LSU didn’t tumble down the totem pole for seeding in the SEC tournament on Saturday.
But the Tigers won’t take much momentum to Atlanta, either.
The Tigers let Georgia clog up the lane, crash the boards and put together the best 3-point shooting day for a visitor to the Pete Maravich Assembly Center during a 69-61 loss.
Guard Andre Stringer paced the Tigers with 22 points, while freshman Jarell Martin added 13 points for the Tigers, who never led after the final minute of the first half.
The loss ensures LSU (18-12, 9-9) enters the SEC tournament as the No. 7 seed, while Georgia (18-12, 12-6) locked up the third seed. The Tigers will open up action at 6 p.m. Thursday against 10th-seeded Alabama at the Georgia Dome.
While they avoided top-seeded Florida’s side of the bracket, there’s little else the Tigers exited Saturday feeling positive about.
After snapping a seven-game road losing streak, they saw their own seven-game win streak the PMAC snapped.
And the Tigers, who entered as the SEC’s worst team defending the 3-point, let it happen by watching the Bulldogs bomb away.
Georgia, which shot 47.9 percent, knocked down 9 of 16 3-pointers, which was the Tigers worst effort since Tennessee shot 53.3 percent from long-range during an 18-point victory in the SEC opener.
It was also the primer for the Bulldogs early in the second half.
Charles Mann swished a trey from the top of the arc, followed up two trips later with a bucket from Nemanja Djurisic to give the Bulldogs a five-point lead.
On the next possession, Gaines knocked down what was his sixth 3-pointer of the game from the right wing, extending the lead to 43-35 and leaving Johnny Jones little recourse but to call a timeout with 15:31 left.
It did little to halt the Bulldogs.
Djurisic spun around Mickey in the lane twice for lay-ups on back-to-back trips to cap what was a 12-2 spurt to stake Georgia to a 47-35 lead with roughly 14 minutes left.
LSU answered with a with a 7-2 spurt of its own after O’Bryant, who sat for six minutes with his thrid foul as Georgia pulled ahead, split a pair of free-throw to inch with 49-43 at the 10:32 mark.
But the Tigers could never breathe life into the comeback from there, even after they rolled out their press.
After blitzing Mississippi State and Texas A&M early, LSU couldn’t put the Bulldogs in an early hole Saturday during a stilted first half.
Georgia’s ability to clog up the lane proved to be the wrench to throw off the Tigers timing, too.
The Bulldogs stifled O’Bryant and Mickey in the lane, limiting the pair to just 5 of 17 shooting and the Tigers to just 18 points in the paint.
Meanwhile, the Tigers, who shot only 36.4 percent, settled for jumpers. Forget about second possessions, either. Georgia beat the Tigers to the tune of 37-29 on the backboards.
Yet the Tigers managed to cobble together an extended 10-3 run over eight minutes in the first half, a spurt fueled by Georgia’s inability to hold on to the ball. The Bulldogs committed nine of their 13 first-half turnovers — three more than their season average — while the Tigers built a small lead.
A nifty driving lay-up high off the glass from Stringer pulled LSU even 24-24 with 5:08 left in the first half, and a pair of Shavon Coleman free throws on the next trip put the Tigers up two.
Roughly two minutes later, O’Bryant swished a face-up jumper from the right wing over Marcus Thornton to five LSU a 28-24 lead — its largest of the half —with 2:39 left until halftime.
Yet the Bulldogs, who shot 46 free throws in their win earlier this season, finally made a small run when Thornton split a pair from the line. A trip later, Mann, who was largely held in check, knocked down a pair to trim the LSU lead to 28-27 with 1:48 to go.
Gaines would cap the 6-0 run with a 3-pointer at the top of the arc with 1:12 until halftime to put Georgia ahead 30-28 going into the locker room.