Skylar Mays led LSU with 13 points in the loss to Mississippi State.
Steve Franz

Tigers Fall to Bulldogs in SEC Tournament

Kent Lowe (@LSUkent)
Kent Lowe (@LSUkent)
Communications Sr. Associate

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – LSU failed to score the last 5:25 of the first half, allowing Mississippi State to begin to brake the game open en route to a 79-52 win over the Tigers Wednesday night in the opening round game of the Southeastern Conference Tournament at the Bridgestone Arena.

Mississippi State advances to a second round game Friday afternoon against Alabama and is now 16-15 on the season. The Tigers finish at 10-21 on the year.

LSU went from ahead 25-24 on a Branden Jenkins jumper with 5:25 to play to down 37-25 at the half as Mississippi State, winners over LSU for the third time this season, scored the final 13 points of the half.

LSU had two players in double figures as Skylar Mays had 13 points and four assists and Antonio Blakeney added 11 points. Quinndary Weatherspoon led State with 19 points, while Tyson Carter his four treys in scoring 18 points. Xavian Stapleton added 13 for State and Lamar Peters had 10 points and six assists.

The Tigers shot just 33.3 percent for the game (18-of-54) and 1-of-22 from the three-point range, missing their last 18 shots after Mays made LSU’s lone three at the 14:05 mark of the first half. LSU was 0-for-13 in the second half. The good stat for LSU was that the Tigers made 15-of-18 for 83.3 percent.

MSU hit 28-of-59 shots for 47.5 percent and 11 three pointers along with 12-of-13 from the free throw line. LSU outrebounded Mississippi State 35-34, but the Bulldogs had the advantage in the other specialty stats including 30-16 in points in the paint and for the third straight meeting, a big advantage in points off turnovers as LSU turned the ball over 19 times. That resulted in a 32-8 advantage for State.

In the first four minutes of the second half, LSU twice closed the game to four points at 39-35 on free throws by Blakeney and 41-37 (16:34) on a Mays layup. But after a Peters three, LSU turned the ball over resulting in a three-point play by Weatherspoon pushed back to double digits.

Brandon Sampson hit a jump shot with 11:33 to go that cut the State lead to 54-46, but that was the last field goal LSU would make as Mississippi State rolled out a 19-1 run over the next eight minutes that pushed the lead to 73-47. In that period, LSU would turn the ball over three times and miss 10 field goals.

LSU would have the lead for a total of five minutes early in the contest leading by six at 8-2 in a first half that would see seven ties and four lead changes before the late first half run by Mississippi State.
COACH JOHNNY JONES: I thought we got off to a great start in the game, I think it was 8-2. Played with rhythm offensively making shots, on the defensive end getting deflection, fast break opportunities and steals. I thought they did a good job of settling in after the timeout, and they did a great job of punching back, and once they punched back early in the game, I didn't think we responded as well as we needed to. But I thought we continued to play throughout there in the first half, and I thought they did a great job of making plays in the first half. But as the game played out, I think our 3-point shooting hurt us. The turnovers hurt us, and, unfortunately, we weren't able to recover, and, again, I thought they played extremely well down the stretch.

THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for either of the student-athletes.
Q Both players, just a case a lot of times you get the lead and you're trying so hard to push it out that it kind of speeds up a little bit too fast?
ANTONIO BLAKENEY: When you get the lead you got to make easy plays. We were turning the ball over trying to make the hero play on making plays that were more forced. Definitely get the lead, try to make easy basketball plays.
SKYLAR MAYS: Yeah. Piggybacking. We turned the ball over a lot, got away from what we were doing, what was getting us in good position and taking the lead and, you know, the game just got away from us.

Q Antonio, what was the difference down the stretch in the first half when they outscored you 13-0? I know you -- your team went cold. What did they do, push the tempo a little bit more?
ANTONIO BLAKENEY: Like you say, we went cold and didn't score the ball and it was 13-0. With them, they was turning us over and getting in transition, scoring easy points. Anybody can make those easy points we were giving them. You know, they scored a lot of points off us turning the ball over.

Q Skylar, y'all played pretty good defense, right out the gate. What was the key to that early stretch where y'all held them to I think around 10 points in the first 15 -- close to 15 minutes?
SKYLAR MAYS: Just playing hard, having that energy, playing inspired, you know, trusting each other and, you know, taking, you know, just -- you know, just trying to be aggressive.

We'll continue on with questions for Coach Jones.
Q Johnny, the reports have been out there for 24 hours. What can you tell us what's going to happen?
COACH JONES: Can't tell you anything, really. I've been putting all of our time and attention into these guys and trying to prepare and get ready for this game. I'm like you, heard about it and read it, seen it on TV and told these guys that it wasn't about me, it's actually about them, and we'll prepare and do the things we've been doing and so they could have a great experience, and, unfortunately, came up short tonight. But that's about the gist of it, and I'm sure I'll look forward to hopefully visiting with someone in the near future so I'll -- as I know, I'm sure you guys will know.

