By CODY WORSHAM | Tiger Rag Editor
LSU’s 2016-17 basketball season will go down in history — for all the wrong reasons.
Tied at 47 with 17:14 to play, Auburn outscored LSU 51-28 down the stretch, outshooting their hosts 60 percent to 35 percent in the final 20 minutes to take home a 98-75 win.
The loss was LSU’s 14th straight, tying a school record set 50 years ago, when Pete Maravich was a freshman ineligble for varsity play.
“This is not territory I’m familiar with,” said LSU head coach Johnny Jones. “I’ve been blessed and successful to be at the top of the conference in most of the leagues we’ve competed in. I look forward to hopefully experiencing the other side of it.”
Antonio Blakeney, the lone Tiger in double figures, scored 29 in defeat, including 19 in the second half. He’s averaging 27.6 points per game over LSU’s last five games and hit 10-of-11 from the stripe in a losing effort.
His three fresh out of the locker room squared things at 45, but Auburn used a pair of LSU turnovers to ignite a 10-0 run, claimed after back to back threes from Bryce Brown. Four in a row from Blakeney cut the deficit to 57-51, but an 11-4 Auburn run gave them a double-figures lead they’d maintain the rest of the way. The visiting Tigers hit eight shots in a row in the final eight minutes to close things out.
Ronnie Johnson scored 17 for Auburn, leading five in double figures, and the visitors outrebounded LSU 39-30 and got 43 bench points to LSU’s 19.
“I think they outfought us,” said Jones. “They beat us to the ball. There’s no way of sugar coating it. We got our butts kicked on the glass.”
Auburn took a 45-42 lead into the break thanks to a slow start from their hosts. LSU started just 3-of-14 from the floor and fell behind 23-11 on four straight points from Auburn’s Ronnie Johnson. But Jones’ Tigers answered with a 16-5 run over the next 4:23, and when Reath sunk a jumper with two minutes left in the half, the hosts had tied the game at 40 by sinking seven straight shots from the field.
The highlight of the half was a thunderous dunk by Sampson, who drove to the middle of the paint and slammed one home over Auburn’s Austin Wiley early in the half. It helped set the tone for the rim-attacking approach LSU would use to generate most of its offense, as LSU generated 30 points in the paint and 19 more at the free throw line, sinking all but from the stripe.
But the second half defensive deficiencies cost the Tigers once again.
“They drove us. They drove us. They drove us,” said Blakeney. “They kept getting into the paint. Getting into the paint, kicking it out, getting into the paint, finishing it.”
History is still staring LSU squarely in the eyes. The Tigers (9-18, 1-14 SEC) now have four games remaining to get their second league win of the year. Not since Alabama in 1968-69 has an SEC team won just a single conference contest.
“There are games on our schedule,” said Jones. “We must play them, and we must improve.”