By Bryan Lazare
BATON ROUGE, La. – Coming off back-to-back losses on the road, LSU certainly needed to get off to a quick start against slumping Mississippi State.
The Tigers didn’t disappoint coach Johnny Jones as they scored the first 14 points of the game en route to a 92-81 victory against the Bulldogs on Wednesday.
LSU (16-9, 7-6 SEC), which never trailed, continued its stellar play at home. The Tigers have won six consecutive conference home games. Meanwhile, Mississippi State (13-13, 3-10) saw its losing streak reach eight games.
“We got off to a really good start, one that we needed,” Jones said. “We played well on the offensive end making plays and executing, getting stops and deflections defensively, rebounding the ball and getting out on our break.”
Anthony Hickey started the quick LSU outburst with a 3-pointer on its initial possession. Johnny O’Bryant sank a pair of free throws before Shavon Coleman made a basket. A three-point play by Jordan Mickey gave the Tigers a double-digit lead less than two minutes into the game.
Jarell Martin made a pair of foul shots before an O’Bryant field goal capped the 14-0 run. Mississippi State’s first point came on a Fred Thomas foul shot at the 16-minute mark. The Bulldogs missed three field goal attempts and committed five turnovers in the opening four minutes.
Martin and Mickey, two freshman starters, combined for 39 points. Martin, who was 8-of-11 from the field, scored a season-high 20 points and grabbed eight rebounds to match his highest total in a SEC game. Mickey hit 11 foul shots, finished with 19 points.
Three other players scored in double figures for LSU. Coleman scored 18 points, while Andre Stringer had 14 and Hickey 13. The 92 points were a season-high for the Tigers, who had not scored 90 points in a SEC non-overtime game in nine seasons.
Sword’s career high
Craig Sword had a career-high 33 points for Mississippi State before fouling out. Gavin Ware had a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds. Trivante Bloodman and Roquez Johnson each had 11 points for the Bulldogs.
“We spotted them 14 points to start the game,” Mississippi State coach Rick Ray said. “Our guys just can’t beat a quality team at their place when we get off to that bad of a start. The thing I was pleased with was that the guys we brought in fought.”
Mississippi State, which fell behind by 20 points, cut its deficit to six at 26-20 with 7:28 remaining in the first half. Sword scored eight points and I.J. Ready made three field goals as the Bulldogs outscored LSU 16-2.
Mississippi State hosts Arkansas at 3 p.m. Saturday.
However, the Tigers extended their advantage back to double figures by the end of the half. Two 3-pointers by Hickey started the outburst which enabled LSU to expand its lead. Mickey scored five points during this time as the Tigers took a 42-31 lead into halftime.
Mississippi State trimmed the LSU lead to seven points inside the first three minutes of the second half. Back-to-back baskets by Sword left the Bulldogs behind 47-40.
The Tigers answered with a 12-4 run. Stringer made a pair of free throws and a pair of 3-pointers to help LSU go on top 59-44 with 14:42 remaining. Mississippi State trailed by at least ten points the rest of the game.
“In the second half, Mississippi State got off to a good start,” Jones said. “About midway through, our guys turned it up. We had a great push, scored on fast-break opportunities and had good stops at the other end.”