With 1:07 left in the game, LSU took its final time out. The Tigers were trailing at the time 68-62 and another loss seemed imminent. However, thanks to outstanding play from Anthony Hickey, LSU had a chance to tie the game with :06 left in the game. Unfortunately, Mississippi State was able to steal the ball from Hickey and close out the gameLike the Florida game, LSU was able to jump out to an early lead thanks to great shooting. The Tigers were able to hold onto the lead for most of the first half, but with less than two minutes left Mississippi State took the first lead. The teams battled back and forth the final minutes, but State held onto a 32-31 lead at the break.
The strong play in the first half for LSU was largely due to a change in the starting line-up. Trent Johnson sent out Anthony Hickey, Ralston Turner, Eddie Ludwig, Johnny O’Bryant and Justin Hamilton to start the game, leaving Storm Warren and Andre Stringer to play with the second line. It was a great move by Johnson. He avoided having to many dead ball players (Warren, Stringer and Turner) on the floor with one another. If they were together they were the main offensive weapons on the floor. Johnson did fall short in the second half, especially trying to defend Arnett Moultre.
In the first half, Moutre scored nine points, but in the second half he exploded for 19 points. Moultre’s ability to dominate in the second half helped State grow its lead to double digits half way through the half. The only reason LSU was able to keep the game close was due to the shooting of guards Ralston Turner, Andre Stringer and Anthony Hickey. The three shot 14 of 34 from the field and nine of 15 from three. Stringer led all scores for LSU with 17 points. Stringer usually plays out of control and forces to many unnecessary shots, but Wednesday night he played under control. Hickey finished with 16 points and scored six of those with less than a minute left in the game. Turner is still struggling to find his stride, but did shoot three of four from three points range, but overall only shot three of 10.
It is nice to send praises the LSU players for their play, but the fact is they lost. Why did they lose? Two stats jump out to me. The first is they were dominated on the glass 40 to 23. That stat alone is what helped Moultre gain his 28 points, he also had 12 rebounds. The other stat was three throw shooting. LSU was eight of 13 from the line, while State was 23 of 31! If my math is right, that is a 15 point difference, and what helped State secure the victory.
If there is one question I could ask Trent Johnson, it would be “what happened to Justin Hamilton?” I knew he would not match his 27 point total he had against Florida, but against State he only scored 11 points. He did convert on most of his shots, but only shot the ball eight times and only shot two free throws. When you have a center as talented as Hamilton, how is it he vanished in the second half. Hamilton’s last shot made or attempted came at the 8:02 mark in the second half. If LSU has any chance of making a post-season tournament, the offense has to run through Hamilton.
The loss is a huge blow for the Tigers. It drops the to 2-4 in the SEC, and will likely slide to 2-5 after the play their next opponent, Kentucky.