By CODY WORSHAM | Tiger Rag Editor
Another SEC contest, another double digit loss for LSU, as the Johnny Jones era appears to be coming to a quick — but far from painless — conclusion.
Texas A&M scored 51 second half points and turned the ball over just eight times all night, getting five players in double figures to knock off the Tigers 85-73, the ninth straight LSU defeat and 11 in 12 contests.
Admon Gilder led all scorers with 20 points, while Brandon Sampson scored 19 points to pace LSU (9-12, 1-9 SEC). Duop Reath tallied a double-double, scoring 16 points and grabbing a career-high 15 rebounds in a losing effort. Robert Williams, a Louisiana native, dominated both ends for the Aggies (12-10, 4-6 SEC), scoring 18 points, grabbing six rebounds, and blocking four shots.
Two slams from Wayde Sims — first assisted by Sampson, then by Skylar Mays — helped LSU build an early 11-4 lead, its first advantage since early in the Jan. 25 contest against Florida. But A&M sunk back-to-back triples to trigger a series of lead changes.
A 7:33 scoring drought for LSU , though — featuring eight straight misses from the field and four of LSU’s 17 turnovers on the night — saw the Aggies build a 24-17 lead on a three from J.C. Hampton.
“After getting a substantial lead, we got away from some of the things we were doing well,” said LSU head coach Johnny Jones. ”
We got good looks. We got good shots. When shots didn’t go down, we got back defensively and got stops. When we tried to be creative after we built up a lead, we turned the ball over, and they got easy scoring opportunities.”
While the Tiger offense went ice cold for more than a third of the fist half, A&M only scored seven points during that same stretch, helping LSU stay within reaching distance of their visitors. A putback from Reath snapped the skid and pulled the Tigers within five, just one of his 11 first half boards.
“It was physical,” said Reath. “I had to come aggressive every game. Last game I wasn’t being aggressive at all. I had to turn it around.”
Five straight points from Williams, though, and a buzzer beater from Tyler Davis — his first points of the half — put the Aggies up 34-25 at halftime. LSU hit just 11-of-30 from the floor in the first 20 minutes, and just 4-of-18 to close the half, and failed to get to the free throw line once.
A&M made Davis a priority to start the second half. The big man scored six of the Aggies’ first 12 points out of the break, and a three-point play from Williams followed by another Hampton three gave the guests their largest lead of the night, 52-36.
The Aggies met every LSU answer with one of their own. Sampson’s three-point play and Reath’s three cut the deficit to 12, but Hogg responded with a corner three and hit a pair of free throws for a 17-point Aggie advantage. He also drew Reath’s fourth foul on the play, sending him to the bench with 11:48 to go. Five straight points from Tavario Miller extended the Aggie lead to 19 before Sampson sunk a three from the wing.
Sampson did his best to keep the Tigers in the game, scoring 11 of his team’s 13 points over a three minutes stretch. He scored 17 second half points on just five shots, while knocking down 9-of-9 from the charity stripe, including two at the 7:01 mark to make it 70-58.
“We’re hopeful that light has come on for him with aggressive driving,” Jones said of Sampson. “He’s not settling as much as he used to.”
“It’s been a point of emphasis,” Sampson said of getting to the line. “We were being complacent a little bit. I just made it a bigger goal to get to the line more, not take as many jump shots, try to get as many fouls as I do jump shots.”
But LSU would not get closer than 12 until two more Sampson free throws with 48 seconds left, and the Aggies quickly increased that deficit with back-to-back layups to close the contest. Texas A&M hit 17-of-21 from the line in the second half and cruised to the finish line.
The loss is no easier to swallow than the eight consecutive that preceded it, but Jones did take some pleasure in the effort his team displayed. They’ll return to the floor Tuesday at Kentucky, a 6 p.m. ESPN tipoff.
“The youthfulness on the team, those are areas we continue to not be as effective,” he said. “But at least these guys are trying.”