BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) A nine-day layoff due to semester exams certainly played a factor in LSU's 76-67 victory against Sam Houston State on Saturday.
In their previous game, the Tigers had knocked off previously unbeaten West Virginia on the road. But, LSU was unable to pull away from the Bearkats until the final minute when it made six consecutive foul shots.
''There was a little bit of a rust factor,'' said Jordan Mickey, who scored 21 points and collected a career-high 15 rebounds. ''But, give some credit to Sam Houston. They are a good team and they are really physical.''
Mickey, who was 9-of-21 from the field, was one of four players to score in double figures for the Tigers (7-2). Keith Hornsby finished with 16 points, while Jarell Martin had 14 and Tim Quarterman had 11.
''After a nine-day layoff and coming off a big victory, there were a lot of things in play that could possibly happen,'' LSU coach Johnny Jones said. ''One, there is a hangover from the win. Two, we were sitting there with nine days of not playing and not being able to go through whole-scale practices.''
Sam Houston, which trailed by as few as four points with less than two minutes to play, was led by Jabari Peters' season-high 15 points. Paul Baxter had 11 points, while both Kaheem Ransom and Michael Holyfield had 10 points for the Bearkats (5-4).
''Obviously, LSU is a lot bigger than we are,'' Sam Houston coach Jason Hooten said. ''We had to fight and claw this game. Our guys normally do that. We outrebounded LSU (50-42) and that's just a part of the length and fight of our guys. We are going in the right direction.''
Mickey carried LSU to its 34-31 halftime lead. Mickey, who had a first-half double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds, scored eight of the Tigers' final 11 points. His three-point play put LSU on top 37-26 with 3:52 remaining before halftime.
Sam Houston used a 17-4 run to build an eight-point advantage in the opening 20 minutes. Ransom scored six of the Bearkats' points during that stretch. A 3-pointer by Ransom gave Sam Houston a 21-13 lead with 8:38 remaining in the first half.
The Tigers got off to a quick start after halftime without a big contribution by Mickey. Hornsby made two baskets, including a 3-pointer, and Martin connected on a 3-pointer to help LSU extend its advantage to eight points at 44-36 with 16:39 remaining.
Two foul shots by Quarterman gave the Tigers their first-double digit lead of the game at 50-40 with 13:50 to play. But, a pair of 3-pointers by Peters put Sam Houston down by just four points at 50-46 one minute later.
LSU was unable to separate itself from the Bearkats during the second half. A 3-pointer by Peters with 6:45 remaining reduced the Tigers' advantage once again to four points at 58-54. LSU did not increase its lead to more than four points until Martin made a 3-pointer with 4:05 to go.
In the final four minutes, Sam Houston reduced its deficit to four points on two occasions. The Tigers answered with points both times. First, Martin had a dunk. Then, Quarterman converted a three-point play with 1:32 remaining to give LSU a 69-62 advantage.
LSU: The Tigers have won four consecutive games - their longest winning streak since they won five in a row last December.
Sam Houston: The Bearkats allowed more than 66 points in a regulation game for the first time this season. Sam Houston defeated South Dakota 93-85 in triple overtime.
LSU starting point guard Josh Gray suffered an ankle injury early in the second half and did not return to the game. Gray was averaging 12 points and five assists prior to Saturday. He had four points and three assists in 16 minutes against Sam Houston. Quarterman and Jalyn Patterson divided time at point guard after Gray left the game.
ROUGH NIGHT FOR GATLIN
DeMarcus Gatlin, the Bearkats' second-leading scorer at 10.9 points, was held to a season-low four points. Gatlin was 2 of 8 on field goal attempts.
SURPRISE LONG-RANGE SHOOTER
Jarell Martin was 1-of-19 on 3-point shots in LSU's first eight games of the season but made both of his 3-point attempts against Sam Houston. Martin's second 3-pointer came with about 4 minutes left in the game after the Bearkats had pulled within three points at 61-58.
LSU will play at UAB on Thursday.
Sam Houston will play host to Eastern Washington on Tuesday.