ATHENS, Ga. — LSU’s luck on the road in Southeastern Conference games continued to be rotten as the Tigers fell to Georgia 91-78 in Thursday.
Winners of four of their last five — with all four victories coming at home — the Tigers played much of the game without leading scorer Johnny O’Bryant, who drew his second foul with four minutes gone in the first half and was whistled for his fourth foul with 14 minutes remaining in the game.
O’Bryant, who was averaging nearly 16 points and 7.5 rebounds per game, fouled out with 58 seconds left, finishing with nine points and two rebounds in just 15 minutes on the floor.
Thursday’s loss was a bitter pill to swallow after the Tigers recorded big SEC wins last week against then-No. 11 Kentucky and Arkansas. Perhaps even more aggravating was that LSU allowed its most points of the season against a team that came into the game averaging 69 points a night.
“We’re just not there yet,” LSU coach Johnny Jones said. “If we’re there, you’re able to have (great) games last week and you’re able to bounce back and come on the road and make the necessary plays early on to set the necessary tone to win the basketball game. We didn’t do that tonight and we’re just not there. We’ve got to continue to battle and grow and it’s something we’ll continue to do.
LSU, seeking consideration for next month’s NCAA tournament, has now lost SEC games on the road against Ole Miss, Alabama and Georgia, and fell to 14-7 overall and 5-4 in the SEC. The Tigers host Auburn at 3 p.m. Saturday.
Georgia, which came into the game under the yoke of a three-game losing streak, improved to 11-10, 5-4. The Bulldogs host Texas A&M on Saturday.
“This is a disappointing setback, but you know how this league goes,” guard Anthony Hickey, who had nine points and four assists, said. “There are more games to come so we can’t worry about this loss. We’ve got to move on because we’ve got a lot more games left and we’ve still got a lot of people watching. We can get over the hump on Saturday and go a long way from this loss.”
Coming into the game shooting 43 percent from the field, Georgia was aggressive going to the basket, shooting 56 percent in the first half, 65 percent in the second half and 60 percent (27 of 45) overall. LSU countered by shooting 42.2 percent (27 of 64), although the Tigers were 9 of 22 (40.9 percent) from beyond the 3-point arc.
“(Georgia) drove the ball hard on some screen and roll plays,” Andre Stringer, who scored 19 points coming off the bench, said. “They’ve got some guys who can pick and pop it very well, which kind of hurt our defense. We don’t make any excuses. It was our fault we didn’t come to play tonight. We didn’t stop them from penetrating and we didn’t stay in front. It was a team effort — we didn’t play well tonight.”
Stringer and Jordan Mickey led all scorers with 19 points each. Jarrell Martin added 15 for the Tigers. Georgia was led by Nemanja Djurisic with 17 points.
Coming out after intermission down 43-30, the Tigers went on a 12-4 run and pulled to within three points with 15:04 remaining on a 3-pointer by Martin, but Georgia quickly went back to work, never letting LSU get any closer than six points in the game’s last 10 minutes.
“We picked up our energy a lot more at the start of the second half trying to get steals and trying to defend very hard,” Stringer said. “That type of energy is what we should have had in the first half. We didn’t keep it because they were a confident team, which hurt us early.”
Without access to Bryant in the first half, LSU had trouble generating offense and keeping Georgia from mounting a substantial lead.
“It’s a big difference for our team without Johnny,” Mickey said. “He’s our go-to guy and it hurt us not having him in there at the beginning.”
At the 8:35 mark, Mickey hit a pair of free throws and less than a minute later nailed a jump shot as the Tigers pulled to within 23-22, but the Bulldogs held LSU scoreless for nearly four minutes while scoring 10 unanswered points.
LSU finally broke the drought with a two free throws from Stringer at the 4:01 mark to make it 34-24, but a Stringer layup at 3:15 and a free throw from Mickey at 1:29 were the only points the Tigers could manage as the Bulldogs closed out the half on a 19-8 run to take a 43-30 advantage.
The Tigers might have been in an even deeper halftime hole had they not connected on 5 of 12 3-point attempts, including two each by Stringer and Hickey.