Just over a week ago Johnny Jones’ LSU Tigers put together an impressive performance against then-No. 11 Kentucky, with Johnny O’Bryant III scoring 29 points to lead LSU to a much-needed win for their resume. Avoid the losses that can weigh down their resume, and those games are plentiful in the SEC, and LSU would have a chance to earn their first NCAA tournament berth since 2009.
Thursday’s game at Georgia was one of those games a bubble team can ill-afford to lose, although it should be noted that Mark Fox’s Bulldogs entered the game 4-4 in SEC play. Charles Mann has led the way for a Georgia team that has three players scoring in double figures, and the Bulldogs have been a tougher out in conference play than they were a season ago.
Faced with a winnable road game, what did LSU do? O’Bryant landed in early foul trouble and as a team the Tigers defended poorly, resulting in a disappointing 91-78 loss in Athens.
Georgia, which entered the game ranked ninth in the SEC in field goal percentage, shot a staggering 60% from the field against LSU and made 65% of their shots in the second half. Add to this a 32-15 edge in points from the foul line, with Georgia being he aggressor for much of the night, and LSU left Stegeman Coliseum with a loss that tends to rear its ugly head when the selection committee is filling out the bracket in early March.
Also of note were the 44 points scored in the paint by Georgia, with forwards Nemanja Djurisic (17 points, six rebounds) and Marcus Thornton (15 points, ten rebounds) holding their own against LSU’s talented big men. LSU’s Jordan Mickey continued to cement his status as one of the top freshmen in the SEC, accounting for 19 points (7-for-9 shooting) and eight rebounds on the night. But for the talent they have LSU isn’t in position to get away with lackluster effort, and Georgia made them pay for this.
At this point who really knows how many NCAA tournament bids the SEC will be able to earn. Florida’s clearly the class of the league and Kentucky’s well on its way to a return to the tournament after missing out last year, but who else? The key for the other teams in the conversation, with the league lacking marquee opportunities outside of Florida and Kentucky, is to avoid shooting themselves in the foot against teams they’re expected to beat.
LSU didn’t take care of business against Georgia, resulting in an outcome that does nothing to help their chances of getting into the field of 68.