NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tim Quarterman sat on one side of the LSU men’s basketball team’s locker room in Bridgestone Arena on Saturday, searching for the words to describe what he and his teammates had just been through.
After a short pause, a stunned Quarterman came up with one: “Indescribable.”
Seconds later, on the other side of the room, Antonio Blakeney asked a reporter to take a look at his stat sheet from LSU’s game with Texas A&M in the Southeastern Conference tournament semifinals.
Trying to shade his eyes with his left hand while holding the stats in his right didn’t help Blakeney any, since it told the story of a 71-38 blowout loss to top-seeded Texas A&M that ended LSU’s aspirations of winning the tournament and taking the league’s automatic NCAA tournament bid.
“Horrible. … This is bad,” Blakeney said softly. “Man, we barely made any field goals. This is bad. … I don’t know what to say about this.”
The numbers that stood out to Blakeney were the shooting percentage for fourth-seeded LSU (19-14) even though the Tigers came into the tournament ranked second in the league at 46.9 percent.
LSU, which will await a National Invitation Tournament bid Sunday night, shot just 20.6 percent from the field — an SEC tournament record that broke the mark of 23.1 percent by Tennessee against Kentucky in 1993.
In going just 13-of-63 from the floor, only one player — forward Ben Simmons — made more than two field goals. Simmons was 4-of-11. Josh Gray was 2-of-9, and Quarterman was 2-of-14. Blakeney, LSU’s top shooter and scorer down the stretch, was 1-of-13.
While LSU went ice cold after making four of its first eight shots to take an 8-3 lead against No. 17 Texas A&M, the Aggies took off after a slow start and began dominating inside and outside.
Texas A&M (26-7) buried LSU with an avalanche of points, using a 32-5 run over the final 13½ minutes to take a 35-13 halftime lead. The Tigers shot 20.8 percent in missing 15 of their last 16 attempts.
The 13 points were the lowest in a half for LSU since it had 10 against Ole Miss in 2004; the Tigers actually rallied to win that game 58-45. Their total of 38 was the fewest in a game since Alabama posted a 57-38 win in 2010.
“We just picked the worst day of the season to shoot like we did,” Quarterman said. “Our team, nobody could get a shot to go down. You have to give all the credit to Texas A&M; they won the game.”
A&M advanced to Sunday’s final against No. 2 seed Kentucky, which came on late to beat Georgia 93-80 in the other semifinal.
When asked to explain such a historically poor shooting performance — it was the lowest output in the SEC tournament since Mississippi State had 31 points against Alabama in 1985 — Quarterman again struggled to find an answer.
“Like I said, there’s only one word to describe it,” he said. “As a team, we were focused and we were ready for the game. We went out there the first couple of minutes and got a lot of stops, and we were in tune. Then, we just couldn’t throw it in the bucket.”
LSU missed 14 field-goal attempts in a row in the first half, then topped that with 16 consecutive misses in the second half.
Simmons, who played only 14 minutes in the first half when he had three fouls, was the only LSU player in double figures with 10 points. He also had 12 rebounds for his 23rd double-double of the season.
Simmons said he could sense the game starting to turn when fellow big man Craig Victor committed his second foul and went to the bench with 18:06 to play in the first half.
“He’s a big part of our team,” Simmons said, “so losing him and then me getting that second foul and then the third foul, it was tough on us.
“But it was a bunch of things going into it. They were shooting well, and we weren’t rebounding well and just weren’t consistent on the defensive end. It got out of hand a little bit, but we were trying to fight back.”
Texas A&M kept the pressure on in the second half and never let LSU cut its deficit under 20 points. The Aggies had their biggest lead of the night at 40 points — 68-28 — with 3:05 to play.
“A&M got going (in the first half); they started making some shots and started feeding off it,” LSU coach Johnny Jones said. “After we had a couple of guys get in foul trouble, I thought we lost a little bit of our edge, a little bit of our flow.
“It was very disappointing for us to find and pick the day to have a bad shooting day and not have anything to go.”