Best player, no shots: A brief history of LSU hoops’ late-game issues under Johnny Jones

By CODY WORSHAM | Tiger Rag Editor

As Ole Miss outscored LSU 33-7 down the stretch in Tuesday night’s Tiger defeat, a 12th straight loss for Johnny Jones’ squad, leading scorer Antonio Blakeney went from sizzling to unseen.

Blakeney had 22 points in the first half and 29 points with 12:47 to play, but LSU’s star sophomore guard went scoreless the rest of the game, taking zero shots over the final 7:26.

Afterward, asked about Blakeney, Jones pointed to a lack of aggression

“We need to make sure we can remain to keep him aggressive as he plays the game,” he told the LSU Sports Radio Network. “The last three or four minutes of the game we caught Skylar Mays there with the ball in his hands. Guys gotta get open especially when people are sitting there in a zone. They’ve got to find the gaps of it and make plays. When they catch the ball, they have to remain aggressive.

“I thought guys got a little hesitant and wasn’t as aggressive to allow us to feed into the offense we had in the first half.”

In a vacuum, such a theory might hold up. Perhaps, for a game, LSU’s best player didn’t get looks down the stretch because he didn’t seek them out aggressively enough – it’s theoretically possible.

But a look at LSU’s recent history in tight games indicates that’s not what happened.

Under Jones, LSU has an odd trend of being unable to get its best players shots in crunch time.

Here are six examples spanning less than two calendar years, all LSU losses.

LSU vs. Auburn, 2015 SEC Tournament

Jarell Martin, who would go on to be a first round pick after the season, didn’t take a shot the last six minutes of regulation – despite Jordan Mickey’s foul trouble. LSU blew an 8-point lead with 2:45 left, and lost in overtime, and Martin didn’t take a shot the final 4:41 of the extra period in defeat.

LSU vs. North Carolina State, 2015 NCAA Tournament

The very next game, LSU led North Carolina State by 16 in the second half and by 12 with just over 8 minutes to go. Martin didn’t fire a shot off in the final 6:57 of the game and took just one over the final 10:24.

LSU vs. North Carolina State, 2015 Legends Classic

The Tigers’ rematch in November 2015 in Brooklyn saw Ben Simmons record a double double, but score only four points. Simmons – who, in the previous game against Marquette, didn’t take a shot on a last-second, game-deciding possession – took just two shots in the final 15:07 of regulation, and one in the last 5:25. He’d foul out in overtime before taking another attempt.

LSU vs. Oklahoma, 2016 SEC-Big 12 Challenge

The Tigers led No. 1 Oklahoma by 10 with 10 minutes left. But Simmons took only one shot the rest of the way. In the same stretch, Buddy Hield scored 15 points (5-of-7 from 3) to lead the Sooners back to victory and put a major dent in the Tigers’ NCAA Tournament hopes.

LSU vs. Auburn, 2017 SEC regular season

Trailing by three in the final four minutes, Blakeney did not receive a single pass in the game’s final 3:57. His only touch in crunch time came on an offensive rebound in the dying seconds of a game already out of reach.

LSU vs. Ole Miss, 2017 regular season

On Tuesday, LSU led by 10 with 12:52 left and by six with 8:31 left. Blakeney didn’t take a shot in the final 7:36, and LSU was outscored by 21 points during that stretch – they lost by 20.

In total, Blakeney got 3 touches on LSU’s last 12 possessions, and only one touch during the decisive 23-7 Ole Miss run spanning 5 minutes.



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Cody Worsham

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