By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – For anyone who missed it last year, Anthony Hickey gave an encore performance.
Just as he did in Baton Rouge last February, the LSU point guard hit a last-second shot to beat Mississippi State, 69-68, at Humphrey Coliseum on Saturday. And just like last time, MSU (7-13, 2-6 SEC) saw a 17-point first-half lead evaporate.
“It just felt like a fairy tale,” MSU center Gavin Ware said. “Coach was telling us, we worked so hard in practice and in the first half, and in the second half for us to give it away is unacceptable.”
It was MSU’s sixth consecutive loss and second straight heartbreaker – it fell to Texas A&M in overtime on Wednesday.
Yet it seemed the streak would end, even after the Tigers (12-7, 3-5) went on a 13-1 run to tie the game at 60-60 with 3 minutes, 13 seconds left. MSU scored the next six points and was at the free throw line with a chance to extend the lead.
But Craig Sword missed the two free throws with 1:29 to go, and more mistakes down the stretch doomed MSU. Fred Thomas was called for an offensive foul, Colin Borchert turned it over, and Hickey scored his team’s final seven points.
MSU took a 68-67 lead on Trivante Bloodman’s layup with 7.9 seconds left, but Hickey went coast-to-coast and dropped in a floater with 1.5 to go.
Last season, Hickey hit a shot with 1.4 seconds left to beat MSU in overtime.
Hickey, who finished with 12 points, said MSU’s defense “flattened out” on his winning basket. “If they would have sucked in, I would have made the pass,” he said.
MSU was left to bemoan missing 10 of its last 13 free throws. It made 8 of 20 in the second half and 13 of 27 for the game.
“It was the factor,” first-year MSU coach Rick Ray said.
MSU opened up a 17-point lead in the first half and had a 40-26 edge at the break, its largest halftime lead in SEC play this season. But LSU, which shot 27.3 percent in the first half, warmed up and hit 53.3 percent in the second.
It was similar to what happened against Texas A&M, when MSU played so well early only to see things fall apart in the second half. One could blame a thin roster or inexperience, but Ware, who’s a freshman, doesn’t want to hear excuses.
“We’re already experienced enough to know how to handle the ball, step to the line and make free throw shots. It’s just clutch time,” said Ware, who led State with 14 points and seven rebounds.
Bloodman had 12 points, and three other Bulldogs scored in double digits.
Johnny O’Bryant scored 12 points and had 12 rebounds for LSU after a slow start.