LSU let one slip away Thursday afternoon in the Charleston Classic at TD Arena in Charleston SC after breaking open a close first-half against the Dayton Flyers, then jumping out to a 15-point lead with 9:01 to play in the game, only to succumb to increased full-court pressure from the Flyers in the final minutes and then to lose, 70-67, when Nate Santos’ 3-pointer with 4.1 seconds did the Tigers in.
Santos’ 19th-point of the game sealed LSU’s fate as the Tigers lost for the second straight game on a 3-pointer in the final few seconds.
LSU led 60-45 with 9:07 left after Jalen Reed, who led the Tigers with 16 points, converted a three-point play. But the Flyers turned up the defensive pressure and put together a during a 19-2 run to take a 64-62 lead with 3:42 left.
Dayton guard Koby Brea made a 3-pointer with 48.2 seconds left to tie it at 67-67. Trae Hannibal dribbled into a triple team at the other end and was called for traveling. Following a timeout with 15.5 seconds left, Javon Bennett escaped to the edge of the paint and passed to an open Santos for the game-winner.
LSU’s Carlos Stewart failed to hit the rim on a 3-point attempt at the buzzer.
Dayton (2-1) plays St. John’s in the semifinals on Friday. LSU (1-2) faces North Texas in the consolation bracket.
Bennett finished with 16 points and Brea added 13 for Dayton, which was 11 of 34 from 3-point range. Santos, a Pitt transfer, also had nine rebounds and three steals.
LSU’s Tyrell Ward scored 12 points to follow Reed’s team-high 16, while Will Baker added 10 points, eight rebounds and three blocks for LSU (1-2).
LSU took the first double-digit lead of the game after opening the second half with an 8-0 scoring run. After two Dayton free throws, the Tigers scored six straight points to make it 46-32 with 15:46 left.
“The guys played their tails off that’s what makes it a tough pill to swallow, that we couldn’t close the deal,” LSU coach Matt McMahon said.
“The turnovers obviously hurt us there late in the second half and some of the second shot opportunities we allowed them after we got the lead (midway through the second half). Even when Dayton took the lead late after we had some unforced errors there, our guys responded and took the lead right back and, you know, I really was proud of our fight and the energy and the camaraderie we played with.
“Just disappointed we were unable to finish the last minute there,” McMahon said.
LSU is back in action on Friday morning at 10:30 a.m. central against North Texas in the loser’s bracket of the Charleston Classic. North Texas lost its first-round game to Rick Pitino’s St. John’s team, 54-53, in the game before LSU and Dayton on Thursday.
“I know we’ve got a disappointed locker room right now, but we tip it off again in less than 17 hours against one of the best defensive teams in the country. Really physical, tough, hard- nosed group. They put a lot of pressure on the rim with their ability to drive the ball,” McMahon said.