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BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Antonio Blakeney scored 20 points as LSU held off North Florida 78-70 in a non-conference game Friday.
The Ospreys, who trailed by 12 points with slightly more than six minutes remaining in the game, reduced their deficit to four over the next two minutes. A basket by Romelo Banks left the Tigers (3-0) ahead 67-63 with 4:11 left.
Blakeney then scored six of his 20 points in the last 3½ minutes to enable LSU to pick up the victory. Blakeney made two field goals and a pair of foul shots. Brandon Sampson had a field goal and two free throws in the stretch for the Tigers.
"This was one of those games where you keep trying to play better as the game goes along," said Blakeney, who scored 26 points in LSU's previous game against Southern Mississippi. "You just try to correct the mistakes that you make. I am just happy we got the win."
Blakeney was one of four LSU players to score in double figures. Duop Reath had 17 points before fouling out late in the game. Sampson scored 16 points and Aaron Epps added 14.
"It was a grind game for us in the second half with the way (North Florida) came back," Tigers coach Johnny Jones said. "Our guys grinded it out defensively and they executed offensively. Our guys closed out the game well with plays made by Blakeney and several other guys."
Four players also scored in double figures for North Florida (1-3). Chris Davenport led the Ospreys with 16 points. Banks, Aaron Bodager and Dallas Moore each had 13 points.
North Florida had lost decisively to its first two power conference opponents this season - Auburn and Miami.
"We're growing up," North Florida coach Matthew Driscoll said. "We didn't let the lead LSU built in the second half demoralize us. We cut it to four points and the guys just kept on fighting. We left so much on the table with 20 turnovers and going 13-for-28 at the free throw line."
LSU: The Tigers were unable to put North Florida away for good until the final minute. LSU saw a nine-point first-half advantage cut to one point at the break. Then, the Tigers lost most of a 12-point lead down the stretch.
NORTH FLORIDA: The performance by the Ospreys was quite different from the one two nights earlier against Miami. North Florida scored just 56 points while losing by 38 points to the Hurricanes. The Ospreys outrebounded LSU by ten and shot 44 percent from the field.
RUNNING THE SHOW
Jalyn Patterson played point guard instead of starter Skylar Mays for LSU for most of the game. Patterson only scored one point, but handed out a career-high eight assists and committed just two turnovers in 27 minutes.
GROUP EFFORT ON THE BOARDS
North Florida was able to stay within striking distance of LSU all night because of its work on the boards. It was a team effort for the Ospreys as six players grabbed at least six rebounds. The leader was Romelo Banks, who was credited with nine rebounds.
LSU coach Johnny Jones has emphasized that his team must play more effectively on the defensive end of the floor this year. North Florida made 44 percent of its field goal attempts - the highest mark by a Tigers opponent so far this season. LSU has not allowed more than 70 points in any of its first three games. The last time the Tigers had a three-game stretch of not giving up more than 70 points came in the first three games of last season.
LSU: The Tigers will play away from home for the first time this season in the Battle 4 Atlantis at Paradise Island, Bahamas. LSU will meet Wichita State in an opening-round game Wednesday.
NORTH FLORIDA: The Ospreys will return home to face their second non-Division I opponent of the season. North Florida will take on Florida National on Tuesday.
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