BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — After a string of close losses in conference play, LSU finally came out on top.
Anthony Hickey scored 20 points, Andre Stringer added 18 and the Tigers defeated No. 17 Missouri 73-70 on Wednesday night.
In four of LSU’s five Southeastern Conference defeats, it had an opportunity to win the game in the final minute. This time, the Tigers made six foul shots in the final 60 seconds and Johnny O’Bryant hit an important layup off an inbounds pass to hold off Missouri.
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“We’ve been in a lot of tight games this year,” Stringer said. “We were finally able to put things together and pull this one out.”
Hickey had 14 points in the second half and Stringer converted a key four-point play late in the game for the Tigers (11-7, 2-5 SEC). O’Bryant had his fourth straight double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
The victory was the first for LSU against a ranked SEC team since it beat eventual national champion Florida 66-56 six seasons ago.
“We can always look back at winning a game like this,” LSU coach Johnny Jones said. “This was a good experience for us. We had to defend and make some tough plays on the defensive end to win this ballgame. We missed some free throws, but we did rebound well on defense.”
Phil Pressey scored 25 for Missouri (15-5, 4-3), which has lost all four of its games on the opposing team’s home court this season. Jabari Brown added 19 points and Laurence Bowers had 10. Bowers played for the first time in three weeks due to a knee injury.
“We were driving the ball at the end of the game and we needed to keep driving the ball,” Missouri coach Frank Haith said. “We settled for some bad shots and we had some bad turnovers. We are trying to win a game. You can’t make those kinds of plays when you are trying to win a game.”
Missouri, which trailed by as many as 16 early in the second half, pulled to 61-58 on a basket by Pressey with 3:37 left. Two possessions later, Stringer made his fourth 3-pointer. He was fouled on the shot and hit the free throw, too.
“That play was a confidence-builder for our team,” Stringer said. “Anthony Hickey drove down and the guy guarding him was taking away the lane. So, I just stepped behind the 3-point line. I saw Pressey come behind me. He hit me on my follow-through. Luckily, the ball went in.”
Missouri scored five straight points on a basket by Tony Criswell and Brown’s fourth 3 of the night. Hickey made one of two free throws with 49 seconds to play to give LSU a 66-63 lead.
Pressey missed a potential tying 3-pointer on Missouri’s next possession. Stringer grabbed the rebound and was promptly fouled. Stringer hit both foul shots to put LSU ahead 68-63 with 38 seconds remaining.
Earnest Ross kept Missouri in the game by connecting on a 3-pointer just 6 seconds later. On the ensuing inbounds play, O’Bryant broke loose for a layup. Pressey answered with a layup to leave Missouri behind 70-68 with 23 seconds remaining.
O’Bryant, who had missed five of his previous nine free throws, made two from the foul line to give LSU another four-point lead at 72-68. But Pressey came right back with a driving layup with 14 seconds to play.
Shavon Coleman converted one of two foul shots to give Missouri another chance at tying the score, but Pressey missed a 3-pointer. Coleman rebounded and was fouled with 4 seconds remaining. He missed both free throws but Missouri was unable to get off another shot.
LSU extended its lead to 46-30 after halftime, but Missouri scored 12 straight points to get right back into the game. Pressey accounted for eight of those points on four field goals. Two foul shots by Brown left LSU on top 46-42 with 13:47 remaining.
Hickey countered with three consecutive baskets, one a 3-pointer, in a 70-second span to give LSU a 53-42 advantage. When Missouri cut it to 55-49 on a basket by Bowers, Hickey followed with a short jumper.
Missouri pulled to 59-54 when Brown sank a 3-pointer with 5:10 remaining. After Hickey’s turnover, Ross scored after an offensive rebound to reduce LSU’s lead to three.
LSU used an 11-0 run early in the first half to grab control. Baskets by Charles Carmouche and O’Bryant gave LSU a 13-6 lead slightly more than 4 minutes into the game. Field goals by Carmouche and Hickey pushed LSU’s advantage to 17-6. Missouri went nearly 4 minutes without a point.
Missouri reduced its deficit to 17-10, but LSU responded with a 10-2 run. Malik Morgan accounted for half of the LSU points on a field goal and three foul shots. Missouri trailed by double figures for nearly the rest of the half. LSU took a 39-26 halftime lead on a basket by Hickey.