This time, LSU didn't need the heroics of Anthony Hickey to pull out a win against Mississippi State. After surging to a comfortable halftime lead, the Tigers were able to hold their margin in the second half, and in the game's waning minutes, even the little-used walk-ons were able to get a rare minute of playing time.
One of the best performances of the night came from former walk-on Andrew Del Piero. The 7'3" center scored a career-high 13 points on only six shots and added 4 rebounds and 3 blocked shots. The senior had been nothing more than an after-thought until the arrival of Johnny Jones, but in the past few games, he has seen an expanded role in the rotation, particularly against under-sized or under-manned teams.
The Bulldogs would definitely fit that criteria. Under first-year coach Rick Ray, Mississippi State has only six scholarship players and with junior guard Jalen Steele suspended for the past three games, the Bulldogs entire starting line-up is composed of newcomers who either played in high school or junior college a year ago. Highly rated freshman guard Craig Sword led the way for the Bulldogs with 25 points.
However, due to the inexperience and lack of depth, Mississippi State struggled to put points on the board in the first half. They trailed 41-28 after the first 20 minutes and were only able to cut the lead in the game's waning minutes, when LSU's intensity was down and the marquee names were resting after playing 2 conference games in merely 3 days.
Charles Carmouche had the finest game of his Tiger career as well. The UNO and Memphis transfer broke his shooting slump with an 8-11 performance, going 5 of 8 from the three point line. He finished the game with 21 points. Meanwhile Johnny O'Bryant III continued nabbing double-doubles. The sophomore big man had 10 points and 11 rebounds, to go along with an impressive 8 assists.
While Anthony Hickey and Andre Stringer had quiet games by their standards, both shot well and helped pace the Tigers in one of their finest shooting performances all season. LSU hit 54.5% of their field goals and shot the same percentage from downtown (12 of 22 attempts went in).
Other positives from the game include the team's lack of turnovers (just ten on the night), as well as the 36-20 rebound advantage.
The Tigers advanced to 15-8 on the season and are now 6-6 in conference play, having won six of their last eight conference games. Mississippi State fell to 7-17, with a 2-10 conference record.
LSU's next game should present a much bigger challenge. The Tigers will go to Knoxville on Tuesday to play a Volunteers squad that beat Kentucky by 30 points earlier on Saturday afternoon.