Last Modified: Wednesday, November 21, 2012 1:11 PM
BATON ROUGE (AP) — LSU appeared to be well on the way to its third straight victory Tuesday against Northwestern State.
Poor foul shooting down the stretch, however, enabled the Demons to cut into a comfortable Tigers lead. LSU finally made just enough free throws in the final seconds to hold on for a 102-95 victory.
The Tigers held a 21-point lead at 72-51 eight minutes into the second half. From that point on, the Tigers missed half of their 28 foul shots.
"If we execute at the foul line and make free throws, this game would have been over a lot earlier," LSU coach Johnny Jones said. "We knock our free throws down and it's a 20-point basketball game. At least at the end, the experienced guys were able to finish it off at the foul line."
The Tigers watched Northwestern State cut its deficit to single digits in the final four minutes. A basket by James Hulbin with 2:47 to play pulled the Demons to 88-82.
After Charles Carmouche made two foul shots, back-to-back baskets by DeQuan Hicks reduced LSU's lead to four points at 90-86 with 1:55 remaining. Northwestern State never made it a one-possession game.
A basket by Eddie Ludwig and a pair of free throws by Anthony Hickey and Carmouche left the Tigers in front 96-89 with 44 seconds to play. The Demons trailed by four points again at 97-93 when Shamir Davis made two free throws with 17 seconds remaining.
LSU finally clinched the victory when Ludwig made two free throws and Carmouche sank 3 or 4 foul shots in the final 15 seconds.
"To score 102 points was exciting," Jones said. "To give up 95 points at home was really discouraging. You can't give up 90 something points. I told the guys that if you give up that number, it's not going to be a good night for you."
Coleman was the leading scorer for the Tigers with 22 points. Hickey was most instrumental in LSU coming away with the victory as he accounted for a career-high 21 points, seven rebounds, six assists and five steals.
"We lost our focus when we were up," Hickey said. "We tried to hit a home run every time down. When we built our lead, everybody was making shots. People were making the extra pass, and the ball was going our way."
Carmouche and Johnny O'Bryant contributed 19 and 13 points, respectively. O'Bryant was back in the starting lineup after injuring his calf in the season opener 11 days ago. Carmouche and Hickey were a combined 19 of 25 at the foul line. Their teammates made just 10 of 26 free throws.
"We have great shooters," Jones said. "It's just a matter of them seeing the ball going through the net and being more confident. I am satisfied that we are able to sit here with a victory instead of having a setback that the free throw line caused."
Hulbin was the leading scorer for the Demons (3-1) with a season-high 29 points. Hicks, Northwestern State's top scorer, came off the bench and scored a season-high 28 points. Jalan West added 14 points for the Demons.
"We are a team that has to get after people and play for 40 minutes," Northwestern State coach Mike McConathy said. "We're not built for a half-court team. We've got to utilize the people we have and attack. Our two bigs (Hulbin and Hicks) scored 29 and 28 points. That was awesome."
After getting off to a slow start, LSU closed the first half on a 24-6 run to take a comfortable 14-point lead. The Tigers missed eight of their first 10 field goal attempts as they fell behind Northwestern State in the early minutes.
LSU took its first lead at 24-23 on a 3-pointer by Coleman with 8:37 remaining in the half. Sparked by Hicks' six points, the Demons moved ahead 32-28 with just under five minutes before halftime.
The Tigers then went on their run with Hickey and Andre Stringer leading the way. Consecutive 3-pointers by Hickey put LSU in front for good at 36-33. Two 3-pointers by Stringer and a couple of put back baskets by Andrew Del Piero gave the Tigers a 46-35 advantage.
Hickey and Stringer combined for six more points. Hickey made a basket and two foul shots, while Stringer made a runner with one second remaining to give LSU a 52-38 halftime lead. After their slow shooting start, the Tigers ended up making 50 percent (19-of- 38) of their first-half field goal attempts.
LSU didn't allow Northwestern State to reduce its deficit at the outset of the second half. With Malik Morgan making two field goals, the Tigers pushed their lead to 19 points at 64-45 on a 3-pointer by Coleman five minutes into the second half.
The Demons, who trailed by as many as 21 points, made things interesting when they pulled within 11 points at 80-69 with 6:05 remaining. O'Bryant answered with a three-point play for LSU. Northwestern State cut the Tigers' lead to 11 points on two more occasions in the next two minutes.
With LSU missing six consecutive foul shots, the Demons reduced its deficit to single digits at 86-77 on a basket by Hicks with 3:58 remaining. Northwestern State would pull within four points, but get no closer in the final minutes.