Feb 7, 2013 12:00 AM by AP
Johnny O'Bryant III's composure at the free-throw line served as only the latest example of a maturing LSU team learning how to grind out close games.
Anthony Hickey scored 14 points, O'Bryant hit two crucial free throws with 7.7 seconds left and LSU hung on for its third straight close victory, 57-56 over Vanderbilt on Wednesday night.
"It just shows the type of team we have to be in some close games and win," O'Bryant said. "We just believe we can win every game."
O'Bryant finished with 10 points for the Tigers (13-7, 4-5), who led by as many as 12 early in the second half before Vanderbilt (8-13, 2-7) pulled within 55-53 on Rod Odom's 3-pointer with 10 seconds left.
O'Bryant then made his free throws for a four-point cushion, which rendered Odom's 3 in the final seconds meaningless.
Odom finished with a game-high 20 points. Dai-Jon Parker added 11 points and nine rebounds for Vanderbilt, which has lost four straight.
"Our guys hung in there and almost gave us a chance to win the ballgame," Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. "We just don't do enough things right. That's all there is to it and maybe that makes us a bad team."
LSU, which has now won four of five, exploded for an 18-2 run that gave the Tigers a 31-18 halftime lead.
Both teams shot poorly in what was a sloppy first 15 minutes, and Vanderbilt went ahead 16-13 on Kyle Fuller's layup.
Soon after, however, Malik Morgan's jumper ignited the game-changing run to close the first half. The spurt included a dunk by Andrew Del Piero that energized the crowd and three 3s by Hickey, the last coming at the halftime horn.
"It was another really fun basketball game for our fans but another grinder for us," Jones said. "I knew we would have a tough ball game in front of us tonight. I thought our guys did an excellent job in the first half of building a lead, playing well defensively and holding (Vanderbilt) to only 19 percent shooting from the field. In the second half, I thought they did a great job of being poised."
Even after LSU's offense picked up, the Tigers still finished the night shooting 36 percent (18 of 50). Vanderbilt was even worse, at 31.5 percent (17 of 54). Only four players scored in double digits between the two teams, though LSU's Morgan and Charles Carmouche each had nine.
The Tigers took their largest lead on Andre Stringer's free throw that made it 35-23.
Sheldon Jeter's layup and Parker's 3 ignited an 8-0 Vanderbilt run, but LSU was back up by 11 when Stringer hit a 3 with 8:38 to go.
LSU led 54-47 with under a minute to go, but Odom hit a 3, Stringer missed 1 of 2 free throws on the other end and then Odom made his second 3 to make it a one possession game in the final seconds.
"We were really close," Parker said. "Some shots don't fall our way but we kept fighting and asking for a prayer at the end."
Instead, LSU held on for its second straight one-point victory, marking only the third time since 1972 the Tigers have won back-to-back one-point games. LSU's previous victory came on Hickey's 8-foot floater with 1.5 seconds left at Mississippi State. The Tigers' two previous wins came by four points (58-54) over Texas A&M and three points (73-70) over Missouri.