There is a well-worn saying that in its original 16th century Irish form goes like this:
“It is easie to raze, but hard to buylde.”
The LSU basketball team embodied that phrase Tuesday night at Georgia, razing all the good will the Tigers had built up in their impressive three-game winning streak over Mississippi State, Tennessee and Auburn with a pancake-flat 91-78 loss at Georgia.
It’s not exactly just that LSU got beat. It was a road game in the Southeastern Conference, and while no one is going to confuse Georgia’s Bulldogs with the Gonzaga Bulldogs, they are still a reasonably solid if mediocre SEC team.
But this was a game a momentum-riding LSU team was supposed to win, needed to win, should have won. Instead the Tigers, now 14-7 and 9-5 in the SEC, suffered their worst loss. For the first time the Tigers suffered a non-Quadrant 1 defeat per the NCAA’s NET formula that goes a long way to determining the NCAA tournament field.
ATHENS, Ga. — After putting together two of its more complete games this season in the past two outings, the LSU basketball team was seeking t…
But it wasn’t just one “L.” It was the way the Tigers, as coach Will Wade said in a disconsolate and disgusted-sounding postgame news conference, reverted back to their bad old habits. Lazy passes. Silly turnovers. An inability to defend the rim or fight off the opponent for rebounds. And a “me first” looking offense that lacked cohesiveness and flow.
“Everything compounded on us,” Wade said.
And Georgia was more than capable of taking advantage. The Bulldogs were led by Sahvir Wheeler, who posted the first triple-double in UGA basketball history with 14 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists, two more assists than the Tigers got as a team.
“This game we didn’t come out to fight,” senior point guard Javonte Smart said. “Coach said we were moving in slow motion.”
LSU was in it down only 24-23 with just over five minutes left in the first half. But Georgia then went on a 21-6 surge as the Tigers clanked missed shots and turned the ball over enough to trail 45-29 at halftime. LSU outscored Georgia by three in the second half, but it was the hollowest of achievements.
It’s hard to figure out an LSU team that can roll Tennessee 78-65, manhandle Auburn 104-80, climb into a respectable tie for second in the SEC with Arkansas (a team the Tigers also beat at home) then turn in what Wade termed “an embarrassing performance” like this at Georgia. The talented Tigers look like a bunch of all-stars, impressive when things are going well, when the shots are falling, but lacking what it takes to dig the tough games out of the dirt.
Wade has said more than once that he likes this team. Tuesday night, I asked if he understands what makes it tick. He declined to answer, simply saying the Tigers’ problems start with him.
It’s admirable that a coach takes the blame. But there is also only so much he can do. The lack of effort and focus and selfishness at times is what hinders this LSU team. The Tigers are certain to scoop up an NCAA bid, but their flaws preclude any kind of deep postseason run that is within their capability to make.
“It’s disappointing,” Wade said. “We’re too late in the season to be having this crap.”
All that said, the loss only cost LSU one spot in the NET, dropping the Tigers to No. 29. And it would be just like this team to rebound Saturday with a win at Arkansas, couple that with a likely regular season-ending home win against Vanderbilt and claim the SEC tournament’s No. 2 seed.
But net-cutting in Nashville? A drive to the Final Four? There is too much up and down with LSU, too much building up and tearing down, to meet such expectations. Ultimately, that is what will mark this season as a disappointment for the Tigers.
Saying farewell to a legend
When the NFL’s ultimate game returns to New Orleans, one of its ancestral homes, in February 2025 for Super Bowl LIX, remember Bob Roesler had a hand in it.
Roesler died Monday at 93 after a long illness. But in his heyday as sports editor and columnist with The Times-Picayune, Roesler had a huge hand in helping make New Orleans one of the Super Bowl’s most frequent destinations.
“Bob was known as an ambassador of New Orleans,” said Peter Finney Jr., editor-in-chief of the Clarion Herald, whose father was also a longtime columnist with The Times-Picayune and before that at the States-Item. “He was part of the Super Bowl planning committees. He knew a lot of owners. He knew people and how to count votes. He was close to the Maras (the Mara family owns the New York Giants) and the Rooneys (owners of the Pittsburgh Steelers) and that carried a lot of weight, those personal relationships. He brought a lot of Super Bowls to New Orleans.”
Former NFL spokesman Joe Browne once said something similar about Roesler.
“Bob possessed a combination of recruiting tools that no one else had,” Browne said. “He used the clout of his column when he did not agree with NFL decisions, but he also had a great power of personal persuasion to twist arms of the key owners who decided where the Super Bowls would be played.
“Bob probably was the most effective lobbyist the city had because commissioner (Pete) Rozelle and our owners respected him so much.”
Despite his ability to walk with sports royalty, Roesler never lost the common touch. He was gracious and friendly, and even in retirement and ill health in our last conversation several years ago told me to let him know if he could do anything to help in the future.
You did so much, Bob. And when the Super Bowl returns to New Orleans, hopefully in its full-throated glory with the city packed from Bourbon Street to the Dome, we’ll lift a glass to you to say, “Well done.”