Tigers miss 15 free throws, move out of first-place tie with Kentucky
By CODY WORSHAM
Tiger Rag Editor
ong after the final buzzer sounded in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center on Wednesday night, Ben Simmons remained, sinking free throw after free throw.
Before the buzzer, however, the makes were harder to come by.
Simmons scored 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, becoming the fourth-fastest first year player in LSU history to reach 500 points, but shot just 10-for-19 from the line, and Alabama outscored LSU by 15 in the final 15 minutes to take a 76-69 decision over the Tigers.
LSU (16-10, 9-4 SEC) had no answer for Retin Obasohan, who led all scorers with 35 points, including 23 after the break. Justin Coleman added 21 and Arthur Edwards chipped in 12, but it was Obasohan who did the bulk of the damage for Alabama (16-9, 7-6 SEC).
“We got passive, especially our post guys,” said LSU head coach Johnny Jones. “We could have done a better job containing him. We failed to defend him at all. We were passive…and he had his way with us.”
Craig Victor had a team and career-high 21 points, 14 of which came in the first half, as the Tigers rolled to a 36-31 lead at the break. After falling behind 8-4, LSU rolled off seven straight points, five from Keith Hornsby, who finished with 18 points on 4-for-8 shooting from 3-point territory.
“For me, it’s a mental thing,” Ben Simmons said. “I need to concentrate when I get to the line, take my time, not rush my free throws.”
The Tigers would not trail again until the second half, extending their lead to as large as eight, 46-38 on a three-pointer at the from Tim Quarterman, his only make in eight attempts from beyond the arc. But the Tide responded with a 13-2 run in the next 1:48, using two 3-pointers from Coleman, including a four-point play, and one each from Obasohan and Edwards to pull ahead.
LSU briefly regained the lead on a pair of Hornsby free throws and remained tied as late as the 3:57 mark on a Quarterman layup that evened the score at 62. But Alabama answered with seven straight points, while LSU missed four free throws in the final three minutes, three from Simmons.
“For me, it’s a mental thing,” Simmons said. “I need to concentrate when I get to the line, take my time, not rush my free throws.”
The Tigers’ second half struggles extended beyond the free throw line. They shot just 32 percent from the floor, 27 percent from 3-point territory, and got outrebounded 21-16, while allowing Alabama to shoot 52 percent from the floor and 40 percent from 3 in the final 20 minutes. While LSU sat back in a rarely-used zone, the Tide either buried threes, secured the misses with offensive rebounds, or let Obasohan pick it apart on the drive. Whatever option Alabama turned to, the Tigers seemed powerless to stop it.
“They dominated on the offensive end,” said Victor. “We’re in a zone so it’s hard to rebound out of it. We should have got the ball out of (Obasohan’s) hands.”
“We have to get mean again,” added Hornsby. “We were a little soft tonight.”
The Tigers, projected as high as a seven seed by ESPN and an 11 seed by CBS entering tonight’s game, now travel to Tennessee on Saturday for a crucial 4:30 p.m. tipoff. LSU remains just a half-game back of Kentucky in the SEC regular season title hunt.
“We’re still a very good, solid basketball team,” said Jones. “We had a setback tonight. What we’ve done all year, we’ve been able to bounce back from disappointments. “