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About Last Night: LSU 83, Auburn 78

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A messy game goes the wrong way.

NCAA Basketball: Auburn at Louisiana State Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s go back to yesterday’s game, if you dare.

It followed the recent history of Auburn-LSU matchups across multiple sports. The Tigers (blue/orange) lost to the Tigers (yellow/purple) yesterday 83-78 after leading by 16 in the first half and hitting 11 three-pointers before halftime. Sounds a little bit like the last two seasons on the football field, where Auburn lost after holding double-digit leads both times.

Yesterday was frustrating, there’s no doubt. Auburn got manhandled by the much larger LSU players on the inside, allowing the Bayou Bengals to dominate in rebounding, points in the paint, and second-chance points. LSU got a ton of opportunities that were created by their more physical play on the interior.

Now, let’s not live under the delusion that this game was evenly called in that regard, but there’s something that Auburn can do about that. LSU has a reputation for playing physical and for swatting at the ball, causing turnovers. They’re going to get a little more leeway from the officials with reach-in fouls and hard plays in the paint. It’s the same story as South Carolina at their home arena, and it’s the same story that you’ll see with a ton of teams that predicate themselves on that type of physical play. LSU played their game, and Auburn couldn’t match up.

However, Auburn had every opportunity late to make it a game and that was taken away. The refs didn’t want to call two straight five-second calls on inbound plays, and both Jared Harper and Bryce Brown should have gotten three free throws on their game-tying shots. Let’s not forget that Harper’s three to pull Auburn within one possession went in while he got knocked down — with no call.

Those plays aside, Auburn led by 16 in the first half and lost. The three-point shooting didn’t last long enough, and LSU started to get hot. Yes, it sucks that it feels like Auburn was almost punished at the end by the refs, but we need to start playing like some badasses.

Remember how everyone else felt when the football team had Nick Fairley? It was awesome. Every other team got so mad, but you knew that a couple of penalties here and there were worth the absolutely ass-kicking that he was going to give the opposing offensive line every time out. I want that for our basketball team. I want someone who’s going to go out and get a little rough, and I want Auburn to cross that threshold where referees know that we’re not just a finesse team. We can power it in, and we can rough you up while we’re doing it. I want that. Once we get to that point, Auburn won’t seem to get a foul called on them every time someone gets a little handsy. We’ll have a little leeway. That starts in getting bigger players in here, and I think we’re on the right track for that.

There’s not much more to be said after yesterday. Auburn lost. We’re 5-5 now in the SEC with the following games coming up:

vs Ole Miss

@ Vanderbilt

vs Arkansas

@ Kentucky

@ Georgia

vs Mississippi State

@ Alabama

vs Tennessee

I could see Auburn finishing up really well, or really average. The road games aren’t that tough aside from Kentucky, although we do have to break some kind of voodoo streak in Nashville.

Either way, if Auburn can go 3-1 on the road, there’s a very good chance to finish the conference season with a winning record. Like a bunch of people have said, Auburn should make the tournament barring a complete and utter shutdown, and that’s an accomplishment in itself. Turning this program into a perennial NCAA Tournament attendee will breed more success. We caught lightning in a bottle last season, and we may get it again next year with a little luck in returning players. Enjoy it as best you can, despite the fact that it’s drawing years off of all our lives.