AP Sports Writer
COLLEGE STATION, Texas — LSU wasn’t concerned when Texas A&M cut its double-digit lead to three points late in the second half.
The Tigers are used to teams fighting their way back into games and have become proficient at handling those situations.
On Wednesday night it was Charles Carmouche who led the charge when things got dicey, and the senior finished with 20 points to hold off the Aggies in a 68-57 win by LSU.
The Aggies never led in the second half, but cut the lead to three points with about 6 ½ minutes left. That’s when the Tigers used a 12-2 spurt to make it 66-53 with less than 2 minutes to go.
“It’s indicative of how we’ve played this year especially late in the season,” LSU coach Johnny Jones said. “They learned and have become accustomed to teams making runs and we’ve been able to sell our guys in. They’ve really been poised under pressure when those opportunities present themselves. We made the plays we needed to down the stretch.”
Carmouche, who had 20 points for the fourth straight game, scored the last six points of that run for LSU (18-10, 9-8 Southeastern Conference) to secure the victory. It’s the first time since Dec. 2009 that an LSU player recorded at least 20 points in three or more games in a row.
Carmouche said the way his team won on Wednesday is an indicator that the Tigers are getting better overall.
“Early on this season we tended to give up leads and couldn’t close out close games and got into panic mode,” he said. “We didn’t have that poise to stay confident. Today was just another growing point for us. We learned from all those tough losses and we just showed our maturity and experience today.”
Senior Ray Turner led Texas A&M (17-13, 7-10) in his last home game with 16 points and tied his season high with 13 rebounds. Fellow senior Elston Turner, who entered the game averaging a team-leading 18 points, added 11 points for the Aggies.
Elston Turner injured his left wrist and pinkie finger with about 8 ½ minutes remaining. He left the game for a short time before returning, but it was obvious that he was injured when he returned. Turner scored just two points after halftime.
“I couldn’t catch the ball,” he said. “Everything I did was with my right hand, I couldn’t really function with my left hand.”
He said he’ll visit a doctor on Thursday and have X-rays. But he doesn’t expect to sit out any games.
“I’m a senior,” he said. “Even if I have to play with one hand, I’ll be out there.”
A big run by LSU had Texas A&M trailing by 14 points midway through the second half. The Aggies then put together a 12-2 run to cut the lead to 51-47 with about 8 minutes remaining. Fabyon Harris had a pair of 3-pointers in the run and Ray Turner ended it with a 3-point play on an off-balance hook shot.
The Tigers were up by two early in the second half before using a 16-4 run to extend the lead to 49-35 with about 11 ½ minutes remaining.
Andre Stringer and Carmouche both had a 3-pointer for LSU to power that spurt, and Carmouche capped it with a dunk. The Aggies had five turnovers and missed seven shots, including six layups as LSU built the lead.
The Tigers, which lead the SEC in steals per game, swiped it from the Aggies eight times as part of 18 A&M turnovers which led to 14 points for LSU.
It’s the second win over Texas A&M this season for the Tigers, after LSU got a 58-54 victory at home in January.
Johnny O’Bryant finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds for the Tigers, his 13th double-double this season, and Stringer added 10 points and three assists.
Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy was disappointed that the Aggies struggled on Wednesday night despite limiting O’Bryant, who entered the game leading the Tigers in scoring.
“Physically their guards gave us a lot of problems,” Kennedy said. “It was mostly guard play because we did a good job on Johnny O’Bryant. I thought our guard play was not as good as it needed to be.”
Harris scored 12 points for the Aggies and Alex Caruso had 10 points and five rebounds.