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Inept offense dooms No. 16 Tennessee in 78-65 loss to LSU

LSU was clearly the better team on Saturday.

NCAA Basketball: Tennessee at Louisiana State
Jaden Springer had a good game, but the rest of the Tennessee offense did not.
Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 16 Tennessee Volunteers (14-5, 7-5) came into Saturday’s matchup against the LSU Tigers (13-6, 8-4) looking for a third straight win, but instead found its worst loss since the the Florida Gators blew them out three weeks ago.

Jaden Springer led Tennessee with 19 points on 6-of-14 shooting (2-of-4 from 3), but as a whole, Tennessee’s offense was not good at all. The Vols hit just 35% of their shots on the night and had 11 turnovers. LSU, on the other hand, went 52% from the floor that included a 33% mark from downtown.

Freshman Cameron Thomas led the Tigers with 25 points on 6-of-16 shooing (2-of-8 from 3). Including Thomas, the Tigers offense saw three players score 14-plus points en route to the convincing win.

Darius Days got things going with a quick bucket to give the Tigers a 2-0 lead, but Keon Johnson drained a 3 on the Vols’ next possession to give Tennessee a one-point lead. Javonte Smart immediately responded with a 3 of his own and then both teams traded buckets on their next two possessions. Another Tiger 3 —this time from Aundre Hyatt— made it a 10-5 game within the first 3:14 of the game.

Both teams combined for 5-of-6 shooting for the field during that span, but things quickly cooled off after. LSU and Tennessee went a combined 5-of-18 over the next 3:40. Tennessee went 1-of-8 before Jaden Springer pulled them out of the lull with a jumper to cut LSU’s lead to 12-9. Santiago Vescovi hit a 3 a few plays later to tie the game at 12 points apiece, but a Smart jumper put LSU back in the lead, 14-12, with 12:17 left in the first half.

Tennessee kept it within two points for a little longer, but Rick Barnes’ offense would go to miss its next 10 shots over the next 9:00 of the game, which allowed LSU to pull out to a 28-16 lead. LSU’s offense wasn’t a world-beater by any means; Tennessee’s offense was just that bad. Johnson finally ended Tennessee’s misery with a 3-pointer to make it a 28-19 game with 3:48 left in the first half.

Tennessee was able to snag seven more points and LSU closed the half on a 2:45 scoring drought, which allowed the Vols to cut the Tigers’ lead to 31-26 at halftime. The Vols shot a measly 9-of-21 from the floor that included a 4-of-13 mark from downtown during the first 20:00 of the game. Tennessee had just eight points in the paint, which is obviously not a good recipe for success.

The defense was hanging tough, though. LSU made 44% of its shots from the floor and 31% from downtown. Both offenses finished the first half on different trajectories, so the first 5:00 of the second half was going to be crucial for both teams.

Much like the first half, both offenses started off hot to begin the second half. 22 combined points were scored in the first 4:00 of the second half, but the Tigers were able to actually extend its lead by a point as they lead, 43-37, with 15:51 left in the second half.

Tennessee was able to cut LSU’s lead to four points, but a red-hot Tiger offense proceeded to hit three straight shots which became the catalyst to a 9-1 run that made it a 59-47 game with with 9:42 to go. Tennessee’s offense was in the midst of yet another lull, as it went over 3:30 without a made shot before a Josiah Jordan-James layup snapped the bucket-less streak.

The Vols offense just couldn’t do anything right. The inconsistency was already bad enough, but things became even worse when Tennessee turned the ball over five times in a span of 3:51. Those turnovers were the direct cause as to why LSU’s lead went from 10 points to 17 points with 5:10 left in the game. Big Orange’s fate was becoming more and more grim with each passing second.

A bad offense obviously isn’t ideal for this scenario and said offense never picked it up as Tennessee went on to lose, 78-65.

The Vols are now set to host the South Carolina Gamecocks in Thompson-Boling Arena. The opening tip is scheduled for 730PM EST on Tuesday, February 16.

You can check out the final score and stats here.