BATON ROUGE, La. -- Playing close games has been a constant for LSU ever since the Southeastern Conference season began. Winning those close ones -- that has been elusive for the most part.
The issue didn't seem to faze the Tigers on Wednesday, though, and in fact, their experience in nail-biters might have come in handy during a 73-70 upset of 17th-ranked Missouri at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
LSU's Andre Stringer and Johnny O'Bryant each hit two free throws in the final 38.5 seconds. That was barely enough to hold off Mizzou, which trailed by 16 points early in the second half before heating up.
The home team never trailed, getting off to an uncharacteristic quick start in the first half. LSU led by 15 points in the first half and 39-26 at halftime. That proved to be enough to withstand a final 20 minutes in which Missouri shot 45.7 percent (16-for-35) and forced several LSU turnovers to climb back into the game.
Anthony Hickey led LSU with 20 points, 14 in the second half. Stringer scored 18, including a crucial four-point play with 3:03 left that boosted LSU's lead to 65-58.
Missouri got as close as two points three times in the last 32.6 seconds, but the visitors never got the ball with a chance to take the lead.
Phil Pressey paced Mizzou with a game-high 25 points, including eight in a row in a 12-0 outburst that sliced a 46-30 deficit to 46-42 with 13:47 to go.
Hickey answered with seven points in a row to help LSU re-establish the momentum.
LSU surged to its best half of the SEC season to take a commanding 39-36 lead into halftime.
The Tigers shot 56 percent from the floor (14 of 25), paced by Stringer's 3-of-4 shooting from 3-point range. He also was fouled on a 3-pointer and knocked down all three shots for 12 points in the first half.
Missouri struggled to get into an offensive groove, in large part because it shot 26.9 percent (7 of 26).
With the game tied 6-6, LSU surged to 11 unanswered points, triggered by Stringer's three free throws and then back-to-back transition slam dunks by Charles Carmouche and O'Bryant.
During the LSU blitz, Missouri went into an offensive funk with three consecutive turnovers and then four straight missed shots -- with LSU grabbing the defensive rebound on each one and preventing Mizzou from feeding off of second-chance points, a season-long staple.
Negus Webster-Chan's 3-pointer at the 6:56 juncture brought Missouri within single digits, 27-18, for the first time in several minutes. But LSU responded by roaring back out to its biggest lead of the game with an 8-1 blast, eventually leading 35-19 when O'Bryant stepped back for a face-up baseline jumper.
Pressey kept Missouri from fading completely away with nine first-half points.
NOTES: Missouri senior Laurence Bowers returned from a five-game absence caused by a knee injury and was in the starting lineup. He didn't score until he hit a pair of free throws with 3:48 to go before halftime, and he finished with 10 points. ... The game was just the second all-time meeting between the teams. The first came in an NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 game in Houston in 1980, a 68-63 LSU victory. ... Stringer's three first-half 3-pointers gave him back-to-back games with that many, the third time he's reached that figure in seven SEC games. He finished 4-for-5 from long range. Stringer is LSU's top outside threat at 43 percent (40-for-93).