It wasn’t hard for LSU basketball coach Will Wade to understand why his SEC-leading Tigers suffered its first league loss at last-place Vanderbilt Wednesday night.
The Commodores, a 99-90 winner, scored 20 layups including five in the game’s last 5:52 when LSU was outscored 19-7 after taking an 83-80 lead.
“At this rate whenever our last game of the year is, we’re going to get beat the same way,” Wade said. “We’re going to give up a boat-load of points and we’re not going to be able to guard anybody off the bounce and our offense is not going to be able to bail anybody out.”
Understanding the problem is simple, but No. 18 LSU (17-5, 8-1) correcting it Saturday at No. 11 Auburn (20-2, 7-2) in a hostile atmosphere isn’t an easy fix.
Auburn is 12-0 at the Auburn Arena this year after beating Kentucky 75-66 last Saturday, A sellout crowd of 9,121 is expected for the 11 a.m. tip on ESPN.
“We’re playing one of the best coaches, best teams in the league on the road,” Wade said. “In my opinion it is the most hostile environment in the league. They’ve got the best atmosphere of anywhere in the league.
“If we give them confidence offensively it’ll look like the last time we went there when we just got the doors blown off of us. If we don’t find something between now and Saturday at 11, it’ll be ugly.”
The teams split games the last two years with the home team prevailing. Auburn was a 95-70 winner two years ago in the The Arena.
For LSU, all five starters have to play relatively well or reserves Marlon Taylor and Aundre Hyatt must deliver big plays. When one of those two things don’t happen, winning is a struggle.
Against Vanderbilt, the LSU bench scored one point and forward Darius Days didn’t give the Tigers much offensively. Guards Javonte Smart and Skylar Mays made a combined 1-of-8 3-pointers.
If not for forwards Trendon Watford (22 points, 9 rebounds), Emmitt Williams (24 points, 11 rebounds) combining for 46 points and 20 rebounds, LSU would have had no shot for a win vs. the Commodores.
“We were jittery,” Wade said. “We came in with a poor mindset. That’s my fault. I’m the one that sets the mindset. I obviously didn’t have us as in the right mindset or as focused as we needed to be.
“I think when things didn’t go as easily as maybe some guys envisioned, we were trying to hit 10-point shots or trying to make 10-point possessions and that’s just not the way it works.”
Maintaining poise against Auburn, which has five-game winning streak, is essential. Three Auburn players average double-figure scoring led by senior Samir Doughty (15.1 ppg). He had 23 points in Tuesday night’s win at Arkansas, despite playing ill.
Auburn coach Bruce Pearl knows that LSU is one of his team’s biggest challenges to date.
“It is the best starting five in the league, they’ve got some dudes,” Pearl said. “They are a very, very tough cover. We have got to score points to beat LSU because they are going to score points. They drive it downhill, they crash the offensive glass and they are hard to keep out of the lane.”
I don’t know which is worse – the pathetic effort at Vanderbilt or the loss at Auburn when LSU played so well for 39 minutes, then choked up the lead in the 40th minute. Missed FTs, then Skyler Mays, who had been magnificent the whole game, tries to dribble through the entire Auburn team, commits his first turnover, which turns into the tying basket. Will Wade not calling timeout with ten seconds left and a chance to still win in regulation. I turned it off after that. I knew we had no chance in the overtime. Answer: Auburn was the worse loss because it gives vile Bruce Pearl a chance to gloat about his team’s great comeback.