Baton Rouge, LA - LSU pulled away in the second half Saturday night to defeat a gritty McNeese State team 83-72.
Trailing 30-15 with eight minutes to play in the first half, McNeese (2-2) outscored the Tigers (4-2) 24-9 the rest of the way to tie the game 39-39 at the break after a floating jumper by Jamaya Burr with 2 seconds to play.
Burr's play was key to the Cowboys' comeback in the first half as he scored six of his eight first half points in the final 2 1/2 minutes but his aggressive play running the point and penetrating the lane cleared the way for some open shots on the outside. Desharick Guidry recorded his third straight double-double game with 17 points and a career-tying 14 rebounds while Burr added 13 points and five assists. Kevin Hardy added 12 points, five rebounds and five steals.
LSU was led by Jarell Martin's 26 points and 10 rebounds while Brian Bridgewater added 16 points.
"His presence (Bridgewater) made the difference," said McNeese head coach Dave Simmons. "That opened up some things for Martin."
The duo paced the Tigers to a 30-15 lead with just over eight minutes to play in the first half but got some help on the wide margin with the Cowboys hitting just 5 of third first 16 shots from the floor.
A Hardy layup with 8:38 to play started a run that saw McNeese chip away at the lead and ended with a missed LSU shot with eight seconds to play and a fast break floating jumper on the right side of the lane by Burr to tie the game at 39-all at the half.
"I thought we had a chance in the first half and got their legs a little weary," said Simmons. "We were looking for the same thing in the second half but they're a good ball team. It's tough to beat them on their home court."
McNeese took its first lead of the game at 19:25 after a Hardy 3-pointer made it 42-41. LSU retook the lead following a Tim Quarterman layup with 18:51 left to make it 43-42 but Keelan Garrett sank a trey six seconds later to put give the Cowboys their final lead at 45-43.
LSU built a four-point margin at 47-45 before Guidry tied things up at 47-47 with a layup with 17:13 to play. Bridgewater then scored half the points of an LSU 8-0 run to put the Tigers up 55-47 but instead of laying down, the Cowboys rallied back with five straight behind another Garrett three-pointer.
And after falling behind 81-63 with 4:20 to play, McNeese scored seven straight behind some nice play from true freshman forward Stephen Ugochukwu.
"He's coming along," said Simmons of Ugochukwu. "He got us some rebounds that we needed. We need to look at getting him more minutes."
Ugochukwu finished with seven points and seven rebounds in 12 minutes of action. Austin Lewis, who entered the game as the nation's top shot blocker with a 6.7 per game average, swatted just one against LSU and finished with six points and four rebounds.
The Cowboys connected on 45 percent from the field for the game (29-64) and hit 33 percent from long range (7 of 21) but was just 7 of 15 for 47 percent from the free throw line.
Meanwhile LSU hit 54 percent from the field (33-61) including 66 percent in the second half (19-29) and knocked down 12 of 18 from the charity stripe for 67 percent.
McNeese also missed out on several open layup chances and turned the ball over a season-high 15 times with LSU scoring 22 points off those miscues.
"We have to make smarter plays," said Simmons. I thought we got a little to fancy at times with trying to make behind the back passes, and missing some easy layups and I think it probably cost us. We had some opportunities but I'm proud of our kids. We fought hard and never gave up and we got better tonight."