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No. 19 Texas withstands second-half rally by LSU in 96-85 win

The Longhorns dominated the first half before holding off a furious attempted comeback by the Tigers.

NCAA Basketball: Louisiana State at Texas Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports

In the final non-conference Power Five matchup for the No. 19 Texas Longhorns, a red-hot first half built a 56-37 lead at the break and the LSU Tigers were never able to get closer than seven points down the stretch as the Longhorns held on for a 94-82 win at the Toyota Center in Houston on Saturday.

Junior guard Tyrese Hunter helped key the first-half success with 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting while sophomore forward Dillon Mitchell added 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting with eight rebounds and two steals. Overall, Texas shot 60.6 percent from the floor, including 6-of-9 shooting from three, getting out into the open court for 12 fast-break points and getting to the rim for 11 dunks or layups.

In the second half, Texas was out of sorts offensively as LSU attempted to mount a comeback with a more aggressive, trapping defense and a monster performance from Vanderbilt transfer guard Jordan Wright, who set a career high with 33 points, 31 of them coming after halftime on 8-of-10 shooting from the floor, making all five three-point attempts, and hitting all 10 free-throw attempts.

A fast-break layup by Wright with 9:34 remaining cut the Texas lead to seven points, where it remained for another minute until one of the game’s most crucial calls went in favor of the Longhorns. Texas senior guard Max Abmas missed a wild bank attempt and LSU came up with the rebound, but the baseline official decided Abmas forced a jump ball even though the opposing player had clear possession. Not only did the possession arrow favor the Horns, the Tigers were also called for a technical foul reading to the call.

Abmas made both free throws after the technical and Mitchell and senior forward Dylan Disu, making his season debut returning from injury, both converted trips to the line to push the lead back into double digits. Wright screamed downhill for a monster dunk on Disu and LSU hit a three in the ensuing stretch, but couldn’t get stops, leaving Abmas alone doubling the post and paying for it with a made three and giving up a layup to Disu.

Then Texas sophomore guard Chendall Weaver made some winning plays, flashing to the free-throw line to bail out a possession with a trip to the line where he converted both free throws and then hitting a three at the end of a poor offensive possession with 4:32 remaining. LSU never got within single digits again.

Abmas led the Horns with 20 points and seven assists, although he struggled with his decision making on the ball at times with four turnovers. Hunter finished with 19 points and five turnovers of his own and Disu added 17 points, hitting all nine free-throw attempts, providing a boost to the Texas front court with his return, as evidenced in particular by his team-high plus-minus of 16 points.

Texas finished the game scoring 1.32 points per possession and leading for over 39 minutes.

Head coach Rodney Terry’s team returns to Austin to face Texas A&M-Corpus Christi next Friday, the start of a three-game homestand before Big 12 play begins next month.