, by pounding out a win Saturday at Florida. But as LSU showed many times Saturday, the Tigers are not to be out-talented by anyone, including mighty UK.
Arkansas used to play what they called 40 minutes of hell under former coach Nolan Richardson, a reference to the Razorbacks’ particular brand of disruptive defensive intensity. LSU needs to bring its own brand of that to Starkville on Wednesday, back home against Auburn and to Kentucky.
Even if they do, victory is not assured, but if they don’t defeat is almost as certain. A great start to the season could easily spiral down into a four-game losing streak if the Tigers are not prepared to learn from Saturday’s painful lesson and start giving a full-game effort.