Tigers stink it up with dead-on-arrival loss at Georgia

Photo by Tony Walsh

Say this for LSU’s 2020-21 basketball team.

When the Tigers play well, as they did in the three-win streak they brought into Tuesday’s night SEC road game at Georgia, they are an unbeatable picture of execution, teamwork and communication.

And when they play bad, as they demonstrated so convincingly in a 91-78 loss to the Bulldogs, they are an undeniable example of offensive impatience, defensive deafness and sheer sloppiness.

 LSU (14-7, 9-5 SEC) missed shot after shot after shot and compounded the problem giving up 14 layups and 9 3-pointers to Georgia (13-10, 7-9) as the Tigers put up a brief struggle for the game’s first 16 minutes before sleepwalking the rest of the way.

“It was an embarrassing performance, all of our old habits came out,” LSU coach Will Wade said. “It was just an-all-systems breakdown, as bad a night as we’ve had. We didn’t have a lot of pop to us. We didn’t cut hard, we didn’t move. We just reverted back to all of our bad offensive stuff we’ve done in certain games, all of our bad defensive stuff we’ve done in certain games.

“I feel bad for everyone who follows our program. Our effort was laughable and it starts with me.”

Wade can fall on the verbal sword as much as he wants, but 21 games into the season his players know what wins (unselfish offensive ball movement and energetic connected defense) and what loses games (two-pass offensive possessions and stop-and-stare mannequin defense).

“In recent games, we’ve started the games fast in the first half and brought good energy,” LSU point guard Javonte Smart said. “This game, somehow, we didn’t come out to fight.”

The Bulldogs, who lost to LSU 94-92 in overtime on Jan. 6 in Baton Rouge, left no doubt in the re-match which team played with requisite energy and focus needed to win a late February game.

LSU’s porous defense allowed Georgia guard Sahvir Wheeler to record the first triple-double in Bulldogs’ history. The 5-10 sophomore scored 14 points, grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds and dealt 13 assists which was two more than LSU’s team total.

Many of Wheeler’s passes ended up in the hands of sophomore forward Toumani Camara and freshman guard K.D. Johnson, who scored 22 and 20 points respectively.

LSU freshman guard Cam Thomas scored a game-high 23 points, Smart had 19 points, sophomore Trendon Watford added 13 points and 10 rebounds and freshman guard Jalen Cook scored an LSU career-high 11 points.

But nobody wearing Tigers’ unis did anything consistently well to write home about.

Areas in which the Tigers usually get an offensive spark turning opposing turnovers in points and securing defense rebounds were almost non-existent. LSU scored just 9 points off 11 Georgia turnovers and the Bulldogs turned 16 offensive rebounds into 15 second-chance points.

There were several straight possessions in the first half in which LSU could have gained an upper hand as Georgia clanked shot after shot. The Tigers matched the Bulldogs inept shooting, Georgia finally warmed slightly and LSU didn’t.

Georgia closed the first half on a 21-6 run in the last 5:21 before the halftime. The Tigers, trailing 45-29 at the break, never did anything in the second half to warrant a comeback.

LSU next travels to Fayetteville to play Arkansas on Saturday. The Razorbacks are ranked No. 26 in the NCAA Net Rankings and LSU is at No. 27 entering this week’s play.

The Tigers have the rest of the week to shake off Tuesday’s loss, but it’s not encouraging repeating the same mistakes they’ve made all year just two weeks before the start of the league tournament in Nashville.

“It’s disappointing,” Wade said. “It’s too late in the season to be having this crap.

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Ron Higgins

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