We’re still a dozen days from Christmas and LSU is running out of regular-season rope.
The far-from-ranked Bayou Bengals took on another loss Sunday night, falling 105-98 in overtime at Houston.
The Cougars bounced back in the extra session after LSU’s Keith Hornsby hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at 84 with seven seconds remaining. By that point, freshman of the year frontrunner Ben Simmons had long fouled out. So you had to figure LSU’s chances at taking one on the road against a 5-1 team were low.
Houston went on to outscore LSU 21-14 in overtime. Rob Gray, Jr. erupted in the bonus section, putting up 11 points. He wound up with a career-best 31. The Cougars are off to a fine start, but with a weak strength of schedule, there is still some proving to do. After all, beating LSU isn’t a signal of arrival; four teams in eight chances have defeated Johnny Jones’ team so far this year, which is why Jones’ team is in real danger of not making the NCAA Tournament.
Simmons, arguably the best overall player in college hoops, is seemingly helpless as the team around him fails to come through and play up to its potential. LSU now sits at 4-4, its best win coming on Wednesday against a North Florida team that’s arguably the best in the Atlantic Sun but, still, it’s not even a top-100 team in KenPom.
Seven of LSU’s eight games have featured a double-double from Simmons. He finished with 13 points and 14 rebounds once an offensive foul call on a post-up opportunity got him the hook. Even (possible) fellow future NBAer Tim Quarterman did his part, going for 27 points and 10 rebounds for LSU. Hornsby, finally back after battling injury, went for a career-high 32.
Yet, still, a loss. Sort of boggles the mind. The Tigers weren’t dominant on the boards, turned the ball over too often and let Houston thrive on second- and third-chance situations.
LSU’s issue is magnified by the fact it doesn’t have a non-conference schedule worth a hoot. KenPom ranks it 266th in the country. The Tigers host Garner-Webb on Wednesday, then finish up with Oral Roberts, American and Wake Forest — all at home — before SEC play begins. Even with four wins there, the victories won’t amount to much. The average KenPom ranking of those four teams is 170, with none ranking in the top 90.