GREENVILLE, S. C. - Mississippi State dropped a tough 71-62 decision to LSU in the second round of the SEC Tournament at Bon Secours Wellness Arena on Thursday.
Free throws and defense were the difference in the game for LSU (9-12). The Tigers earned 26 trips to the charity stripe and converted on 19 of those attempts, while their defensive pressure led to eight steals and forced MSU into 14 turnovers. LSU’s reserves also played a huge role in the outcome, giving the Tigers 34 points off the bench, led by Ryann Payne’s game-high 17 points.
“We weren’t disciplined letting them get to the free throw line,” MSU head coach Nikki McCray-Penson said. “For two days, we worked on angles in practice and our closeouts. That was one of our keys. Our closeouts had to be really great. Some were, and some were not. We fouled them too much. They hit some threes. I told our team that everybody at this tournament wants to win. It’s not just about wanting to win. You have to do the things that it’s going to take to win. We just lost it from that standpoint.”
The Bulldogs (10-9) won the battle in the paint, outscoring the Tigers 36-26 down low and outrebounding them 34-31. MSU shot 45 percent from the field during the contest, while LSU was 43 percent from the floor.
Rickea Jackson and Jessika Carter both finished with 14 points in the game to pace Mississippi State on offense. Carter also added six rebounds for the day. Myah Taylor rounded out the squad’s double-digit scorers with 12 points to go along with three assists.
Madison Hayes posted a solid performance seven points and four rebounds. Both teams swapped scoring runs in the first quarter to keep things close. The Bulldogs had the momentum early, jumping out to a quick 11-4 lead, but the Tigers responded with a 9-2 swing of their own.
Jackson had six points in the period to help State take a 15-13 advantage. LSU struck first in the second stanza, using a 14-6 run to pull ahead early. Mississippi State was 50 percent from the field and knocked five of its final seven shots in the half to narrow the Tigers’ lead to 33-29 going into halftime.
Jackson had eight points to pace the team during the half, while Carter chipped in six points. The third period was all LSU, as the Tigers shot 58 percent from the floor and outscored State 20-14 for the second straight quarter.
The Bulldogs cut the deficit to five points with 2:33 left in the frame, but the LSU would extend its lead to 53-43 by the end of the stanza. Taylor scored nine points in the fourth quarter to help spark the offense, as MSU shot 67 percent from the field. However, the Tigers erased any chance of a comeback by hitting several big shots in the stanza to ice the game.