By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – LSU did more than get close this time.
The Tigers had not celebrated a win in a month and a half, but they exhaled in frustration Wednesday night with an 84-82 win over Mississippi State at Humphrey Coliseum.
LSU was averaging 55.2 points in SEC play but put up 45 in the first half with 8-for-14 3-point shooting to hold a four-point lead. Aaron Dotson was 3 for 4 behind the arc in the first 20 minutes.
The Tigers extended the lead to 10 points with 12 minutes, 3 seconds left when Storm Warren scored in transition after Dotson came up with a loose ball.
The Tigers had to hold off a charge as MSU began to free up its own shooters, Ravern Johnson and Dee Bost.
But with LSU leading 79-78 with less than a minute left the Tigers (11-17, 3-10 SEC) forced a turnover when the ball was tipped away from Bost from behind.
LSU got a key bucket with 24 seconds left when point guard Andre Stringer, a Jackson native, beat his defender and reached the goal.
After a timeout with 16.6 seconds left, MSU coach Rick Stansbury opted to go inside, not outside. He got the bucket with Renardo Sidney but not the foul, as Garrett Green stood firm.
The Tigers hit the key free throws at the end, two by Eddie Ludwig and one by Ralston Turner.
“Give them credit. They’ve been close, but they haven’t been closing games,” Stansbury said.
One example was MSU’s 58-57 win in Baton Rouge earlier this season when LSU had the ball for the last shot but couldn’t get one off.
“They jumped up and made shots tonight. They just kept making baskets,” Stansbury said.
State’s last shot, by Riley Benock, rimmed in and out, and the home crowd of 6,275 watched in stunned disbelief as the upset became reality.
“We didn’t have no timeouts, so that’s about as a good a shot as you can hope to get in that situation,” Stansbury said.
Said Green, “It feels great. We finally got the monkey off our backs.”
Dotson led five LSU players in double figures with 16 points. Storm Warren had 14, Turner and Green 12 each and Stringer 10.
Sidney had 24 for MSU.
Good looks were harder to come by in the second half, but LSU held the lead with defense and timely shooting. The Tigers were 1 for 7 from the arc in the second half.
MSU’s Ravern Johnson knocked down two 3-point shots in a 70-second span, the second making it a 66-63 game with 8:16 remaining.
Twice Bost got the Bulldogs within a single point, the second time hitting two free throws at the 5:14 mark.
The Tigers got it done from outside in the first half, but it was key baskets by Garrett Green and Storm Warren in the post that held the lead.
Warren’s leaner on MSU’s Wendell Lewis made it a 77-73 game with 3:41 left, an edge that stood after LSU forced a turnover when the Bulldogs came out of a timeout at the 2:54 mark.
“We jumped on them early. From that point on, maybe we got relaxed some, lost focus some,” Stansbury said.