By Jim Mashek/The Sun Herald (MCT)
BATON ROUGE, La. — Mississippi State’s Phil Turner is a role player, a guy who brings intangibles to the floor.
On Saturday afternoon, against a desperate LSU team, Turner brought rain down on the Tigers’ post-Mardi Gras parade.
Turner drained a three-point field goal from the right wing, a 22-foot shot with 5.9 seconds left, to send Mississippi State past the Tigers, 60-59, before a modest crowd at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
The Bulldogs (19-8 overall) thus avoided an embarrassing loss after taking second-ranked Kentucky to the wire on Tuesday night in Starkville, and they’ll take a 7-5 league record into Wednesday night’s home game against SEC West rival Alabama.
LSU (9-17) is the No. 215 team in the land, according to realtimerpi.com. The Tigers are winless in 12 SEC games. The last time an SEC men’s team failed to win a game in league play was when Georgia Tech took the collar in 14 SEC games in 1953-54.
Turner made sure that didn’t happen, after MSU point guard Dee Bost drew the defense toward the baseline on a drive toward the basket.
“When Dee drove it,’ Turner said, “and my man (Zach Kinsley) left, I was screaming for it. I knew I could shoot the basketball.”
Turner didn’t hesitate, either.
The Tigers, on the other hand, failed miserably at clock management in the final seconds.
LSU was out of timeouts, and Bo Spencer hurriedly put up an air ball just past midcourt with about three seconds left on the clock.
“I can’t fault what happened down the stretch,” LSU coach Trent Johnson said. “If we wouldn’t have over-helped in that situation, we would’ve been fine. All we had to do was not over-help. Even then, it was a deep 3.
“It’s hard right now. Just can’t get ‘er done.”
It was no bargain for the Bulldogs, either.
Mississippi State missed 15 of its first 20 shots from 3-point range, but that failed to dissuade the Bulldogs.
Ravern Johnson, MSU’s slender swingman, was suspended for the Kentucky game for “conduct detrimental to the team,” but he hit 4 of 10 treys against the Tigers and led the Bulldogs with 16 points. Jarvis Varnado, Mississippi State’s 6-foot-9 shot-blocker for the ages, had 14 points, six rebounds and seven blocks.
Tasmin Mitchell, LSU’s All-SEC forward, played the entire 40 minutes and led the Tigers with 25 points, nine rebounds and four assists. He also had LSU’s only two blocked shots in the game.
Mitchell’s 3-pointer from the right wing with 15 seconds left put LSU in front 59-57. Warren Storm finished with 14 points and eight rebounds for the Tigers.
“Tasmin had made seven 3-points in SEC play before today,” Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury said. “He went 4 for 5 today. (Dennis) Harris hit three 3-pointers all year … he made two today. They played a lot of zone defense and slowed the game down.
“Your team understands, you’ve got to go win (to stay in contention for a possible NCAA Tournament at-large berth). Absolutely, it was a must win for us. I didn’t even have to say it.”
Until Phil Turner sent the Bulldogs on their way to victory.