Appearances can be deceiving.
Take Wednesday night at Stegeman Coliseum in Athens, GA, for example.
LSU’s Jalen Cook scored a game-high 21 points and when he sunk his 21st point with 17.4 seconds left to play, it gave the Tigers their first lead since a 23-21 lead at the 3:25 mark way back in the first half.
It appeared like LSU would most likely escape Athens with a hard-fought win, especially given how stingy the Tigers had grown in the second half.
Cook’s final point of the game at that moment was a made free throw that completed an and-one three-point play that put LSU up 66-65, culminating a gritty 14-4 run for the Tigers since Georgia had opened the largest lead of the game at 61-52 with 5:50 left to play.
Seconds after Cook put LSU up by one, it appeared LSU’s chances were even more solid.
That’s when Georgia’s best outside shooter, Jabri Abdur-Rahim, misfired on a 26-foot 3-point shot that clanked off the rim.
It appeared LSU’s Hunter Dean had perfect position to rebound the ball.
“I thought Hunter Dean had a great box out there on that shot with three seconds to go, I’ll have to watch the film again . . .” LSU coach Matt McMahon said.
But despite the appearance of Dean’s great box out, that’s when Georgia’s Russel Tchewa appeared out of nowhere and grabbed the rebound.
Although it looked like Tchewa climbed over Dean’s back to get the rebound, it apparently didn’t appear that way to the referees.
Tchewa snatched the ball away, made the put back, was fouled by Dean. Tchewa then completed the three-point play with 2.3 seconds left to play.
It appeared LSU was done, out of luck and had no chance.
LSU called timeout.
Georgia led 68-66, and the Tigers would have to go 94-feet in virtually no time, score a basket to force an overtime, or heave a desperation shot, probably from halfcourt or so, and make a 3-pointer to win the game.
LSU lined up for the inbounds play.
But it appeared Georgia coach Mike White didn’t like what he saw when all the players lined up.
White called a timeout and changed things up a bit on how Georgia planned to defend the inbounds play.
Apparently, McMahon made some adjustments, too, during that timeout because as soon as the ref handed Jalen Reed the ball for the throw in, Reed appeared to ignore the fact that White had left LSU guard Trae Hannibal wide open about 20 feet away from him down court. It was an obvious attempt to bait Reed and LSU.
Reed didn’t fall for White’s trickery.
Reed instead appeared to do his best Jayden Daniels impression at that particular moment.
Reed scrambled to his right down the baseline, eluded the spy, and fired a bomb on the dime the full-length of the court, about 94 feet away, to Jordan Wright. Wright leaped and snatched a 50-50 ball over his shoulder like he was Malik Nabers or something very much akin. And then, all in one move, Nabers, er, Wright launched what appeared to be a perfectly arched shot right at the goal from beyond the 3-point line.
Wright’s shot appeared like it would be good.
It appeared LSU would win, after all.
But as the buzzer sounded, Wright’s shot clanked off the rim and fell away, sealing a 68-66 win for Georgia (14-5, 4-2 SEC) as LSU (11-8, 3-3 SEC) lost its second conference game in a row.
Georgia improved to 11-1 at Stegeman Coliseum this season, with the lone setback coming to No. 5 Tennessee on Jan. 13.
Tchewa secured his second double-double of the season with 11 points and 11 rebounds for Georgia. Noah Thomasson also scored 11 points for the Bulldogs. Abdur-Rahim, coming off a career-high 34-point outburst at Kentucky, was 2 of 10 from the field and finished with nine points.
Wright scored 18 points for LSU, as he and Cook combined to make seven of LSU’s 10 3-pointers.
“I thought our guys showed great resiliency throughout the game,” McMahon said.
“Got down multiple times and just kept playing, kept fighting, really competed at a high level and always had a run in us to get back into the game. Thought the guys really made some big time plays in that last minute down the stretch to get us the lead.”
LSU is on the road on Saturday at Alabama at Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa where the Tigers traditionally have a rough tough time against the Tide.
Alabama (13-6, 5-1 SEC) likely improved its NET Top 10 ranking with a 79-75 home win over No. 8 Auburn on Wednesday night.
It appears LSU will have its work cut out on Saturday.
I mean WOW 🤯 pic.twitter.com/1NEstCajjL— LSU Basketball (@LSUBasketball) January 25, 2024