Ja'vonte Smart had a team-high 18 points for the Tigers Wednesday night
Gus Stark

No. 24 Houston Comes Back for Hoops Win, 82-76

Kent Lowe (@LSUkent)
Kent Lowe (@LSUkent)
Communications Sr. Associate

HOUSTON, Texas – The LSU Tigers couldn’t sustain a strong first half and suffered a dry spell from the field in the first 10 minutes of the second half that allowed No. 24 Houston to rally and take an 82-76 victory over the Tigers here Wednesday night at the Fertitta Center.

The Tigers are now 7-3 on the season going to a Saturday night game in Las Vegas against Saint Mary’s of California in the Neon Hoops Showcase. Houston is now 9-0 and won for the 22nd consecutive time on their home court.

LSU suffered its ninth consecutive road loss in the contest.

Ja'vonte Smart led LSU with 18 points on the night with Naz Reid contributing 13 points, Marlon Taylor 11 points and Tremont Waters 10 points.

Houston was led by Galen Robinson, Jr., with 18 points and six assists, while Cedrick Alley Jr. and Armoni Brooks each had 13 and Fabian White Jr. added 10.

The game was a free throw shooting contest from the outset and when the last of 51 fouls was called in the game both teams had shot 38 free throws with LSU making 29 and Houston making 26. Houston had a big edge in rebounding, 48-35, with an 18-12 advantage in offensive boards. The Cougars took more advantage of LSU’s 16 turnovers than the Tigers did with Houston’s 15 miscues as Houston got a 20-9 advantage in points off turnovers.

Second chance points was also way in favor of Houston, 18-6.

But the Tigers battled their way to a 10-point halftime advantage, 45-35, and then to 12 on a Reid field goal at the 19:47 mark on LSU’s first possession of the second half. That would be LSU’s last field goal make for over 10 minutes until Darius Days got a layup at the 9:10 mark of the game.

So much happened between that Reid field goal and the Days bucket. First, LSU would extend their lead to 15 points, 50-35, with 19:04 to play as Smart was fouled on a three-point attempt and would make all three.

Houston began to chop into the lead and got it under 10 at the 14:32 mark on a Brooks three-pointer that made it 53-46. The Tigers were able to withstand the runs by making free throws for a time and pushed the lead back to nine at 57-48, with 11:58 to play, but Houston had the game down to three at 59-56 after the Days bucket at the 9:10 mark.

The teams traded a Houston two for a Days three to make it 62-58 in favor of the Tigers, but Houston ran off the next eight points to take the lead for good and go up 66-62 with 6:44 left.

LSU was able to get back within one on two occasions and two on three others but could never get the deciding stop from Houston and then couldn’t convert on offensive possessions in the final two minutes.

The Tigers shot just 36.8 percent from the field (21-of-57) but only 7-of-26 in the second half (26.9%). LSU made five treys. Houston shot 41.9 percent overall (26-of-62) making just 4 treys.

In the first half of a game that featured nine ties and eight lead changes, the Tigers asserted themselves in the final 2:31 of the opening stanza, outscoring Houston, 12-2. Smart had a field goal, then Taylor made a couple of free throws to make it 37-33. Both teams had a turnover and then Houston missed a shot that led to a Taylor fast break field goal that made it 39-33.

After a Houston timeout, the Cougars got a quick score, but Smart got an old-fashioned three-point play on a hoop in the paint and a free throw to push it to 42-35 in favor of the Tigers and Skylar Mays, who saw his double figure scoring streak stopped at seven games, hit a three for the halftime margin of 45-35.

POSTGAME QUOTES
LSU COACH WILL WADE
“Our offense got stagnant in the second half. We just couldn’t move the ball. That hurt us and they (Houston) just pinned their ears back. Their guards getting rebounds, we couldn’t block their guards out. We had a couple rebounds slip through our hands down there. We couldn’t finish plays. We couldn’t finish the game off. We came on the road and played a really good ball club like Houston and played one pretty good half and we played about six minutes of another half. Twenty-six minutes is not enough.”

On LSU’s turnovers and allowing Houston to get offensive rebounds
“You’re not going to win when you turn the ball over 16 times and allow 18 offensive rebounds. We gave up 11 (offensive rebounds) in the second half.”

HOUSTON COACH KELVIN SAMPSON
“I thought Coach Will Wade did a great job of getting his team prepared. They had a good plan, but the game got really discombobulated. With the free throw situation, our top four guys were on the bench with either two or three fouls for a large amount of the first half. We were trying to figure out how to run with a team on the floor. You can’t plug the same offense in with a different group of kids; everybody has different strengths. We had a game plan, but it got thrown off the side of the boat real fast because of all the foul trouble.

“I thought LSU outplayed us in the first half. Sometimes you have to give credit to the other team instead of poormouthing your own team. LSU did a good job, and they have excellent players. Even though we were down by ten, and then by 15, I’ve been around this group enough to know we can do it.
They took Corey Davis and Armoni Brooks away, which was smart. There towards the end, we finally executed well and got Brooks some looks in the corner. Davis was out of it, but at least he came back and made four big free throws.

“At practices going into every game, we work extremely hard at rebounding shots on both ends. We missed 36 shots tonight and had 18 offensive rebounds; that means we rebounded 50 percent of our misses. On a night that we didn’t shoot the ball well, getting 13 on the boards was big. Our toughness in the second half is what made us pull through, but congratulations to Coach Wade and his staff. You can tell that they worked efficiently in this game. They put time and effort into their game plan and they were ready. Their coaching staff and players alike did a great job. I was really impressed with LSU freshman guard, Ja'vonte Smart; he’s going to be a great player …”

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