SALT LAKE CITY (Ticker) -- Brian Beshara hit a 3-pointer with 17.8 seconds left as fourth-seeded Louisiana State avoided a scare by edging No. 13 Southeast Missouri State, 64-61, in a first-round game in the West Region.
After LSU (27-5) called a timeout with 42 seconds left and the game tied, 61-61, Beshara drilled a 3-pointer from the left side for his only basket of the second half.
"I haven't been shooting like I know I can," said Beshara, who went just 3-of-9 from the floor but hit both of his 3-point attempts. "Basically, I was just happy I was able to come through for the team. The team is the most important thing." Southeast Missouri State (22-7) had a chance to tie it, but after two timeouts and a wild sramble at the top of the key, Roderick Johnson's 3-point attempt hit the front of the rim.
"I prayed for the shot to go in," said Johnson, who had 19 points and 11 rebounds. "But it just eased out of there. That was it; it just didn't fall." The Tigers scored the game's final six points. Trailing 61-58, freshman Torris Bright hit a 3-pointer from the left wing with 78 seconds left.
Antonio Short came up short with a 3-pointer at the other end, before LSU set up its final possession.
Jabari Smith scored 17 points and Stromile Swift added 13 for the Tigers, the Southeastern Conference West Division champions who are in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1993 after being picked to finish last in the league.
They will play Texas on Saturday in the second round at the Huntsman Center. The Longhorns buried Indiana State, 77-61, earlier today.
"In the last five minutes, our team did enough good things to win," LSU coach John Brady said. "Offensively, we need to be a lot better against a good Texas team." Johnson finished with 19 points and Short added 14 for SE Missouri State, which was in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history.
"This game will help our program," coach Gary Garner said. "We are a relatively young Division I program and the national exposure that we will get from playing a very good LSU team right to the wire can do nothing but help us." The Indians struggled early but led most of the second half, grabbing a 38-36 edge on a 3-pointer by Emmanuel McCuthison with 12:53 left and trailing just once over the next nine minutes.
LSU went ahead, 54-53, on a free throw by by Lamont Roland with 4:08 to play, and after a layup by Johnson gave the Indians the lead again, the team's exchanged crowd-pleasing dunks.
Swift took a pass from Beshara on the left block and double-pumped before jamming for a 56-55 Tigers edge. But Mike Branson drove down the right side and floated over Swift for a two-handed dunk, giving SE Missouri State the lead again, 57-56.
Smith was called for an offensive foul on LSU's next possession and Brian Bunche hit both free throws for a 59-56 Indians lead.
Smith then missed a layup, but the Tigers came up with a steal and got within a point on a layup by Swift with 2:04 remaining.
Branson fed Johnson for a layup and a 61-58 edge with 1:41 to go, but the Indians failed to score the rest of the way.
"I said in the pre-tournament press conference that all I asked for was to be close and a chance to win at the end," Garner said. "And we were close and had a chance to win at the end." Michael Stokes scored eight points for SE Missouri State, the Ohio Valley Conference champion which shot just 34.5 percent from the field (20-of-58) and had a six-game winning streak halted.
The Indians went 7-of-22 from 3-point range.
Bright scored 13 points for LSU, which shot 49 percent from the floor (25-of-51), going 6-of-14 from behind the arc.
Both teams struggled mightily during a sloppy first half, with the Tigers leading, 24-19, at the break.