Mississippi St. downs LSU, heads to SEC quarters
ST. LOUIS (AP) With 34 seconds left, Mississippi State extended its lead to 78-71, and it looked as if the Bulldogs were going to keep their NCAA Tournament hopes alive.
But as time wound down, those hopes faded as LSU’s Skylar Mays hit a 3-pointer and the Bulldogs turned it over on the ensuing possession. With 10 seconds left, Tremont Waters drilled a 3 and the Tigers closed to 78-77.
The Bulldogs avoided foul attempts on the inbound and Nick Weatherspoon capped the victory with a dunk.
Lamar Peters scored a season-high 24 points and Mississippi State hit 10 3-pointers in defeating LSU 80-77 in the second round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament on Thursday.
Peters led an unlikely charge from 3 for the seventh-seeded Bulldogs, who came into the contest the 15th-worst team at 30.7 percent shooting from beyond the arc. Mississippi State (22-10), which faces Tennessee in Friday’s third quarterfinal, shot 9 of 12 from 3 in the first half and finished the game 10 for 17.
”I swear to you that I’m not surprised,” Mississippi State coach Ben Howland said. ”If you look back at those threes, a lot of them were pretty open. Their strategy is to go under the ball screen and make you make shots.”
Tenth-seeded LSU (17-14) trimmed a once 19-point Bulldogs’ lead to just two with 5:52 remaining. The game stayed close until the end, but the Tigers never retook the lead.
Tremont Waters led LSU with 28 points and six assists. He sustained an injury in the final minutes but battled through till the end of the game.
”That’s what we get pretty much every night from him,” LSU coach Will Wade said. ”(He’s) the only reason we’re in a lot of games.”
Waters and Peters went back and forth all game, but Peters’ teammates scored more down the stretch. Quinndary Weatherspoon and his brother, Nick, each finished with 15 points for the Bulldogs. Aric Holman posted a double-double, scoring 11 points and grabbing 12 boards.
LSU: The Tigers simply started slow and got torched in the first half by Mississippi State’s 3-point attack. They put together a valiant effort in the second half, but couldn’t stop the Bulldogs on the defensive end.
Mississippi State: A hot-shooting night keeps the Bulldogs alive for another game. They’ll face Tennessee on Friday. If they win that, it may be time to reconsider the Bulldogs as a bubble team.
With his 28-point performance against Mississippi State, Waters has now scored 20 or more points in four of his last six games.
”Waters is something special,” Howland said. ”Obviously, Waters was the key. What did they do special? He just went crazy. I think he’s really that good.”
SQUEAKING ONE OUT
Mississippi State never relinquished its lead, but struggled mightily to hold on. The Bulldogs allowed 14 offensive rebounds and 17 second-chance points. Late turnovers also kept the Tigers alive. Despite his best offensive performance of the season, Peters wasn’t pleased with the team’s ability to finish.
”It was just fortunate to get the win,” Peters said. ”I feel like we need to close out games better than we did. We still got life trying to get into the NCAA Tournament.”
LSU will wait to see its postseason fate.
Mississippi State faces Tennessee on Friday in the evening session of the tournament.