ATHENS, Ga. — LSU’s basketball team arrived at Georgia’s Stegeman Coliseum hurting and hungry for a Southeastern Conference victory against a team that was also without a league win.
After a 67-58 loss to the Bulldogs on Saturday night, the Tigers left town hungrier and hurting even more.
Playing without starting guard Charles Carmouche, who sat out the game with what was reported to be sore knees, LSU also saw reserve guard Corbin Collins go down after a second-half loose-ball scramble on the floor left him with what appeared to be a broken nose.
Tigers Senior Associate Sports Information Director C. Kent Lowe said Collins took a shot “above the eye and across the nose,” which required an unknown number of stitches to close. Lowe said Collins and a Tigers trainer would “stay the night in Athens.”
Georgia rode the hot shooting of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope — who finished with a game-high 22 points — to claim its first SEC win of the season, but in many ways the Tigers let the game slide through their hands by turning the ball over and not connecting on makeable shots.
The Tigers were guilty of 21 turnovers, which the Bulldogs converted into 19 points.
“I think the effort was there, but we’ve got to get to where we do a better job of finishing,” said LSU coach Johnny Jones. “We didn’t finish tonight because we didn’t take care of the ball. We had some crucial and untimely turnovers.”
“In crunch time, we’ve got to execute,” said Johnny O’Bryant III, who led LSU (9-6, 0-4) with 16 points and 14 rebounds. “We failed to do that when the game was tied and we failed to do that when we had leads. Georgia is a good basketball team, and we failed to execute against a good basketball team.”
O’Bryant was followed in the scoring column by Anthony Hickey’s 15 points. Freshman Malik Morgan, who was inserted into the starting lineup after Carmouche’s injury, tallied 11 points before fouling out with 3:25 remaining.
“I told Malik, ‘You’re a freshman but you’ve got to play like you’ve been there. You’ve been through the wars in practice with us, so you’re a veteran,’ ” Hickey said. “He had some big shoes to fill, but he was focused the whole way. He gave us some great minutes tonight, too.”
Georgia, which has been looking for offensive punch to complement Caldwell-Pope, got 14 points from Donté Williams and seven from Nemanja Djurisic.
Hickey hit a pair of 3-pointers at the 11-minute mark of the second half to give LSU a 45-44 lead, but the Bulldogs scored the next five points on a 3-pointer by Vincent Williams and two free throws by Djurisic to regain the advantage, which climbed to six points before the Tigers rallied to tie the game at 54-54 on a free throw by Hickey.
A three-point play by Donte’ Williams and another 3-pointer by Caldwell-Pope (he had two on the night) pushed Georgia’s lead to 59-54, and the Bulldogs closed out the game with an 8-4 run.
“We turned the ball over 20-something times, and I put that on my hands because I turned it over at the end and I’m the point guard,” said Hickey, who had two turnovers and two assists.
Although LSU managed to grab the advantage four times in the first half, the Tigers trailed 33-29 at halftime.
The Bulldogs had a size edge early on and took advantage, recording 16 first-half points in the paint and shooting 44 percent (12 of 27) from the field. LSU countered with 12 points from close range and shot 40 percent (10-of-25, including 3-of-10 on 3-pointers) in the first half.
Morgan led LSU with nine first-half points and gave his team a 21-18 lead at the nine-minute mark with two free throws and a layup. But Caldwell-Pope quickly got the Bulldogs, who limited their turnovers and 3-point attempts to six each, back into the picture with a 3-pointer at the 8:11 mark.
LSU’s last lead of the first half came at about the 7-minute mark at 23-21 when Morgan hit a field goal but Georgia — playing for nearly three minutes with Caldwell-Pope on the bench — outscored the Tigers 12-8 down the stretch, despite two field goals by O’Bryant, who finished the first half with seven points.
Despite the disappointment of another close loss, the Tigers — who host Texas A&M on Wednesday — were determined to take some positives away from Saturday’s game.
“We won’t back down, and we’ll keep fighting until we get it right,” Hickey said. “We’ll stay together and we won’t pull apart. We’re not worried about the record right now — we’re looking at that next game to try and get that win.”
“We played hard,” O’Bryant said. “We want to take that same energy, cut down on the turnovers and execute more, for the next game. We’ve got to keep our heads up.”
LSU shot 36 percent (18 of 50) from the floor while the Bulldogs made 22 of 47 field goals (46.8 percent). The Tigers were guilty of 21 turnovers to Georgia’s 16 and LSU’s bench posted eight points to the Bulldogs’ 15 points.