LSU’s resume takes hit with disappointing loss at Georgia

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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.

Syracuse upsets No. 18 UConn as Tyler Lydon stars again

St Bonaventure Syracuse Basketball
AP Photo/Heather Ainsworth
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Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney combined for 34 points as Syracuse overcame an early 10-point deficit to knock off No. 18 UConn in the semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis, 79-76.

The talking point at the end of this game is probably going to end up being UConn’s decision not to foul Syracuse with 36 seconds left on the clock. Trevor Cooney dribbled out the clock and, with six seconds left, missed a 35-foot prayer, the offensive rebound getting corralled by Tyler Roberson, sealing the win.

But that’s not the real story here.

That would be Tyler Lydon, who suddenly looks like he may end up being the difference maker for this Syracuse team.

If you don’t know the name, I don’t blame you. Lydon was a low-end top 100 recruit that had been committed to the Orange for a long time. He’s not exactly a game-changing prospect, but he’s a perfect fit for Syracuse. At 6-foot-9, Lydon has the length to be a shot-blocker in the middle of the 2-3 zone — he entered Thursday averaging 3.3 blocks — but his biggest skill is his ability to shoot the ball from beyond the arc. When he plays the middle of that zone, when he is essentially the five for the Orange, they become incredibly difficult to matchup with defensively.

The question is whether or not he can consistently be that guy on the defensive end of the floor. Against UConn, Lydon had 16 points and 12 boards. Against Charlotte, he finished with 18 points, eight boards and six blocks. But neither the Huskies nor the 49ers have a big front line that crashes the offensive glass.

Lydon is great at using his length to make shots in the lane difficult, but at (a generous) 205 pounds, he may run into trouble against bigger, stronger front court players.

The perfect test?

Texas A&M, who the Orange will play in the title game on Friday.

USC holds on to beat No. 20 Wichita State

Andy Enfield
Associated Press
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With guards Fred VanVleet and Landry Shamet both sidelined due to injury, No. 20 Wichita State arrived at the Advocare Invitational shorthanded. But even with that being the case the highly successful Shockers represented quite the opportunity for USC, and Thursday afternoon the Trojans took advantage.

Despite turning the ball over 23 times Andy Enfield’s team found a way to win, hanging on to beat the Shockers by the final score of 72-69. Freshman forward Bennie Boatwright, a tough matchup for most teams as a 6-foot-10 stretch forward who can score from the perimeter, shot 5-for-9 from three and scored a team-high (and career-high) 22 points.

The tandem of he and junior Nikola Jovanovic, who added 14 points and 11 rebounds, outplayed the Wichita State front court on a day in which the Shockers needed greater contributions from those players. Add in 15 points and four assists from Jordan McLaughlin, ten points off the bench from Katin Reinhardt and a 12-for-23 afternoon from three, and the Trojans were able to do enough to make up for their high turnover count and Wichita State’s 24 points off of turnovers.

Given the absence of VanVleet and Shamet there’s no reason to panic regarding Wichita State. Ron Baker, who was exhausted by the end of the game due to the heavy load he was asked to shoulder, scored a game-high 25 points and the play of freshman Markis McDuffie was a positive to build on.

McDuffie, who entered Thursday’s game without a made field goal in his first two appearances as a Shocker, shot 5-for-9 from the field and contributed 14 points and three rebounds off the bench. With their current perimeter rotation being what it is McDuffie will have opportunities to contribute, and the Shockers will need him to take advantage as they await the returns of VanVleet and Shamet (and the addition of Conner Frankamp).

Doing so will not only help Wichita State in the short term but in the long-term as well, thus giving Gregg Marshall another option to call upon on his bench.

Thursday’s outcome, even with the desire to see more from Anton Grady (eight points, seven rebounds), says more about USC at this point in time than Wichita State. Enfield’s first two seasons at the helm were about amassing the talent needed to compete in the Pac-12 while also gaining valuable (and at times painful) experience. In year three the Trojans hope to take a step forward within the conference, and wins like this one provide evidence of the program’s growth.