A year ago, Georgia Tech came to State Farm Arena as a team reeling. The Yellow Jackets had started their season with humbling losses to Georgia State and Mercer, and now faced powerhouse Kentucky.

Tech found itself in a 79-62 blowout win of the Wildcats, the first eyebrow-raising result for a season that culminated with Tech’s first ACC championship since 1993 and first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2010.

The scenario was similar Saturday night at State Farm for the second college Holiday Hoopsgiving event. Another two-game losing streak, another SEC opponent.

The results could not have been more divergent. No. 25 LSU played to its defensive strengths and exploited the Jackets’ weaknesses in a 69-53 defeat for Tech. The Jackets (5-4) saw their losing streak extend to three games, their longest since a three-game slide in January 2020. LSU (9-0) forced the Jackets into a season-high 24 turnovers and limited them to 41.7% shooting from the field, including 27.3% in the second half (6-for-22).

“We just can’t turn it over like that,” coach Josh Pastner said. “That’s been a common theme for this year, unfortunately, and that falls on me.”

LSU, which entered the game ranked sixth in Division I in defensive efficiency, very much looked the part. With long-bodied, agile defenders, the Tigers deflected passes, trapped Tech players against the sideline and challenged shots. Tech lost the ball 11 times on steals (tied for a season high) and had six of its shots blocked (season high). LSU started the game first in Division I in field-goal percentage defense (33.1%), third in scoring defense (53.8 points per game), third in steals (12.5 per game) and eight in turnovers forced (19.4 per game).

“They want to be in passing lanes, they want to get steals. That’s how they operate,” guard Michael Devoe said. “That’s how they get a lot of their points. For us, we just had to be sound, and we didn’t do a great job (Saturday).”

The game was lost for the Jackets during a six-minute stretch after Tech guard Michael Devoe scored on a layup at the 10:41 mark of the second half to cut the lead to six, at 50-44. Over the next six-plus minutes, the Jackets scored once in 10 possessions as LSU put the game away with a 12-2 run.

Forced into bad passes, unable to consistently create scoring chances and often missing the ones they generated, the Jackets’ only score in that stretch didn’t even go through the basket – it was credited to Jordan Usher on a goaltend.

Devoe, the leading scorer in Division I at 23.6 points per game, was held to 12 points on 4-for-8 shooting with five turnovers.

“I felt like I played a terrible game this game,” Devoe said. “Not even just making shots or anything like that. It’s just my leadership on the floor. I’ve got to be better.”

Devoe was speaking to media after the game from the locker room via videoconference, with Pastner waiting behind him to take his turn. After Devoe confessed his poor play, Pastner stepped forward, turning the camera towards him and absolving Devoe.

“It’s not on Michael, it’s on me,” Pastner said. “Because we’ve had an issue this season with turnovers. We didn’t get it done and it’s been a constant theme of us turning it over. So I’ve got to help our guys be better not turning it over. That falls on the head coach, not on any player.”

Perhaps as much as any game this season, the Jackets’ struggles without their linchpins from their ACC championship team – ACC player of the year Moses Wright and ACC defensive player-of-the-year Jose Alvarado – were made clear Saturday night. Tech center Rodney Howard, Wright’s low-post successor, finished with seven points on 3-for-11 shooting and three rebounds. Point guards Deivon Smith and Kyle Sturdivant combined for six points on 2-for-9 shooting, with two assists and seven turnovers.

Tech also surely could have used guard Bubba Parham, who continues to rehabilitate his right knee after tearing his meniscus before the season. Usher led the Jackets with 15 points and six rebounds, but also turned the ball over six times.

Pastner took some encouragement in the Jackets’ defensive play. The Jackets’ aggressive and challenging play contribute to LSU having its poorest game of the season in terms of its KenPom offensive efficiency score, 90.8, which was also far better for Tech compared to its defensive numbers in preceding losses to Wisconsin (110.3) and North Carolina (119.6). The Jackets did surrender 16 offensive rebounds to the Tigers, which they converted into 19 second-chance points.

The combination of 24 turnovers and LSU’s 16 offensive rebounds enabled the Tigers to take 61 shots to Tech’s 48.

“Look, you’re going to have some turnovers, you’re going to give up some offensive rebounds,” Pastner said. “You’re not going to be zero and zero. But 40 (the sum of Tech’s turnovers and offensive rebounds allowed), that’s not acceptable. That’s not our standard. We’ve got to correct that in a hurry.”

Pastner repeatedly has stated his belief in the Jackets’ potential this season and his confidence that they will be a better team as the season goes on. That progress may reveal itself in weeks to come, but the road will continue to be difficult. Tech’s next game will come Saturday in Phoenix against No. 16 USC.