LSU rushed shots in the first half and committed a dozen turnovers, allowing South Alabama to take advantage of its hot shooters for a lead it would hold over the last 16 minutes of the period.
But when the Tigers settled into their offense and fed the ball to their inside players, the momentum of the game swung sharply to the home team. A 13-2 run at the start of the second half gave LSU a lead it would not surrender the best of the game.
Jaime Lloreda, the championship game's Most Valuable Player, hit all seven of hits shots from the field and finished with 17 points.
"My teammates did a good job today," said Lloreda. "They got the ball inside and I was hoping I would make the shots. I didn't expect to do that much, but I did it."
"I wanted to pound it inside, and that was our advantage," said LSU head coach John Brady. "We didn't do it early. We had Collis (Temple) shooting threes, Ronald (Dupree) shooting threes. Early on, we just shot the ball too quick.
"After we starting throwing the ball (inside), things started happening. If we didn't score it off the post, we were able to go inside and throw it back out."
The win improved LSU to 2-0 on the season heading into its next game, a Friday meeting with Texas A&M in the Space City Classic in Houston. The Tigers and Aggies are part of a three-game event being held at Reliant Stadium.
South Alabama dropped to 1-1 after beating Southern last Friday to advance to the championship.
"I like this game for us because we had to play to win it," said Brady. "Our (veteran) players have thought for some reason…they're just going to go up and play and it's just going to happen. Well it didn't happen. We had to make it happen."
LSU found itself trailing by eight on two occasions in the first half after opening the game with two straight tip-in baskets from Brad Bridgewater. But instead of continuing to feed the ball down low, the starting Tigers put shots up from the outside and failed to connect on the majority of them.
Torris Bright, Temple and Dupree finished the first half 1-for-10 from the field combined, while reserves Darrel Mitchell and Antonio Hudson teamed up for ten points to keep the Tigers within a respectable distance.
"The best players we have…need to play a little bit better, particularly from an offensive standpoint," said Brady. "I think Ronald is rushing it too much, he's trying to make things happen a little too quick. He's trying to press, and now he's missing free throws and layups. It kind of snowballs."
Trailing 34-30 at halftime, LSU went back to its big men and tied the game within two minutes. Just as he did to start the game, Bridgewater scored the first two baskets of the period. His slam dunk from the baseline cut South Alabama's lead to two, and he tied the game with a transition dunk from a Bright feed on the break.
Demetrice Williams put the Jaguars back ahead briefly with a layup on the break, but a put-back basket from Lloreda and a three-pointer from Bright put the Tigers ahead for good with 16:38 left to play.
The Williams basket was the only field goal for South Alabama in the second half until Chris Young hit a three-pointer in the right corner with 13:27 remaining. It cut LSU's lead to six, 48-42, but the Jaguars failed to make up any more of the difference the rest of the way.
Young led all scorers in the game with 21 points and was named to the All-Tournament team along with teammate Malerick Bedden, Dupree and Shawnson Johnson of LSU, and Brian Johnson of Southern.
LSU followed Young's three-pointer with eight unanswered points to take its largest lead of the game, 56-42 with 8:40 on the clock.
Hispanic College Funds Classic All-Tournament Team
- based on media voting
Brian Johnson, Southern
Malerick Badden, South Alabama
Chris Young, South Alabama
Ronald Dupree, LSU
Shawnson Johnson, LSU