LSU Falls to Alabama, 70-67, While Losing Darius Days to Injury; Injuries to Key Players Loom Large for Will Wade's Bayou Bengals in the Middle of SEC Play
Da Boot Sports
By: Terrill J. Weil
TUSCALOOSA, AL: Injuries and sloppy play continued to plague the Tigers as they fell to Alabama, 70-67 on Wednesday night. LSU traveled to Tuscaloosa to face Bama in a must win for both teams. The 13th ranked Tigers (15-2 and 3-2 SEC) limped into town coming off an upset loss to Arkansas, while the Crimson Tide (11-6 and 2-3 SEC) were reeling after losing three in a row.
The Tigers would still be without their starting point guard Xavier Pinson and the injury situation became worse after Darius Days turned his ankle late in the first half and never returned.
“Look, I’m really proud of our guys. We’ve obviously got to clean up the turnovers and the defensive rebounding, but to come in here and battle like this when we’re not at full strength was good to see. When we get everybody back healthy, it’s going to be tough on opponents." Will Wade said. "I’m really proud of our guys. I’m really pleased with how they fought tonight. We got to go back and clean some stuff up we got to get some guys healthy and we’ll figure it out. But proud of our effort under the circumstances we had tonight. It was very impressive. We got the right stuff. We’re unbreakable. Great toughness. I’m as proud of our team as I’ve been all year and that includes all the damn wins we’ve had. We’re going to get our guys as healthy as we can, go to Knoxville and fight our asses off again on Saturday night.”
It was a defensive battle early on as both teams found themselves knotted up at 9-9 after the first seven and a half minutes of the contest before LSU would score five straight to take a 14-9 lead at the 11:31 mark.
Over the next four minutes the Crimson Tide would hit three straight three pointers to go on a 9-0 run taking a 18-14 lead in what was shaping up to be a game of scoring streaks.
LSU settled down and battle back to tie the contest at 21-21 with 5:14 to play in the first half. But Alabama would remain hot from the outside, draining two more three pointers to help retake and extend their lead to 29-25 after Darius Days had to leave the game with an ankle injury at the 1:54 mark.
Trailing by five, 33-28, Tari Eason would hit a three pointer at the buzzer, drawing a foul on the shot. Eason easily sank his free throw for a four point play to pull LSU to within 33-32 at half.
Tari Eason carried the Tigers during the opening 20 minutes, scoring 13 points. Brandon Murray finished the first half with 7 points, while Darius Days left the game late with 5 points after turning his ankle and wouldn't return.
The Tigers out-shot the Tide in the first half shooting 45% from the floor compared to Bama's 34%. Alabama finished 7-19 from behind the three point arc while LSU hit 5-11. The Tide out-rebounded LSU 19-18 and LSU committed 9 costly turnovers to Bama's 8.
The second half became an evenly played, heated battle over the first three and a half minutes, as Alabama found themselves clinging to a 37-36 lead at the officials timeout with 16:27 left on the clock.
The Tide began to pull away from LSU over the next four minutes, out-scoring the Tigers 10-5 to increase their lead to 47-41 at the 11:55 mark.
Without Xavier Pinson and Darius Days LSU continued to sputter offensively on every possession, looking totally out of sync as they would struggle to find a good shot or turn the ball over and the Tide began to take advantage.
With Alabama leading 53-44 with 8:58 left, Will Wade would draw a technical foul, helping Bama increase their lead to 57-44 at the 7:51 mark.
Eric Gaines would catch fire, hitting three straight three pointers to lead the Tigers on a 14-1 run to tie the game at 58-58 with 4:47 left in the game.
Over the next three minutes, LSU's offense would go MIA, as turnovers and sloppy play allowed Alabama to build a 68-60 lead with 1:22 left.
The Tigers would manage to cut the lead in half, 68-64 with 22 seconds left. After Alabama ended up missing four straight free throws, Brandon Murray would hit a three pointer to cut the Tide's lead to 68-67 with five seconds left. Keon Ellis then sank two charity shots to increase the lead to 70-67, before Eric Gaines missed a three pointer at the buzzer giving Alabama a huge much needed win.
Tari Eason carried the Tigers on his back all night with little help as LSU's offensive woes continue. Eason finished the game with a double-double, scoring 26 points while grabbing 10 rebounds. Brandon Murray added 19 points and Eric Gaines added 9 points on the night.
"I don't like losing. Nobody on the team likes losing, so we're not happy by any means." Said Eason. "But what I do love about this team is our resilience. The fact we came together. ... Once we get some other things cleaned up and we have all our guys, we're gonna be a machine."
Turnovers and losing the rebound battle once again hurt LSU late in a contest. Alabama out-rebounded the Tigers, 44-36 while scoring 21 points off of 20 LSU turnovers. The Tigers continued their struggles at the free throw line leaving six points at the charity stripe, only going 9-15 for 60%.
With the loss, LSU is now 15-3 overall and 3-3 in the SEC...
The Tigers will travel to Knoxville on Saturday to play #24 Tennessee in a huge SEC rematch. Tipoff is set for 5:00pm and the game will be televised on ESPN.