LSU Comes Up Short, Against Miss. State In SEC Tourney
Communications Sr. Associate
ST. LOUIS, Mo. – The LSU Tigers couldn’t quite overcome a 19-point first-half lead by Mississippi State, falling to the Bulldogs, 80-77, in a second round game Thursday at the Southeastern Conference Basketball Tournament at the Scottrade Center.
The Tigers, 17-14, now await a post-season bid probably in the NIT with the possibility of hosting a first-round game still alive. Mississippi State won its 22nd game in 32 starts and will face league co-champion and second seed Tennessee in the 6 p.m. game on Quarterfinal Friday.
The Tigers were down 19 points, 42-23, with 2:21 after a free throw by Q Weatherspoon. But by then most of the damage had been done by the Bulldogs as they shot 64 percent in the first half (16-of-25) and 9-of-12 from the arc. LSU made just 10-of-30 field goal attempts, including 5-of-17 treys and 4-of-8 free throws.
LSU did outscore the Bulldogs 6-3 in the final two minutes to cut the halftime margin to 45-29 in favor of State, who in the end would be LSU in the tourney for the second straight year and for the fifth straight time overall in the event.
But just like in several road contests, the Tigers were able to make a near amazing run back to get the game even. LSU got the game down to under double figures for the first time on back-to-back steals by Brandon Rachel that led to layups by Aaron Epps and Daryl Edwards. LSU trailed 51-42 with 16:08 left and Mississippi State was forced to call timeout.
State would push the game back to 14 and then the game hunt in double figures for the next seven minutes until an old-fashioned three-point play by Tremont Waters cut the State lead to 62-57 with 9:12 to play.
Three minutes later after one State turnover, Waters had a layup to make it 68-64 and then after a steal by Brandon Sampson, Brandon Rachal had a dunk to cut it to 68-66 State with 5:52 left. State would push the lead back to seven at 73-66.
LSU continued to play hard and after a turnover and a foul, Skylar Mays was at the line with a chance to cut the game to three points. But a lane violation erased the first made free throw in the one-and-one and two sets of made free throws made it 78-71 with 34 seconds left.
Waters missed a free, LSU get the rebound and Mays hit a three-pointer to cut it 78-74 with 21 seconds left. After an LSU timeout, State turned the ball over on a steal by Rachal and Waters hit a three with nine seconds left to cut the margin to just one for the Bulldogs, 78-77.
State was able to run out the clock and got a dunk with one second left to make it 80-77 and a desperation heave from past half court by Rachal did not connect.
Waters, despite a broken nose and wearing a protective mask, made 10-of-20 field goals and 5-of-10 field goals to finish with 28 points, six assists and two steals. Edwards had 11 points on 4-of-8 shooting and 3-of-6 three-pointers. Rachal just missed a double double with 10 points, nine rebounds, two assists and four steals. Rachal hit 5-of-7 field goals.
Lamar Peters hit 8-of-11 field goals for Mississippi State, including 5-of-7 treys for 24 points and six assists, while Nick and Q Weatherspoon each hit 15 points. Aric Holman had 11 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks.
LSU finished the game shooting 46 percent after making 19-of-33 field goals and six treys in the second half. Mississippi State shot 58.3 percent from the field (28-48) and 10-of-17 from the arc. LSU had most of the specialty numbers including 34-28 in the paint, 23-15 in points off turnovers and 17-5 in second chance points.
LSU outrebounded Mississippi State, 31-28 overall and 14-7 on the offensive board.
The NIT field of 32 will be announced Sunday night after the conclusion of the 5-7 p.m. NCAA selection show on TBS.