Johnson, Auburn deliver LSU a 14th-straight loss, 98-75
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) Auburn coach Bruce Pearl spoke optimistically about the direction of his program, which had just guaranteed its first winning season in eight years.
Johnny Jones, who played and served as a young assistant during one of LSU’s most successful eras, could only try to come to grips with how grim things have gotten on his watch as head coach.
Ronnie Johnson scored 17 points and Auburn snapped a three-game skid with a 98-75 victory that sent LSU to a school-record-tying 14th straight loss on Tuesday night.
LSU (9-18, 1-14 Southeastern Conference) allowed 90 points for the 10th time this season as Jones’ fifth campaign with the program continued to unravel – with athletic director Joe Alleva and two top assistants looking on together directly across from the LSU bench. LSU trailed by as many as 26 in what became its worst home loss to Auburn.
”It’s certainly been difficult. It’s not anything that I’ve been through (before),” said Jones, who played for LSU in the early 1980s and served as an assistant for about a decade under Dale Brown. ”I’ve been blessed that I’m built for what we’re going through, meaning that I’ve got to try to guide a group of men through this.
”Obviously you know that you’ve got a fan base out there that you certainly want to satisfy. You’ve got to understand what they’ve got to be going through,” Jones continued. ”We look at it obviously as there’s a reason that we’re going through it and we’ve got to stay the course until we can break our way out of it.”
Danjel Purifoy and Bryce Brown each scored 15 for Auburn (17-11, 6-9), which swept a season series from LSU for the first time in seven years. Brown scored all of his points on 5-of-8 shooting from 3-point range.
Pearl, in his third season at Auburn, said it’s important when rebuilding a program to ”point out the little things that you haven’t done in a long time,” and was eager to discuss the significance of clinching a winning record.
”Recently Auburn basketball has been one of the programs that has been weighing the league down when we’re trying to get more teams in the tournament,” Pearl said. ”The fact that we’re more competitive, it’s just progress and it means a lot.”
LSU’s Antonio Blakeney scored 29 points – two short of his season high – but was the only LSU player to score in double figures. Blakeney has now scored at least 20 in five straight. When asked to describe whether the words ”sadness, frustration or embarrassment” best described the team’s emotions, Blakeney and teammate Brandon Sampson said in unison, ”All three.”
After falling down by 12 early, LSU rallied to tie it four times late in the first half and again at 45 on Blakeney’s 3 to open the second half.
Soon after, however, Auburn scored 10 straight – highlighted by Brown’s consecutive 3s – and led the rest of the way.
Auburn: Pearl has said he hopes his team can build a solid NIT Tournament resume with a strong finish to what has been a difficult SEC campaign. A lopsided road win will at least point Auburn in that direction. Having won by only four points when it hosted LSU, Auburn found the latest meeting a lot easier with Purifoy in the lineup this time. T.J. Dunans added 11 points and Mustapha Heron had 10 points and nine rebounds.
LSU: The only other times LSU lost 14 straight were in the in back-to-back seasons, 1965-66 and 1966-67. Pete Maravich was a freshman in the ’66-’67 season and freshmen did not play on the varsity squad back then. LSU shot only 34.5 percent (10 of 29) in the second half after shooting a more competitive 46.7 percent in the (14 of 30) in the first half.
Auburn hosts Arkansas on Saturday night
LSU visits Georgia on Saturday evening.
More AP college basketball: www.collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25