The LSU basketball team could’ve blown out Auburn. And Auburn could’ve blown out LSU. So, instead, they settled for a close game.
In a hard-fought SEC battle in which both teams held and squandered double-digit leads, LSU’s last comeback attempt wasn’t enough. After trailing by as many as 15 points in the second half, LSU cut Auburn’s lead to as few as two points with under a minute remaining. But the Plainsmen held off LSU just long enough, winning 78-74.
With the loss, LSU drops to 9-8 on the season and 1-5 in SEC play. Auburn improved to 2-4 in SEC play.
Early in the first half, LSU looked like it was poised to take control. Johnny Jones’ Tigers jumped out to an 11-point lead behind a 19-4 run over a six-minute span before the 10-minute mark. Most impressively, LSU did all of this without committing a single turnover. But after that point, LSU’s offense returned to its old, sloppy ways.
LSU turned the ball over on its next four possessions and Auburn finished the first half on a 20-6 run, leading to a 35-32 Auburn halftime lead. In all, LSU committed 9 first-half turnovers off of which Auburn scored 10 points.
Auburn kept its roll going early in the second half, but LSU slowly came back behind a slew of offensive rebounds and second-chance points. Still, as the time dwindled away, Auburn never quite surrendered its lead despite LSU’s best efforts.
Player of the Game: Aaron Epps
Since stepping into LSU’s power forward slot after Craig Victor was kicked off the team, Aaron Epps hasn’t been much of a factor. But Wednesday, Epps proved as vital as ever.
The junior posted his second career double-double and his first of this season, finishing with 15 points and 13 rebounds. Six of Epps’ rebounds were offensive, contributing to LSU’s outstanding 29 second-chance points. By comparison, Auburn scored just 8 second-chance points.
Epps tied for the LSU lead in PER with a mark of 17.
That said, the play of the game belonged to Antonio Blakeney. Blakeney wasn’t expected to play much Wednesday after injuring his ankle versus Alabama, but he showed in the first half that his ankle is fresher than anyone expected, slamming home an impressive dunk off an even sweeter behind-the-back pass from Skylar Mays.
— Cody Worsham (@CodyWorsham) January 19, 2017
Stat of the Game: 10/11
LSU sent 11 players to the court Wednesday. Ten of them committed a turnover.
In all, LSU finished with 15 turnovers, well short of the Tigers’ season high of 21. Despite this, the Tigers only allowed 13 points off those 15 turnovers, an impressive defensive feat for a team that has struggled in transition for most of the season.
Turning point: Four turnovers, five points
LSU led 26-15 with just over eight minutes remaining in the first half. Up to that point, the Tigers hadn’t turned the ball over yet. But over its next four possessions, LSU turned the ball over 4 times in a row.
Auburn strung together 5 points off those 4 turnovers and, from there, put up a 20-2 run to flip the lead from LSU plus 11 to Auburn’s favor by 7.
What’s next for LSU basketball?
The Tigers stay on the road this weekend, heading to Fayetteville for a matchup against the Arkansas Razorbacks. The Razorbacks narrowly escaped Tuesday with a win against Texas A&M to improve their record to 14-4 on the season. The game is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. CT and will be broadcast on the SEC Network.