LSU wins a (of course) close game for eighth straight victory

LSU sophomore forward Trendon Watford was voted to the All-SEC preseason first team by league media.

Once again, LSU apparently can’t stand having a comfortable lead.

And again, the Tigers won a one-possession game, a 69-67 victory at Texas after blowing a 16-point second-half lead.

LSU trailed 60-58 with 4:16 left, but the Tigers dug out another win hitting 7-of-8 free throws in the final four minutes.

Also, switching defenses from a man-to-man to a 1-3-1 zone resulted in Texas missing four straight shots to allow LSU to build a 67-62 lead with nine seconds left.

Freshman Trendon Watford scored a game-high 22 for the Tigers (15-4), winners of eight straight games. Skylar Mays and Javonte Smart added 10 each.

LSU has now won its last six games by a combined 15 points with three 2-point wins (Arkansas, Florida, Texas), one 1-point win (Mississippi State) and two 4-point wins (Texas A&M in overtime, Ole Miss)

Texas (12-7) was led by Andrew Jones, who came off the bench to score 20 points.

“We did a good job the last four or five minutes, we do what we do,” LSU coach Will Wade said. “We changed our defenses, made some big plays going to the rim, got some big steals and made some toughness plays.”

LSU hit its first 6-of-7 shots from the opening tip with Watford looking darned near unstoppable.

He had 12 points in the first 12 minutes of the game as the Tigers shot a 61 percent field goal clip including 3-of-4 3’s establishing a 28-20 lead at the 7:43 media timeout.

Texas managed to keep the lead a single-digit deficit by occasionally hitting a 3-point shot. The Tigers finally led by double figures in the last 3:34 of the half, leading by as many as 14 points at 42-28 on a Marlon Taylor lane jumper with 2:47 left.

Texas scored the last four points of the half to trail 42-32 at the break. The Tigers were empty in their last six possessions going 0-for-4 from the field and committing three turnovers.

“The end of the first half was really bad,” Wade said. “We turned the ball over two or three times. We played well and shot it well (for most of the half), and we should have been up 15, 16 points at halftime. That end of the first half sequence really, really hurt.”

LSU pushed the lead to 16 points at 48-32 by the 17:07 second-half media timeout, but just couldn’t put away the Longhorns. By the time the teams reached the 11:14 media timeout, Texas had cut LSU’s lead to 54-44. The Longhorns kept it going as the Tigers’ offense dissipated into turnovers and too many 3-point attempts instead of taking the ball inside.

“They (Texas) changed defenses, shrunk the court on us and we kept shooting a bunch of shots that weren’t high-percentage shots,” Wade said. “We didn’t move the ball enough to drive it. We were trying to drive it off one pass.”

Texas took advantage of LSU wandering away from its offensive strengths. A 12-2 Texas run sliced the Tigers’ advantage to 54-48 at the 7:38 media timeout with LSU hitting 1-of-8 field goals and committing five turnovers in a 7:37 stretch.

The Longhorns didn’t cool and LSU couldn’t find its shooting stroke. Lefty Matt Coleman’s shot clock-beating 3-pointer gave Texas its first lead at 58-56 with 4:53 left.

Realizing Texas was killing LSU’s man-to-man defense, Wade deftly switched to a 1-3-1 zone,

“They were torching our man,” Wade said. “We had to do something or we were going to keep doing the same thing and getting scored on.”

LSU returns home and dives back into SEC play for the rest of the regular season against Alabama at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. Alabama was 11-7 (4-2 SEC) heading into Saturday afternoon’s Big 12/SEC Challenge game against Kansas State in Tuscaloosa.

The Tigers also are in the PMAC next Saturday at 11 a.m. against Ole Miss, a game celebrating the 50th anniversary of LSU guard “Pistol” Pete Maravich becoming college basketball’s all-time leading scorer.

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