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Feb 22, 2016 10:07 AM EST

Ben Simmons Benched Briefly for Unspecified Academic Issue, LSU Suffers Tough Loss

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When LSU visited Tennessee on Saturday, freshman sensation Ben Simmons was noticeably absent from the starting lineup due to an unspecified academic issue.

However, he only missed about four-and-a-half minutes of game time and played the remaining 36 minutes, tying with Antonio Blakeney and two Tennessee players for the most in the game. LSU head men's basketball coach Johnny Jones said his star forward sat as a way to "get him focused."

"I had to address some academic stuff with him. It was early in the week, and it was an attention-getter for him," Jones said at his postgame press conference. "We are hopeful this will help get him closer to concentrating on what he should be doing."

When questioned on whether or not Simmons sitting to start the game had any effect on the outcome (Tennessee won 81-65), Jones said he did not think so. Simmons scored 21 points on 9-16 shooting, adding nine rebounds and two assists, though he turned the ball over eight times.

Sam Vecenie wrote an opinion piece for CBS Sports that was highly critical of Jones' Tigers for being "listless" and "lifeless" against the "undermanned" Volunteers. He also called Simmons' benching "ironic" since all that stands between him and the NBA Draft is a few more basketball games.

Nicole Auerbach worte for USA Today that LSU had only itself to blame for its recent struggles and pointed to the players' body language as the evidence for their lack of effort.

The loss puts LSU at a disadvantage to win an at-large bid for the NCAA Tournament, even despite Simmons' dominant season. The Tigers are tied for second in the SEC with Texas A&M and South Carolina, and all three are just a game behind Kentucky.

With just four games remaining, and a season finale against Kentucky, LSU may well need to win out to keep its tourney hopes alive.

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