You simply cannot win if you cannot score over sustained periods of a game.
For nearly seven minutes in the second half Saturday afternoon at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, LSU couldn’t buy a bucket.
It cost LSU (5-4) dearly.
After going on a 14-2 run and trimming what had been the largest lead of the game for Kansas State (8-2) down to three points, 58-55, with 10:02 left in the game, LSU went 0-for-9 from the field despite most of the Tigers shots coming from point-blank range inside the paint with wide-open looks.
That ice-cold shooting spurt along with a game-long deficiency on the boards, characteristic turnovers that have plagued the Tigers thus far this season, and superior guard play from Kansas State doomed LSU as the Wildcats outscored the Tigers 17-5 from that point to win, 75-60.
Donaldsonville native Cam Carter scored 21 points, 19 in the first half, and Arthur Kaluma added a double-double to lead Kansas State, which had four players score in double figures.
“I was coming in trying to get the win,” Carter said. “I was going to do whatever to win. You know, my scoring slowed down in the second half, so I had to start defending and rebounding.”
Jordan Wright led LSU with 19 points while Jaleen Reed, who committed three fouls in span of 39 seconds with about 8 minutes to play in the first half, added 12 points for the Tigers.
“I thought we played really well in stretches,” LSU coach Matt McMahon said.
“We had a couple of four-minute segments where we really struggled, that hurt us there. As I look to the second half, the run where we cut the lead down to three, that is what I would envision us playing as a team. I thought we played with tremendous effort on the defensive side of the ball, guys were flying around. We were able to limit them to one shot and we were able to cut down on the turnovers that plagued us in the first half. Unfortunately, when we got down to three, we just were not able to convert some plays there down the stretch. I thought our guys played unselfishly, had some nice drive and kicks, and some good opportunities at the rim we just did not convert there.”
LSU outshot Kansas State 59%-52% in the first half but trailed 42-34 at halftime. The Tigers opened the game on a scoring flurry, hitting its first three 3-point attempts, as well.
K-State’s Tylor Perry and Kaluma opened the second half with 3-pointers to keep the pressure on LSU.
Later, an 8-0 run by the Wildcats pushed the lead to 56-39 with nearly 14 minutes left in the game.
But LSU fought back and went on the 14-2 run to pull the Tigers within three points.
At that point, both LSU and K-State went cold. The Tigers, however, iced up more than the Wildcats and it cost them dearly. Over the next eight minutes, K-State made three baskets while LSU managed only one, leaving the Wildcats with a 67-57 lead with two minutes to go.
Kaluma had 17 points and 11 rebounds for the Wildcats while. Perry had 14 points and six assists. Will McNair Jr. scored 13 points and Carter pulled down eight rebounds.
Kansas State outrebounded LSU 39-26 and the Tigers committed 15 turnovers, many of which were again unforced. LSU had 10 of those turnovers in the first half.
Wright and center Will Baker each had three turnovers to lead LSU, and Wright said that’s too many.
“But, I think we just play too fast sometimes,” Wright said.
“We just try to do too much instead of keeping it simple. We try to make a home run play instead of just keep hitting singles. I think in the second half, the reason why we cut our turnovers down is because we just hit singles. We just played under control, we dictated the game, the pace of the game. We were under control as the guards, leading the break. J-Reed brought the ball down with comfort. We knew where one another were going to be. I think at times, we just kind of get sporadic instead of just slowing the game down, slowing the game down for ourselves mentally and just going out there and playing instead of making the game too fast.”
Reed said LSU’s focus for the remainder of this calendar year is simply improving before the SEC gauntlet begins.
“We just want to improve and just keep getting better in this non-conference schedule, right?” Reed said.
“Get a few more wins, and we’ve got another big game in Houston (against Texas on December 16) coming up, so we plan on just getting back in the lab and working, working, and working, fixing all these little self-inflicted mistakes that we make in a game. I think that’ll lead to us being a much better team come conference.”
Kansas State on Saturday was LSU’s first nonconference homecourt matchup against a Power Six team since December 2015. Earlier this season, the Tigers played Power Six opponents Syracuse on the road and against Wake Forest at a neutral site.
This was Kansas State’s first true road game of the season.
K-State and LSU will play in Manhattan, Kansas, next season.
LSU returns to action on Wednesday when the Tigers host Alabama State.
McMahon said he is looking at every remaining game LSU has before starting SEC play in January as if they were one-game seasons.
“It is not so much about that (proving something),” McMahon said.
“I think the focus now is every game is a one-game season. So how do we get better at practice, leading into Wednesday’s next opportunity (vs. Alabama State) here. We have covered a lot of the basketball piece of it, there is certainly a mental component to it as well. The mindset, how do you handle a tough loss, how do you bounce back from that, if your role isn’t what you want it to be, how do you handle that and work to improve your role. If you haven’t played to the level you want to play at this point, how is your mindset, your mentality when you come in every day, to move on to the next day. I’m disappointed we did not win, we got the lead down to three, thought our guys played extremely hard, competed, played the right way, but we were not able to convert some of those opportunities down the stretch there.
“Credit to Kansas State there, but now we have to move on and get better and improve each day, and that is what we will do,” he said.