The Tigers trailed by 11 in the first half Tuesday night against Houston but used a huge offensive rebounding edge to mount a comeback, and Storm Warren finished it by hitting two free throws in the final second for a 59-58 victory.
"We knew it was going to be a possession-by-possession game in the second half, and if we didn't execute, they could run us out of here," LSU coach Trent Johnson said. "I thought our execution down the stretch was good. We outrebounded them in the second half, which was big."
Andre Stringer scored 13 points to lead the Tigers (4-3), who won for the third time in four games. Ralston Turner and Warren scored 12 points each, and Justin Hamilton had 11 points and seven rebounds
"We stuck together and fought together as a team and came through in the end," Warren said.
Alandise Harris scored 21 points, and TaShawn Thomas had 13 points and eight rebounds to lead the Cougars (3-3), who lost their third straight by two points or less and second in a row by one.
Anthony Hickey missed a jumper with 4 seconds left, but Warren collected the rebound and was fouled by Thomas. Warren made both free throws with a second left. J.J. Thompson's half-court heave at the buzzer missed.
"We wanted to get the ball back to Anthony," Johnson said. "He is quick with the ball. He got in the lane, and we got the foul."
Despite shooting 27 percent in the second half and 34 percent for the game, LSU mounted a comeback with the help of 14-1 offensive rebounding edge in the second half.
The Tigers had nine offensive rebounds combined in their second and third possessions of the second half. LSU used that edge for 15 second-chance points. LSU outrebounded Houston 41-34, including 19-10 on the offensive boards.
Turner hit a 3-pointer with 2:23 remaining to put LSU up 57-56. Harris had a chance to put Houston ahead with 18 seconds left, but he missed and Thomas grabbed the rebound. Jonathon Simmons didn't waste a second chance for Houston as he drove the baseline and hit a leaner with 9 seconds left for a 58-57 lead.
Houston lost 81-80 to TCU on Saturday on a last second tip-in at the buzzer, which was one reason Houston coach James Dickey called a timeout with 9 seconds remaining.
"We had tried to work on that defense -- keeping people in front of you," Dickey said. "Hickey got in a little too deep, and then I really called that timeout to emphasize that it's not the first shot, it's the second shot, but we didn't grab the rebound.
"I have to do a better job of getting through to these guys and coaching in close situations. We're four points away (from being undefeated). There's a small area there, and we have to be more efficient late in the game."
After LSU went ahead 46-44 with 12:49 left, Houston regained the lead on Thomas' jumper and extended it to 52-48 when Thomas made a free throw with 6:58 left.
But the Tigers answered with a 6-0 run over the next 2 minutes to take a 54-52 advantage on Justin Hamilton's jumper.
The Tigers used a 9-0 spurt to take the 46-44 lead, their first since they led 2-0. During the run, the Tigers forced two turnovers and tied it at 44 on Turner's 3-pointer off Thompson's turnover.
Houston raced to a 15-7 lead on consecutive layups by Thomas and Joe Young's 3-pointer with 12:31 left in the first half, but LSU cut it to 19-16 on Turner's layup 4 minutes later.
The Cougars extended the lead to eight on a layup by Harris with 6:37 remaining in the half, and the edge grew to 11 on Leon Gibson's layup with 1:17 remaining. Houston led 38-30 at the break behind Harris' 14 points and Thomas' 10.
"We're young, but that's not an excuse," Dickey said. "We are making plays ... against good ballclubs, and LSU is a good ballclub. They are talented, but we have to make plays against those guys. It came down to one possession, which is why every possession is important."