GAME NOTES: The LSU Tigers will attempt to halt their recent slide on Wednesday night, as they return home to the Pete Maravich Assembly Center to take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs in an SEC affair.
No team in the SEC has been more ice-cold than Mississippi State, which has dropped seven consecutive games to fall to 3-9 in the league, tied for last place with South Carolina. The Bulldogs most recently dropped a disappointing home contest to Auburn on Saturday, 92-82, as they regressed to 13-12 on the season.
LSU's success earlier in the season had it trending towards a bid to the NCAA Tournament, with its 87-82 win over nationally-ranked Kentucky on Jan. 28 the crowning achievement, but it has hit a slide of late with losses in three of its last four to dip to 15-9 overall. The Tigers lost at Arkansas on Saturday, 81-70, and are now 6-6 in the SEC.
The Tigers hold a 107-97 lead over the Bulldogs in the all-time series. The last meeting came nearly a year ago to the day when LSU took down an 80-68 decision on Feb. 16, 2013.
The Bulldogs came out flat over the weekend at Auburn, falling behind by 15 at the half and never being able to climb back in the game down the stretch. They shot an impressive 48 percent from the field and 29-of-36 from the free-throw line, but Auburn was even better in both categories (.510, 37-of-41). Trivante Bloodman did his best to lift the team to victory with 18 points, nine assists and six rebounds. Gavin Ware poured in 15 points, while Roquez Johnson (14 points) and I.J. Ready (12) were both impressive off the bench.
Mississippi State's lackluster showing this season has been well-represented in its statistical performance, as both its scoring offense (67.8 ppg) and scoring defense (69.7 ppg) rank among the SEC's worst. It also sports a -2.0 rebounding margin and has poor percentages from 3-point range (.299) and the free-throw line (.299). Sword puts up a team-high 12.8 ppg and is an efficient field goal shooter (.473), but he's made just 85-of-134 at the foul line. Ware (10.6 ppg, 7.4 rpg) shoots greater than 60 percent from the field and Colin Borchert (9.4 ppg) and Johnson (9.2 ppg) are also regular performers.
The Tigers were able to overcome a small halftime deficit to hold to a three- point lead midway through the second half of their most recent game, but they couldn't hold off the Razorbacks down the stretch and eventually suffered the 11-point setback. They shot only 39.4 percent from the field, including 6- of-24 from 3-point range, and committed a game-high 17 turnovers. Johnny O'Bryant III was stellar despite the setback with 20 points and 16 rebounds, Andre Stringer came off the bench to pour in 13 points and Jordan Mickey tallied eight points and 10 boards.
LSU has posted outstanding offensive numbers this season, shooting 45 percent from the field for 77.2 ppg, which has typically been enough to support its underwhelming scoring defense (72.2 ppg). The team's biggest strength comes in the frontcourt, as it owns a +4.2 rebounding margin spearheaded by the efforts of O'Bryant III (15.8 ppg, 7.7 rpg) and Mickey (13.5 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 3.5 bpg), who both shoot field goals at greater than 52 percent efficiency. Stringer (12.0 ppg) is the only other player to score in double figures on a nightly basis, although Jarell Martin (9.5 ppg), Anthony Hickey (9.0 ppg) and Shavon Coleman (8.9 ppg) all contribute regularly to the well-rounded effort.
For as poorly as LSU has played in recent weeks, it has paled in comparison to Mississippi State's struggles.
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