Q What went wrong with season, Johnny? What went wrong where you couldn't get back off the mat?
COACH JONES: A long, tough year for us. Unfortunately for these guys, they had to experience it and go through it. I think it's a combination of a lot of things from prior seasons. We've lost five guys in the NBA over the last four years and big turnover for us, very young basketball team and inexperienced, and I think we played experienced teams this year and did not respond the way we needed to, and after about Christmas time, I thought we had gotten off -- we lost our starting center and played the rest of the year with one starter from the previous year's people. When you're playing with that least amount of experienced guys in a league that I think is very good and challenging, unfortunately, those things happen to you and we've been on the mat and it's something that you don't enjoy. It's not a place that we've been and you're talking about a group of guys that have been finishing in the Top 3 and getting double byes, and coming in and having to play on the first night I think kind of signifies to where we were.

THE MODERATOR: Other questions for Coach Jones?
Q Johnny, if you sit down and do have the conversation with Joe Alleva would that be a -- I won't say defense, when he asks you, what do you have to say about this year?
COACH JONES: I don't have any excuses about what happened this year. Shoot, I've got the keys, driving the bus. It was a tough year for us and I think people go through tough years and I think you can look at when I came in and the first four years where we were and how we're building the program and some great things were happening and on the court, off the court, you name it in games and just a year ago playing in the last game of the season for the conference championship on Kentucky's floor, and then to come to this because of the number of guys that we lost, it's tough and I think people who follow our program closely see that, they know that and make decisions based on other things that they may be feeling but I don't have a litany of excuses for this season and I don't plan to utilize them. I think these guys worked extremely hard that we had to try to fight their way out of the, unfortunately, slump that we're in and it just didn't happen for them. I do credit them for fighting enough at the end of the season and they never quit and only two seniors on the team that didn't have an opportunity to play a lot, I thought they impacted our team in helping these guys continue to fight and try to battle their way through. I can tell you this: They'll be better because of the experience they went through this year and what they had to because they had to play a lot of minutes and they went through a lot of wars and I'm sure this summer they'll work a lot harder so they don't experience this again.

COACH BEN HOWLAND: Yeah, I thought we did a good job digging ourselves out of two slow starts of each half. We started out slow to start the first half, got down, 8-2. I thought that our bench, especially Tyson and that first half came off, gave us a big lift, knocked down a couple big shots, got us some momentum going offensively. Was really important for us. I thought in the second half I thought Stapleton did an outstanding job giving us big minutes off the bench. Hit a couple of big 3s. One late in the possession. Was active on the glass. Good overall team effort in terms of our field goal percentage, I think they shot 33 percent. You know, obviously we can't take all the credit for their 3-point shooting but that's a heck of a percentage to hold a team 1 for 22 from 3. That was obviously played to our favor. I thought that everybody got in the game tonight did a good job for us especially the guys coming off the bench. Showed our depth. E.J. Datcher gave us great minutes. Q is very, very steady. Q is very, very consistent and played very good defense on Blakeney. I thought we played great team defense. Blakeney was 3-10 tonight. I hope Q takes a lot of pride in that.

Q Ben, you mentioned the slow starts in each half. What do you see that causes those, do you think?
COACH HOWLAND: You know, tonight we got a slow start in terms of trying to go inside, they were doubling the post so they had a couple quick turnovers they forced. It's something they hadn't done in either game that we had played them. So, Schnider, a couple problems, we had to adjust to that. They played our ball screens a little differently in the first half. Second half I thought we got off to a slow start because of our defense. They came out and scored multiple baskets in a row without getting stops and, you know, we finally got settled and I thought that Xav gave us great minutes. When they cut it to four, Stapleton stepped up for us and gave us good minutes off the bench, made some big plays. He only had credit here as I look for it, how many offensive rebounds? Only gave him one. I felt he had more than one because he was all over the offensive glass tonight. I won't get a chance to watch film until after the season is over because we're on to the Alabama film now.

Q Three starters without a field goal in this ballgame. Any thoughts of making a change in the starting lineup, any concern with not making a field goal?
COACH HOWLAND: No. I thought that -- the other guys stepped up and other guys didn't score a field goal tonight they got to step up and take up the slack to the form. Tomorrow will be a different game. Tomorrow is going to be -- they're a very physical, they pound you inside, they try to post you up. They play through some different things defensively. So, you know, we've got to really be ready for them and do a good job battling on the glass and getting ready for a really knock down, drag out.”



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