For the first time in seven seasons, LSU reached the 100-point mark against Northwestern State on Tuesday night.
Despite having a 21-point lead nearly halfway into the second half, the Tigers needed just about all of those points. Due to poor foul shooting, LSU frittered away most of its comfortable advantage before settling for a 102-95 victory against the Demons at the PMAC.
A basket by Malik Morgan with 12:14 remaining in the game put the Tigers on top 72-51. LSU proceeded to miss 10 of its next 15 foul shots. Northwestern State took advantage of the Tigers' poor free throw shooting and trailed by just six points at 88-82 with 2:47 left in the game.
Less than one minute later, the Demons' deficit was down to four points at 90-86 when DeQuan Hicks made a layup. Northwestern State would never make it a one-possession game. LSU didn't clinch the victory until both Eddie Ludwig and Charles Carmouche sank two foul shots in the last 20 seconds.
"If we would have executed offensively making our free throws, this game possibly could have been over a lot earlier," LSU coach Johnny Jones said. "We did not do that and it's just something that we have to continue to work on.
"At the end, the experienced guys were able to finish it off at the foul line. I am satisfied that we are able to sit here with a victory instead of having a setback that the free throw line caused."
The 102 points were the most by the Tigers since their 104-57 victory against Nicholls State in the season-opener seven years ago. But, Jones was more concerned about the 95 points scored by the Demons.
"We scored 102 points and that is exciting," Jones said. "We gave up 95 points at home which is really discouraging because I think we're a much better defensive basketball team.
"I told the guys in the locker room we can't give up 90-something points. You give up 90-something points more times than not and it's not going to be a good night for you. We just can't beat really good teams playing that way."
LSU trailed for most of the first half with its first lead coming when Shavon Coleman, who had a team-high 22 points, made a 3-pointer with 8:37 remaining. The Tigers fell behind 32-28 before closing the half on an Anthony Hickey-sparked run.
LSU outscored Northwestern State 24-6 over the final 4½ minutes. Hickey accounted for ten points, six resulting from consecutive 3-pointers, to put the Tigers on top for good at 36-33. Andre Stringer contributed three baskets, including two 3-pointers, in that stretch.
"Everybody was making shots when we were building our lead," said Hickey, who had career highs with 21 points and seven rebounds to go along with six assists and five steals. "People were making the extra pass and the ball was bouncing our way. We just lost focus when we were up in the second half."
The Tigers shot 49 percent from the field (32-of-66), including 36 percent on 3-pointers (9-of-25). But, LSU made only 57 percent of its free throws (29-of-51). Carmouche and Hickey were 19-of-25 at the line. Their teammates were 10-of-26.
"We work on free throws every day," said Coleman, who was 2-of-3 at the line. "We work a good 30 minutes on them. I don't know what we shot, but it was pretty bad. (Shooting free throws) can be fixed."
Coleman was back to coming off the bench as Johnny O'Bryant returned to the starting lineup. O'Bryant, who injured a calf in the opener against UC Santa Barbara 11 days earlier, played just 19 minutes as he fouled out. O'Bryant contributed 13 points and six rebounds.
"I felt pretty good," O'Bryant said. "The calf didn't bother me. I think I played a little rusty, but I had only practiced for two days. I think I did well. I tried to give my teams whatever I could."
Ludwig, who started in the post with O'Bryant, finished with four points and seven rebounds in 22 minutes. However, Ludwig committed five of LSU's 21 turnovers. Jalen Courtney was unavailable due to an injury, so Andrew Del Piero received meaningful playing time for the first time in his career.
Del Piero contributed two put-back baskets and a blocked shot during the Tigers' run late in the first half. He played six minutes - four in the first half.
"I don't want to say I was surprised I got called in the first half, but those were my first first-half minutes," Del Piero said. "I am excited for every minute I get on the floor. It was exciting for me. I was glad to give the team a boost."
Besides knocking down six foul shots in the final 2½ minutes, Carmouche was fairly steady all night long. In 29 minutes, Carmouche had 19 points, four assists and three steals. Morgan, who started with Carmouche on the wings, struggled again with just six points. He did make five steals.
Stringer only scored one point outside his flurry late in the first half. He missed three of his four foul shots. Shane Hammink had one point in 15 minutes. Backup point guard Corban Collins played just six minutes and sank a 3-pointer.
The Tigers will return to action Saturday night when Mississippi Valley State comes to the PMAC as the six-game season-opening homestand continues.