February 24, 2011 8:55:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- Protecting home court is crucial down the stretch of a season.
The Mississippi State men''s basketball team''s inability to do that Wednesday night left it with a tough road ahead of the league tournament.
The Bulldogs built a 24-11 lead in the first half but fell victim to a relentless opponent, which thrived off second-chance points and 18 turnovers to post an 84-82 win at Humphrey Coliseum.
LSU snapped a Southeastern Conference-worst 10-game losing streak with the win, much to the relief of LSU coach Trent Johnson
"It''s been a while," Johnson said. "They''ve been fighting and hanging in there. I know we can''t play any better offensively. I know how hard it is to win here."
LSU had five players score in double figures, led by reserve forward Aaron Dotson, who hit 3 of 4 3-pointers in a first-half rally that saw the Tigers take a four-point halftime lead.
The Tigers (11-17, 3-10) scored nearly 22 points more than their season average and hit 19 of 24 free throws.
"They''ve been close in a lot of games," MSU coach Rick Stansbury said, "they just hadn''t closed them out. They got in it by jumping up and making some shots, so give them credit."
The University of Arkansas'' 77-76 against Kentucky on Wednesday dropped MSU (14-13, 6-7) into a tie for second in the SEC''s Western Division.
With two road games remaining, including trips to Tennessee and Arkansas, the Bulldogs will rue the missed opportunity to stay a game up in the division.
"We''re still in control of our destiny," MSU senior guard Riley Benock said. "We still got a head to head with Arkansas. You don''t want to look ahead, but we still have our chances to secure that number two seed."
Benock''s jump shot at the buzzer that could have tied the game rimmed out.
"I thought it was going in when I let it go," Benock said.
One game after the Bulldogs saw starting guards Dee Bost and Benock play turnover-free against Ole Miss, the duo committed five turnovers each against the Tigers.
With a little more than a minute remaining, the Bulldogs forced a Dotson miss and had the ball with the game tied at 77. But Bost committed his final turnover on an errant handle.
Three minutes earlier, Bost knocked down his only two field goals -- both 3-pointers -- to get the Bulldogs within 70-69.
In the final 30 seconds, MSU''s Kodi Augustus and Renardo Sidney (tied season-high with 24 points) hit layups, but the Tigers made 3 of 4 free throws down the stretch to seal the win.
"Too many unforced (turnovers)," Bost said. "It wasn''t cause they was bothering me, (I was) just making passes that wasn''t there."
Bost (15 points) had nine assists for the second straight game, but was 2 of 9 shots from the field. Sidney added eight rebounds and a pair of blocked shots.
Ravern Johnson shined in his fourth-straight game off the bench, finishing with 15 points. He hit 4 of 5 3-pointers.
The Bulldogs shot a season-high 56 percent from the field and had 17 or more assists for the second game in a row. They held the Tigers to 41.8 percent shooting and outrebounded them by six.
Normally, those statistics would come in a win.
"The difference in stats were our free throws and their second-chance points," Stansbury said. "You can''t lose games at home. Everything really gets magnified now."
The Bulldogs started on a 15-4 run before the first media timeout 4 minutes, 34 seconds into the game.
Bost had five assists in the run, and the Bulldogs hit three 3-pointers.
MSU''s ball movement was reminiscent of its passing against Ole Miss when it registered 21 assists and had 10 turnovers.
But LSU clawed its way back -- through an unlikely source. Dotson, a sophomore guard, made 3 of 4 3-pointers in the first half, including two in a 15-4 run to help LSU take a 36-32 lead with four and a half minutes to go in the first half.
Entering the game, Dotson had made just 16 3-pointers on the season, and LSU had made 31 percent from behind the arc.
The Tigers made 8 of 14 in the first half and took a 45-41 halftime lead.
"Our last five out of six, we''ve been playing pretty good ball," Johnson said. "Defensively and offensively, when we start to struggle it''s a snowball effect. But when the ball''s going down, it hides a multitude of sins."
NOTE: Freshman guard Jalen Steele left the game in the first half with a knee injury and didn''t return. A team official said the Bulldogs are calling the injury a sprain, but they will know more today after Steele has an MRI.
jbw commented at 2/24/2011 8:38:00 PM:
Stansbury needs to go yesterday! He has never had control of his teams and the only reason he has won over th e years is because of good bench coaches.. He has had some great talent over the years but is not the coach to get them to the championships.. he along with Kennedy are the two worst coaches in the SEC..