BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Very little came easily for LSU in a back-and-forth game against Louisiana Tech.
It was up to freshman Ja’vonte Smart to bail out the 22nd-ranked Tigers. Smart scored 16 points, and his late 3-pointer put LSU ahead for good in a 74-67 victory on Friday night.
“We found a way to get it done,” coach Will Wade said. “At the end of the day, the goal was to be 4-0 and we’re 4-0. We need to get better these next couple of days in practice. I did think our defense improved. We didn’t move the ball as well as we needed to on offense, but we can get some of that stuff corrected.”
The Bulldogs tied it at 62 on a jumper by Daquan Bracey with 2:29 remaining, but Smart hit his 3 on the next possession for the Tigers. LSU increased its lead to eight points on a layup by Kavell Bigby-Williams and three free throws by Skylar Mays.
Tremont Waters had 14 points for LSU, and Mays and Daryl Edwards each scored 12.
“I give a shout-out to Tremont for the assist on my 3-pointer,” Smart said. “I just stepped in and made the big shot. That’s what players do. I am a freshman, but I will take the shot. I played good. Coach told me to just keep attacking and my teammates told me to just keep attacking.”
Anthony Duruji led the Bulldogs (3-1) with 22 points. Sophomore Exavian Christon matched his career high with 15 points and Amorie Archibald had 10.
Archibald’s 3-pointer brought Louisiana Tech within 70-65 with 31 seconds remaining, but Waters and Edwards each hit a pair of free throws to seal the victory.
“We came here to compete and our guys fully expected to come in and win,” Louisiana Tech coach Eric Konkol said. “We’re disappointed we fell short of that. It was the turnovers (17) for us. We left a lot of shots out on the court by not taking care of the basketball enough.”
LSU led by as many as nine points in the first half, but Louisiana Tech closed within 36-33 at the break.
The Bulldogs took an eight-point lead with 12:39 remaining in the game. Duruji had nine points as Louisiana Tech outscored LSU 21-10 to start the second half. The Tigers responded with a 16-4 run to go ahead 62-58. Waters had five points during that stretch.
LSU: The Tigers were outrebounded and shot poorly from the free throw line (11 of 19) and from 3-point range (5 of 24), but they found a way to improve to 4-0 for the first time in six seasons.
LSU limited Louisiana Tech to nine points in the final 8:57. The Bulldogs missed nine of their final 12 field-goal attempts.
Louisiana Tech: The Bulldogs had their chance of coming away with a second impressive road victory in the first two weeks of the season. Louisiana Tech, which won at Wichita State in its season opener, scored only nine points in the final eight-plus minutes.
Naz Reid, LSU’s leading scorer at 19 points per game, did not start and was on the court for only 10 minutes because of an ankle injury. He scored four points.
Louisiana Tech lost Christon to a leg injury with 5:16 remaining in the game. Bracey, who was the Bulldogs’ top scorer in their season-opening victory against Wichita State, had missed the two previous games. Bracey played 18 minutes against the Tigers and scored only two points.
LSU extended its home-court winning streak to 11 games, its longest since it won 14 in a row in the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons.
LSU will play away from home for the first time when it meets Charleston in a first-round game of the Advocare Invitational Tournament in Orlando, Florida, on Thursday.
Louisiana Tech returns home to play NAIA member Tougaloo on Tuesday.
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