BATON ROUGE, La. (WCBI/MSU Athletics) – Mississippi State could not overcome a slow start Wednesday night as it dropped a 92-81 decision to LSU in a Southeastern Conference men’s basketball game at the Maravich Assembly Center.
Craig Sword led the offensive attack with 33 points, becoming the first Bulldog player to score 30 or more points since Ravern Johnson did it Nov. 26, 2010 against Troy. Sword hit 11-of-16 shots from the field, 10-of-14 shots from the foul line, while also having three assists and three rebounds, before fouling out with less than three minutes remaining.
LSU improved to 16-9 overall and 7-6 in league play, while MSU fell to 13-13 and 3-10. The Bulldogs have now dropped eight straight games in league play.
In the opening stages of the game, LSU quickly built a 16-1 advantage. The lead would grow to 24-4 before MSU made its push. The Bulldogs would close within single digits down the stretch but could not get over the hump.
“We spotted them 15 points to start the game,” MSU head coach Rick Ray said. “We would have been better off giving them the points and not playing the actual game because of the fouls we were collecting. You can’t beat a quality on the road with that kind of start.
“Beyond that, we just have to look at how we are defending people. We have way too much foul trouble. We have to guard without fouling. I think guys are moving their feet well. We were not having a lot of fouls called early in league play so we just have to look at what we are doing.”
After falling down 24-4, the Bulldogs got six straight points from Sword. The Bulldogs closed within six points on two free throws by De’Runnya Wilson 7:28 left in the half.
With a lot of reserves in the lineup, due in part to the foul trouble, the Bulldogs trailed 42-31 at the intermission.
“I am really proud of the guys we brought in and how far they fought,” Ray said. “Bear (Wilson) is out there and he doesn’t know everything we are doing right now, but he is flying around being competitive. Trivante (Bloodman) and I.J. (Ready) have no size and yet they are competing against bigger guys and fighting hard.”
The Bulldogs were back within seven in the early stages of the second half at 47-40 after a 3-point play by Sword. LSU followed with a 12-4 run to push the lead back out to 15 points.
MSU fell back down by 19 points but the strong play of Gavin Ware and Roquez Johnson kept the Bulldogs a float late. Ware posted his seventh double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Still, the Bulldogs were plagued by 16 turnovers, which led to 20 points for LSU.
“Past two games, we have simply given the ball away too many times,” Ray said. “For the most part, they have been unforced turnovers because we have played two teams that have not pressured us much. We have to stop fouling and hang on to possession. Last two games, we have played well enough offensively to win.”
For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 26 of 52 shots from the field (50.0 percent), 3 of 8 shots from 3-point range (37.5 percent) and 26 of 36 shots from the foul line (72.2 percent). The Tigers hit 30 of 59 shots from the field (50.8 percent), 9 of 21 shots from 3-point range (42.9 percent) and 23 of 29 shots from the foul line (79.3 percent).
MSU held a 34-30 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had eight assists and 16 turnovers, while the Tigers had 17 assists and 16 turnovers.
Bloodman and Johnson each had 11 points for the Bulldogs.
LSU received 20 points from Jarell Martin, 19 points from Jordan Mickey, 18 points from Shavon Coleman, 14 points from Andre Stringer and 13 points from Anthony Hickey.
MSU returns home to host Arkansas at 3 p.m. Saturday. That contest will be televised regionally by SEC TV.