Sam Spiegelman/SEC Country
LSU guard Skylar Mays helped lead the Tigers with 17 points Saturday versus Stephen F. Austin.

LSU basketball loses heartbreaker, drops home tilt vs. Stephen F. Austin

Nick Suss

BATON ROUGE, La. — Freshman point guard Tremont Waters was clutch for the LSU basketball team again Saturday. But this time, it wasn’t enough.

Waters hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 18 seconds left to give the Tigers a 1-point lead over Stephen F. Austin. But the Lumberjacks fought back, putting down a game-winning layup with less than 10 seconds left, defeating LSU 83-82. The loss dropped the Tigers to 6-3 on the season and gave LSU its first home loss of 2017.

LSU had a chance to win the game, taking over possession with around 6 seconds remaining. Waters drove the ball up court and tossed a long pass to Aaron Epps under the rim. Epps went up for a layup to get the win with around 1 second left, but the ball rimmed out.

“I was just trying to finish the play,” Epps said. “I thought the ball went in but I saw it bounce out. It was tough. I thought there was probably like a couple seconds left.”

After getting out to a hot start where the Tigers were shooting 63 percent through the first half, the Tigers wheezed through the second half, shooting 33.3 percent from the field in the half and 49 percent for the game. Epps’ missed layup wasn’t the only one of the afternoon. In all, LSU went 12 for 21 (57 percent) on layups and were outrebounded 32-30.

“It’s just mindset I think,” LSU coach Will Wade said about being beaten around the rim. “We’ve shown we can do it. We did it against bigger, more physical guys Wednesday night.”

Despite the theatrics, Waters had one of his more underwhelming games as a collegian. He led the team with 19 points, but on a 4-of-10 shooting day. Though Waters did make 8 free throws, he finished the day with a +/- grade of -3, meaning when Waters was on the court, Stephen F. Austin outscored LSU by 3 points.

Sophomore point guard Skylar Mays helped lead the way for LSU, posting 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting with 4 rebounds and 6 assists, though he also had 4 fouls. Fresh off a career-high performance in points and rebounds, Epps turned out another double-double, scoring 16 points with 10 rebounds.

LSU was sloppy with the ball Saturday, turning it over 17 times, leading to 12 Stephen F. Austin points. That said, LSU made the best of the Lumberjacks’ turnovers, taking the ball away 17 times and scoring 25 points.

“We got what we deserved,” Wade said. “They played harder than us from the start. It was pretty much the exact opposite of what happened Wednesday night versus Houston. We got beat because we weren’t tough enough. They were more physical than us and finished a little better around the rim than we did. That’s what ultimately got us.”

As has been one of the Tigers’ strengths all season, LSU thrived at the free-throw line. Off 23 Stephen F. Austin personal fouls, LSU was 23 for 29 from the free-throw line Saturday. The Tigers came into this game ranked No. 18 in the nation in free-throw percentage.

What’s next for LSU basketball?

The Tigers return to action Tuesday evening for a home matchup versus Sam Houston State. The game is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. CT and will be streamed nationally through WatchESPN and the SEC Network+.