By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – These home wins haven’t been coming easy, but Mississippi State again found a way to pull one out.
The No. 18-ranked Bulldogs held on to beat LSU, 76-71, at Humphrey Coliseum on Wednesday night. Arnett Moultrie tied a career high with 28 points, and the junior forward added 12 rebounds for his SEC-leading 12th double-double of the season.
The Bulldogs (17-4, 4-2 SEC) saw a 12-point lead in the second half shrink to one in the final seconds, but they made free throws and got a late steal to improve to 3-0 in SEC home games.
Those games have been decided by an average of 4.3 points.
“We didn’t have our edge tonight,” MSU coach Rick Stansbury said, “and that’s what this league’s about. You’re not going to have your edge every night, but you’ve got to find a way to survive when you’re not at your best. And that’s what we found a way to do.”
MSU found itself in a surprisingly frenetic finish, thanks to Anthony Hickey. The freshman point guard drained three 3-pointers – one after a steal – to help cut a 68-59 MSU lead to 72-71 with 15 seconds left.
MSU led 74-71 when Hickey brought it across half court and turned it over against a double team of Moultrie and Dee Bost. Moultrie was fouled, a technical was called on LSU coach Trent Johnson, and that was that.
“There wasn’t no way they were going to hit another lucky three,” Moultrie said.
State got some clutch free throws by Rodney Hood and Jalen Steele in the final minute. For the game, State made 23 of 31 free throws, while LSU (12-8, 2-4) was 8 of 13, including 4 of 8 in the second half.
Ruling the boards
MSU also out-rebounded the Tigers, 46-26. Johnson was clearly not happy with those numbers.
“Sometimes you can’t be aggressive in terms of what goes on out there, and you have to make some adjustments,” Johnson said. “I just want a clarification so I can help my kids, that’s all.”
MSU, which has matched last season’s win total, got 15 points from Steele and 13 from Hood. Bost had nine points, 10 assists, seven rebounds and three steals.
Moultrie, who shot 10 of 18, scored 19 points in the second half.
“I just think my athleticism and my quickness bothered them a lot,” he said. “They had me boxed out, but they just couldn’t seal me off.”
Hickey scored 16 for LSU, and Andre Stringer led the way with 17.
MSU went on a 15-2 run early in the second half, with two buckets by Moultrie giving MSU its largest lead of the game, at 47-35. But LSU scrapped back, as Stringer scored eight consecutive points to pull the Tigers within 49-46 at the 11:03 mark.
State later went on a 12-4 run to take a 63-52 lead.
State led 32-31 at halftime after Moultrie made a late steal and layup.
The Bulldogs travel to Florida on Saturday before three straight at home.