Houston outshoots LSU in 84-83 defeat

The LSU Basketball team, propelled by a thrilling 71-68 overtime win at then 13th-ranked West Virginia last Saturday, held a pre-December, top-25 spot for the first time since 1991 when it entered Tuesday's contest against Houston.

But, it was long time in, short time out for the 25th-ranked Tigers as they dropped what looked to be a sure win to the Cougars 84-83 in front of 5,802 cheery turned sour fans at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.


"We're a work in progress," said LSU Coach John Brady of his young squad that played three and often four freshmen during the contest. "Obviously we've got a ways to go."


Houston's record improved to 2-1 on the early season, setting up a nationally-televised home showdown against Arizona Saturday. LSU fell to 3-1 and will take an extended final exam break before returning to the home court against McNeese December 10. The win marked the third-straight for Houston over LSU.


The Tigers held what seemed like a comfortable 43-31 halftime lead. But that fat advantage got skinny fast when LSU committed eight turnovers in the first 5:00 of the second half and Houston responded with an 18-3 run to take a 49-46 lead with 15:28 to play.


"We turned it over six out of seven times and they scored seven out of eight, therin kind of set the tone for the second half," Brady said. "The mistakes that we made with the ball to start the second, we weren't able to overcome it."


Baton Rouge native and last year's Division II player of the year Oliver Lafayette gave the Cougars the three-point advantage on a lay-up following a Glenn Davis turnover. Lafayette claimed the bulk of the Cougars' second-half offensive eruption mostly from beyond the three-point line where he connected on 5-6 long-range shots after halftime.


"It feels good to come back here and get a win over my team," Lafayette said. "The goal felt too big. Everything I shot in the second half felt good. Coach just told me to keep on shooting."


Lafayette led the Cougars and easily led all scorers with a career-high 32 points, making 12-20 shots overall including a handful of free throws late in the contest to keep the Houston lead just beyond LSU's reach. The Cougars made 8-10 three-point baskets in the second half and 13 threes in the game.


"I don't think their guys were running out there with their feet set for all those shots," Brady said. "They made some tough shots and I thought we played them tough on defense. But, tonight they looked like they were the best team in the country."


Brady said he felt like his team played well on offense which was the only reason the final score was close. The Tigers shot 58.2 percent from the floor and out-rebounded Houston 42-20.


Darrell Mitchell, LSU's long-range ace, led the Tigers with 25 points followed closely by freshman forward Tyrus Thomas' 21. Thomas hit a half-court basket as time expired to cut the lead to 84-83 and give the final score a closer-than-it-was appearance.


LSU committed 13 turnovers in the second half, 22 in the game, its highest total of the season. The Tigers struggled mightily from the free throw line as well hitting just 6-15 second-half charity shots and just 14-27 for the game. 


The turnovers combined with the anemic free throw effort by LSU kept the Houston lead between three and five points for most of the second half. The Cougar lead swelled to 78-70 with 2:59 to play when Lafayette connected again, this time from inside the arc.


LSU scraped back in a bit but lacked the 3-point fire power to challenge down so much with so little time remaining. Mitchell and Thomas combined on three layups to cut the Cougar lead to 78-76 with 1:29. But the Cougars extended the lead back to four, then six points by making just half of its late free throws and keeping LSU from launching three-pointers.


"Now, the team decides which way it needs to go," Brady said. "We are still in a learning curve. We just need to be a little more aggressive, a little more tougher with the ball and make some better decisions."

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