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Shorthanded LSU Pulls Out 70-64 Win Over Texas A&M

Clutch free throws down the stretch help Tigers pull off tight game down the stretch

The free throw line hadn't been LSU's friend but clutch makes down the stretch helped a shorthanded Tigers squad pull off a 70-64 win over Texas A&M.

LSU (16-4, 4-4) capped the game on a 9-0 run, fueled by six free throws down the stretch from Eric Gaines, who also came up with a block that will be remembered for quite a long time.

The 13-2 run to finish the game without the team's three best players in Xavier Pinson, Darius Days and Tari Eason really was a springboard for this young team to build on moving forward. 

The offensive approach did look a bit different as Wade hinted. There was more of an emphasis of getting the ball downhill, drawing contact and finishing at the rim but it was certainly tough sledding at times. 

"Great, great win. We found a way," Wade said. "I thought Eric Gaines played his best game here. Just proud of our guys. We made the free throws when it mattered. To play the last 12 minutes without Tari, just very proud of the group. 

Down Pinson and Days, the flow of the offense was still erratic at times but the young players really stuck with the gameplan and didn't fall into the trap of settling for jump shots. The Tigers still had their dry spells offensively throughout the night but sticking with the aggressive, down hill approach did have its benefits.

The purple and gold would shoot 35 free throws on the night, capitalizing on 24 of them while Texas A&M relied more on its outside shooting. It was an area that really could've come back to bite the Tigers if not for some of the play in the second half.

Both teams would trade runs in the first half, with LSU carrying a marginal 34-31 lead into the break. 

Wade would switch up the lineups out of necessity, with Alex Fudge, Tari Eason and Justice Williams all drawing their first starts of the season. But it was freshman Brandon Murray, who really flashed off the bench early and was the catalyst for the Tigers in this one. 

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Murray was the only one who appeared to be comfortable taking a jump shot at times as LSU's offense fell into a bad dry spell at the worst time. Clinging to a three point lead with over 15 minutes to go, LSU would go on a four minute scoring drought that consisted of five turnovers, allowing the Aggies to grab a three point lead. 

"Gaines was great, Murray was great and I thought those guys made plays and made things happen," Wade said. "We still got a lot of growth to go but I'm very proud of those guys." 

With Eason hobbled much of the second half, the responsibility fell on Murray to carry this team with three of its top scorers down and the freshman responded with a team high 21 points. Gaines would tack on 16 more for the game to go along with six rebounds and four steals, really showing up down the stretch once again.

"We're attacking more, we're being aggressive and staying aggressive," Murray said.

"We ran up the foul count early and once we did that coach said just keep attacking," Gaines added.  

The halfcourt offense which had its moments in the first half was non existent for much of the second half. LSU would turn up the pressure with its full court press in the hopes that defense would lead to more offense. 

But the sloppiness in transition started to catch up with the Tigers in the second half as well. LSU would match the Aggies in turnovers with 18 a piece but just weren't nearly crisp enough in turning them into points down the stretch. Nevertheless, the aggressive nature of this team allowed for some exciting basketball to go in their favor and pull out a much needed win. 

Up next the Tigers will take on TCU in the Big 12 challenge on Saturday.

"We needed the win. We couldn't lose another one, especially at home," Gaines said. "We had to get to win and we did what we needed to do."