Quiet most of the afternoon, LSU guards Andre Stringer and Anthony Hickey emerged in time to help the Tigers notch a critical victory for its potential NCAA tournament résumé Sunday.
Trailing Butler 61-58 with less than 10 seconds to go, Hickey hit a 3-pointer from the top of the arc for his first points of the day to force overtime. And Stringer’s jumper midway through overtime put the Tigers ahead for good in a 70-68 win in the third-place game at the Old Spice Classic in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
It was an uncharacteristic day for the Tigers (5-2), who were outrebounded by 12 and saw their two primary guards go 0-for-4 for the first 39 minutes of regulation.
But reserves Shavon Coleman and Malik Morgan delivered critical performances with 12 points apiece to carry the Tigers past Butler (5-2), which led by as many as seven points with less than seven minutes to play in regulation.
After frittering a lead away Friday against No. 21 Memphis, LSU desperately needed a win over Butler for a quality victory in nonconference play. The Bulldogs entered Sunday slotted at No. 17 in CBS analyst Jerry Palm’s simulation of the Ratings Percentage Index.
Wins over quality opponents on the road or at a neutral site are highly valued by the selection committee, and LSU’s remaining nonconference docket offers scant chances to give their credentials some luster.
Missing out on wins against Butler and Memphis, which was No. 34 in Palm’s simulation, would have meant LSU left HP Fieldhouse with a 1-2 mark — its lone victory coming over Saint Joseph’s.
But in the final five minutes, freshman Jarell Martin stepped forward, scoring six of his 12 points as the Tigers closed the gap.
No sequence was bigger for LSU, which shot 45 percent, than Martin’s putback dunk in transition on a missed layup by Morgan to cut the deficit to 56-54 with 3:11 left. A minute later, forward Johnny O’Bryant, who led LSU with 17 points, hit a hook shot in the middle of the lane to draw LSU even.
That LSU was in the game was a minor miracle. Entering outrebounding opponents by more than 13 per game, the Tigers let Butler, which only shot 33.8 percent, have a slew of second chances by giving up 18 offensive rebounds.
It was telling that Bulldogs guard Alex Barlow, at 5-foot-11, nabbed 10 rebounds. Guard Kellen Dunham paced Butler with 20 points on 8-of-21 shooting, and Khyle Marshall added 17 points with a game-high 11 rebounds.
Yet Butler struggled down the stretch, missing its last seven of eight shots over the final five minutes as LSU whittled the lead down. Erik Fromm hit a pair of free throws with 12.5 seconds left to extend the lead back to 61-58.
LSU called a timeout and, off an inbounds play, Stringer got the ball to Hickey at the top of the key. The junior fired and made his game-tying 3 with seven seconds to go.
It was Stringer’s chance to turn the momentum with 2:40 left in overtime and the score tied at 65. The senior, who was 1-of-4 from the floor, scored his lone points when his jumper off the left wing was on the mark.
LSU next hosts Louisiana-Monroe on Dec. 14 in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.