The LSU basketball team finished its unbeaten November shooting 55.9 percent from the foul line, but the Tigers were very good shooting free throws when it mattered most.
LSU went 14-of-23 from the line in the final 3:10 of a 102-95 victory over Northwestern State, then made 7-of-8 in the last 1:27 of a 62-57 win against Seton Hall.
For the season, the Tigers are 23-of-33 (69.7 percent) on free throws in the final five minutes of games.
“I never really harped on it when we weren’t knocking them down because I know we have some very capable shooters,” LSU coach Johnny Jones said. “The last thing I wanted to do was get in their psyche.”
One reason LSU has finished strong at the line is because the Tigers have gotten their best free-throw shooters there late in games.
Charles Carmouche (the team leader at 76 percent from the line) has taken 12 of the 33 free throws by LSU in the final five minutes. Anthony Hickey (73.3 percent) and Andre Stringer (66.7 percent) have combined to take 12 more.
Although the loudest roars from the Pete Maravich Assembly Center crowd Thursday came as LSU overcame a 16-point second-half deficit, the ovation senior center Andrew Del Piero received before tip-off would have registered pretty high on the old “Deaf Dome” meter.
Del Piero, who gave up his band scholarship to join the basketball program as a walk-on two years ago, earned a scholarship from Jones this fall. Thursday, he earned his first career start.
Del Piero, 7-foot-3, began playing significant minutes for the first time early this year.
“What he has done in practice and how he has carried that over into the games has earned him that opportunity,” Jones said. “And I think our fans recognize that and appreciate that hard work pays off. We hope we can continue to get great minutes out of Andrew throughout the season.”
Fans in the student section chanted “TU-ba! TU-ba!” as Del Piero, who played that instrument during two years as a band member, was introduced with the other starters.
The fan favorite held his own early, scoring two points, grabbing two rebounds and blocking one shot in the first half. But he played only eight minutes, in large part because LSU dumped its half-court offense and went to a full-court press early in the second half.
Former LSU point guard Randy Livingston spent Thursday night watching the man who recruited him lead the Tigers to their biggest win of the young season.
Livingston signed with Jones, then an LSU assistant, and the Tigers as one of the nation’s top prospects coming out of Newman in New Orleans two decades ago. His college career was derailed by knee injuries, but Livingston still managed to play in 203 NBA games over 11 seasons.
Livingston said this is the first time in 30 years he has had free time on his hands during basketball season.
He spent last season coaching the Idaho Stampede of the D-League but was not retained by the organization when it became partners with the Portland Trailblazers.
“With coach Jones being back, it seems like things here are on the upswing,” Livingston said. “So I’m going to try to make it back more often.”
Although unable to attend LSU basketball games because of his busy in-season schedule, Livingston said he has attended many LSU football games in recent years, in part because he and running backs coach Frank Wilson, a fellow New Orleans native, remain close friends.
Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard said after Thursday’s loss that his Pirates had a great opportunity to put LSU away early in the second half. When they didn’t, he said it affected the way the game was called.
“We let them get some easy shots, some 15-footers and offensive rebounds,” Willard said. “If you let the crowd get back in it, then the refs will just swallow their whistles like they did. It’s a learning process, and that’s what I like about our team.”
In his remarks about the officiating, Willard was seemingly referring to a stretch from the 6:59 mark of the second half to 1:27 when no fouls were called.
LSU finished a frantic rally during that time, coming back from 16 points down with 17:16 left to take the lead.
“I was glad the referees let us play,” LSU forward Shavon Coleman said. “They didn’t call all the ticky-tack fouls. We got bumped. They got bumped.”
For the game, Seton Hall was whistled for 21 fouls and LSU for 14.
Senior forward Eddie Ludwig did not play Thursday after starting the first four games, but Jones said that was strictly a reflection of the matchup Seton Hall presented.
“I thought matchupwise, we were more beneficial with the lineup we were rotating in and out,” Jones said. “But I can assure you Eddie is going to have some huge nights for us before it’s over.”
Ludwig, one of three seniors, averages 3.3 points and 4.8 rebounds.
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