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BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Aaron Epps scored a career-high 26 points and Tremont Waters blocked a game-tying 3-point attempt in the final seconds as LSU defeated Houston 80-77 on Wednesday.
Epps, who also grabbed a career-high 16 rebounds, put the Tigers (5-2) ahead by six points on a three-point play with 57 seconds remaining. Rob Gray pulled the Cougars within three points at 80-77 on a 3-pointer less than ten seconds later.
Following an LSU turnover, Houston (8-2) had a chance to tie it, but the 5-foot-11 Waters blocked Corey Davis Jr.'s 3-point attempt with six seconds to play. Devin Davis missed a long 3-point shot at the buzzer for the Cougars.
"We were just playing tonight," Epps said. "We were playing extra hard, making extra passes. We were hustling. It was really hard getting rebounds on the defensive end because their guys were crashing hard, so I just had to basically fight."
Waters had 17 points and six assists to go along with his first blocked shot of the season for the Tigers, who never trailed during the final 6½ minutes. Mays had 18 points and a career-high nine rebounds.
Mays stressed that Epps was the star of the game.
"Epps has always been an animal on the glass," Mays said. "It was his night. He performed really well and got timely scores as well. These are the games you want to play and the games you prepare for in the summer. We are excited with our work showing up tonight."
Gray and Corey Davis Jr. scored 20 points apiece for Houston, whose winning streak ended at seven games. Devin Davis had 14 points.
"Either team could have won that game," Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said. "It came down to making a shot here or there. We had some wide-open looks from three, but we missed them in the last five minutes. I'm not talking about the one that was blocked. I'm talking about the ones that were open."
LSU erased a four-point Houston lead with a 10-0 run early in the second half. Six of those 10 points came at the foul line as the Tigers pulled ahead 55-49. The Cougars went nearly four minutes without scoring in that stretch.
"We won the game on toughness," LSU coach Will Wade said. "We were really gritty down the stretch. That offensive rebound and and-1 by Epps was a huge play. Obviously, Epps led the way. But, it was a total team effort. To be the first team to outrebound them all year shows our guys were locked in."
LSU: The Tigers extended their winning streak to three games. LSU won its other close game this season, edging Michigan 77-75 in Hawaii.
Houston: The Cougars fell short in their bid to record their longest winning streak in 10 seasons. For the first time this year, Houston was outrebounded 38-33.
GRINDING OUT A WIN
LSU has lived on its outstanding shooting so far this season. The Tigers rallied in the second half to beat Houston thanks to its defense and rebounding. After allowing eight 3-pointers in the first half, LSU held the Cougars to 3-of-11 from behind the arc after halftime. Then, the Tigers outrebounded Houston 22-13 in the final 20 minutes. LSU outscored the Cougars 14-2 on second-chance points in the second half.
Houston junior college transfer Corey Davis, whose hometown is Lafayette, Louisiana, nearly carried his team to a road victory. Davis scored a season-high 20 points and made six of his 10 3-point shots. Davis entered the game with a scoring average of 9.6 points.
LSU will continue its six-game homestand when it faces Stephen F. Austin on Saturday.
Houston returns home to meet Prairie View on Sunday.
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