BATON ROUGE, La. — The LSU basketball team has made such a habit of playing with fire, it’s sort of surprising anyone on the team still has his eyebrows and fingerprints.
Despite playing close all game, LSU outlasted Charleston, getting revenge for a loss last year with a 75-65 win at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. With the victory, LSU improved to 8-2 on the season, including a perfect 7-0 record at home.
The game was tied with as little as 1:30 remaining, when Charleston evened the score at 65. But LSU followed the equalizer with a go-ahead layup from Brandon Sampson, who finished with 20 points, and Charleston promptly turned the ball over to LSU on a traveling violation. Counting the tie-breaking score, LSU finished the game on a 10-0 run.
In typical LSU fashion, the Tigers struggled to separate in the first half. LSU went into halftime with a 37-32 lead, but Duop Reath, Craig Victor and Sampson accounted for 30 of those points, while the Tigers turned the ball over 8 times.
Player of the Game: Craig Victor
Victor might not have had the most impressive stat line, but it was almost indisputable that Victor was LSU’s most important player Monday night.
When Victor went out with three fouls early in the second half, he left with LSU leading, 49-36. By the time he returned to action, Charleston had cut LSU’s lead to 53-48.
This isn’t to minimize Victor’s more tangible contributions. The junior shot 5 for 6 from the field, connecting for 18 points and 10 rebounds. It was Victor’s second consecutive double-double.
Stat of the Game: Blakeney’s points
Coming into the day as LSU’s leading scorer with 16.9 points per game, Antonio Blakeney was a virtual nonfactor Monday, putting up just 7 points. Sampson more than made up for Blakeney’s struggles, but without Blakeney’s regular output, LSU allowed Charleston to stay in this game far longer than it should’ve.
Turning Point: The travel
From the time LSU took a timeout with the score tied at 60 with 4:04 remaining until Sampson’s layup with less than 90 seconds left, LSU and Charleston traded scores for a handful of possessions. And the game seemed poised to continue at that pace were it not for Charleston’s steps.
After the turnover, Charleston had no options left but to foul LSU, taking the Tigers to the line and eventually into the win column.
What’s next for LSU basketball?
LSU will head to Winston Salem, N.C., for its first true road game of the season Thursday, facing off against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. Wake Forest is 8-3 on the season and has the No. 16 RPI in the country. Two of Wake’s three losses are against Villanova and Xavier, teams ranked first and third, respectively, in the RPI.