- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 13, 2016

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Antonio Blakeney made two field goals in the final four minutes to lift LSU a 70-66 non-conference victory over North Carolina Central on Tuesday.

Two baskets following offensive rebounds by Will Ransom enabled the Eagles to tie the score at 65-65 with 4:45 remaining in the game. Blakeney made the only field goal attempts by either team the rest of the way.

Blakeney sank a jumper with 3:59 left to break the tie, and after North Carolina Central’s Patrick Cole made one of two free throws, hit another with 2:42 left. Neither team scored again until the Tigers’ Brandon Sampson made a foul shot with nine seconds to go.

“Coming off a 14-day layoff, we knew we wouldn’t be hitting on all cylinders,” LSU coach Johnny Jones said. “Our guys did a good job in the second half of playing with the effort we needed. With a few minor adjustments on the defensive end, we made it tough for them.”

Blakeney scored a season-high 27 points, 18 in the second half. Duop Reath added 14 points and Sampson had 13 for LSU (6-2), which trailed by 13 points on three occasions in the first half.

“The mentality was to play defense in the second half,” Blakeney said. “They were really shooting the ball in the first half. We wanted to play defense and take our offense to the next level. I was just trying to be aggressive. I wanted to draw plays out and knock the shot down.”

Cole scored 19 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and handed out nine assists. Dajuan Graf had 18 points and Ransom scored 10 points for the Eagles (6-5).

“It was a tale of two halves,” North Carolina Central coach LeVelle Morton said. “We caught them rusty a little bit. They haven’t played in a while, so we kind of shocked them. We really executed in the first half. We didn’t finish the game down the stretch and that’s on me.”

BIG PICTURE

LSU: The Tigers remained unbeaten at home with their fifth victory. For the third time this season, LSU won after trailing at halftime.

NORTH CAROLINA CENTRAL: The Eagles came very close to knocking off their second Southeastern Conference team this season. NC Central beat Missouri 62-52 last month.

SECOND HALF TEAM

LSU continued to play much better after halftime. The Tigers outscored NC Central 34-23 over the final 20 minutes. LSU defeated Wofford and Old Dominion earlier this season after trailing at halftime. In the Tigers’ previous game against Houston, they outscored the Cougars by 18 points in the second half while going on to an 84-65 victory.

NEAR QUADRUPLE-DOUBLE

Patrick Cole, NC Central’s top scorer at 21 points per game, almost reached double digits in four statistical categories. Cole contributed 19 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. In addition, Cole committed 10 of the Eagles’ 19 turnovers. Cole had a potential game-tying 3-point shot blocked by Brandon Sampson with 12 seconds remaining in the game.

SOLID POST TANDEM

Both Duop Reath and Craig Victor, LSU’s two starting posts, came close to registering double-doubles. Reath, who was 7-of-9 from the field, had 14 points and eight rebounds. Victor, who missed nine of his 12 field goal attempts, accounted for eight points and a season-high 11 rebounds.

UP NEXT

LSU: The Tigers will play Texas Southern Saturday.

NORTH CAROLINA CENTRAL: The Eagles continue their two-game swing through Louisiana when they meet McNeese State in Lake Charles on Saturday.


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