Tigers edge Houston in closing moments

The absence of junior guard Collis Temple III was telling in LSU's 60-59 loss to the University of New Orleans earlier this week. His presence against Houston at the Maravich Assembly Center on Thursday night helped the Tigers post a 73-69 win over the Cougars. Temple, who suffered a high ankle sprain last weekend that kept him out of action against UNO, led the Tigers with 22 points

The most important of that total came in the form of a 3-pointer with 48 seconds to play that tied the score, 69-69.

When Houston tried to retake the lead, Temple made a steal and started a transition with a long pass to Ronald Dupree, who found Brad Bridgewater near the goal for a slam dunk that gave LSU a permanent lead with 25 seconds left. Bridgewater finished with a career-high 16 points against the Cougars.

"You can look at the stat sheet and say, ‘How did LSU win?'" said LSU coach John Brady. "(Houston) shot better, rebounded better and made more trips to the free throw line. I think the key stat was that they had more turnovers than we did."

The most costly turnovers for Houston came down the stretch when the Cougars had two more chances to tie or take the lead but lost the ball each time. Torris Bright put the lid on the game with two free throws with 1.5 seconds on the clock.

The win improved LSU's record to 9-2 while Houston dropped to 5-4. The Tigers now head into their holiday break before returning to action against Miami in the Sugar Bowl Classic on Dec. 27 at New Orleans Arena.

The game was a close affair from the start with Houston staying within striking distance of LSU throughout the opening half. Although the Tigers moved ahead by nine, the Cougars cut the lead to two by halftime. Even LSU's 11-point lead in the second half wasn't safe, as Houston scored 11 unanswered points to tie the score at 55-55 with 9:54 to go in the game.

The Cougars took their first lead, 61-59, at the 6:33 mark on two free throws from Louis Truscott. The largest lead for the visitors, 65-61, came when George Williams nailed a 15-foot jumper from the left wing with 5:06 to play. Williams led Houston with 22 points, and Truscott added 16 to go with his game-high 13 rebounds.

Houston was leading 69-66 when the Tigers went into their rotation offense to create a scoring opportunity for Temple, who had just five points in the first half. With the ball moving around, Temple moved into the corner of the court. After using a pump fake to decoy the Houston defense, Dupree fed the ball to Temple who made good on his 3-pointer to tie the game.

"I had a rough time in the first half trying to get going," said Temple. "I was able to get it straight in the second half. I said a little prayer at halftime. My teammates had enough confidence in me to get me the ball, and I had enough confidence in my shot to take the ones that were open."

Bridgewater was the hottest shooter on the court for LSU, hitting 8-of-11 on the night against Houston. Most of his baskets were at close range, coming on dunks and jump hook he's added to his repertoire.

"I'm getting confidence in my shot," Bridgewater said. "I was sick about a week ago and didn't start after I wasn't able to practice. I understood why that happened and I wasn't upset. But I came back from that and wanted to show in practice that I was ready to contribute.

"I don't know if I will be scoring 16 or 20 points a night, but I know I can do what my teammates need me to do to help us win."

Bright totaled 19 points in the game, with all but two coming in the first half. He led the Tigers with four steals but committed five turnovers against four assists.

It was Dupree's turn to have an off-night offensively. The junior forward scored a season-low 7 points but offset his lack of scoring with six assists and a team-high five rebounds.

The Tigers shot 29-of-58 as a team and were out-rebounded, 34-24. Houston shot 50.9 percent (28-55) from the field and hit 10 of their 14 chances at the free throw line, compared to 8-of-13 foul shooting from LSU. LSU held an edge on 3-pointers, making 7-of-23 attempts against Houston's 3-for-9 showing.

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