Da Boot Sports
By: Terrill J. Weil
KNOXVILLE, TN: LSU traveled to Knoxville for a rematch with Tennessee and ended up splitting the series as the Volunteers took down the wounded Tigers, 64-50 on Saturday evening.
Struggles and inconsistency on offense has once again cost the Tigers as they dropped their third SEC contest in a row, falling to 15-4 overall and 3-4 in the conference.
With Xavier Pinson still out with a MCL sprain and Darius Days dealing with an injured ankle, the Tigers have lost their bite and until they can both return 100% healthy, Will Wade needs to figure out a solution quickly before his team sinks too far in the SEC standings.
“It was a disappointing day, we couldn’t get anything going offensively,” Wade said. “We looked tired, we looked slow. I thought this was as poorly as we’ve played all season. Give Tennessee credit, they played hard, they made it difficult on us. They hit some 3s, so it was a tough night for us.”
Tennessee took control of the opening tip and wasted no time taking a quick lead as Santiago Vescovi drained a three pointer only 27 seconds into the contest.
LSU began the game ice cold missing their first four shots as the Vols stayed hot from behind the three point arc, hitting two more treys to help build an 11-0 lead at the 16:29 mark.
The Tigers finally got on the board with 13:36 left on the clock when Darius Days hit a jumper in the paint, drawing a foul but would miss his free throw attempt, cutting the Tennessee lead to 14-2.
Tari Eason and Darius Days would then answer Tennessee's 5th three pointer of the half with each hitting one of his own, to pull the Tigers to within 17-10 with 11:27 left in the first half.
Over the next three minutes the Volunteers extended their lead to 22-12, out-scoring LSU 5-2 as the Tigers missed
easy scoring opportunities under the basket.
With 4:11 left in the half, and trailing 25-19, the Tigers would take advantage of sloppy Tennessee play over the next three minutes, scoring five straight to pull to within one, 25-24. But the Vols answered scoring four straight to take a 29-24 halftime lead at the break.
LSU continued to struggle offensively without Xavier Pinson as they finished the first half shooting 9-26 from the floor for 35% while going 3-11 from behind the three arc for 27%.
Brandon Murray led the Tigers at the half with 9 points while Tari Eason finished with 7 points and Darius Days added 5.
With Tennessee leading 32-26 at the 15:46 mark of the second half, LSU suffered a huge loss as Darius Days re-injured his sprained ankle sending him to the locker room. The Vols began to take advantage scoring five straight to increase their lead to 37-26, forcing Will Wade to call a timeout with 14:13 left on the clock.
LSU continued to play poorly on offense and with no intensity on defense as Tennessee increased their lead to 47-32 at the 9:06 mark, before Darius Days surprisingly returned to the game.
Even with Days returning to the lineup, LSU's offense remained in sputter-mode as the Tigers had to scratch and claw for every basket against a suffocating Vols defense.
Will Wade had the Tigers begin to full court press which forced Tennessee into a couple of huge turnovers that LSU was able to capitalize on, scoring five straight to cut the lead to six, 51-45 with 5:00 left in the game.
Tennessee responded with five straight of their own to erase LSU's run, increasing their lead back to double digits,
56-45 with 4:20 left in the game. The Tigers unfortunately continued their late game meltdown streak, as they fell apart on both ends of the court, allowing the Volunteers to pull away for a 64-50 win.
Tari Eason led the team with 16 points, while Brandon Murray scored 15 and Eric Gaines added 10 on the night.
Next up, the Tigers will return home to host Texas A&M on Wednesday, Jan. 26th. The game will be televised on the SEC Network with tipoff set for 8:00pm.