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Mississippi State bolsters NCAA Tournament resume with 20-point win at LSU

Mississippi State basketball
Photo courtesy of Mississippi State Athletics

The Mississippi State men’s basketball team continues to improve its NCAA Tournament resume with the latest boost coming from an 87-67 win at LSU on Saturday.

A career-high scoring performance from freshman sensation Josh Hubbard carried the Bulldogs (19-8, 8-6 SEC) to the dominant victory over the Tigers (14-13, 6-8 SEC), extending MSU’s winning streak to a conference-best at five.

The game started off as a slugfest between two teams known for their physicality. LSU jumped out to a 13-8 lead with momentum, but Mississippi State quickly closed the gap and knotted things up at 20-20 with 10 minutes left in the half.

Chris Jans’ group started to smell blood in the water and began to build a viable lead ahead of the intermission. Kickstarted by a strong showing by KeShawn Murphy and Hubbard, the Bulldogs closed out the half on a 13-4 run to post a 40-33 lead.

The last 20 minutes belonged solely to Mississippi State. A trio of layups by senior big man Tolu Smith helped catapult the Bulldogs to a double-digit lead in the first three minutes after the break. Though LSU cut into the deficit a couple of times to try to get back in the game, the Tigers’ efforts proved futile.

Up 60-50 with 9:16 left in the game, Mississippi State left no room for doubt that they were capable of a rare road win. The 10-point lead turned into a 27-point one with 2:29 left on the clock as Hubbard connected his sixth triple to cement a historic night for the true freshman.

LSU went on a 9-2 run to close out the game, making the final score look a little more respectable for the Tigers as the buzzer sounded, but Mississippi State made a statement in Baton Rouge to put college basketball experts on notice.

Hubbard, in his best collegiate performance to date, connected on nine shots — six from behind the arc — and was perfect at the charity stripe to record 32 points. Smith neared a double-double, scoring 19 points and hauling in nine boards in the rare road win.

Bench scoring was the biggest difference in Saturday’s showdown. Mississippi State had 41 points come from non-starters compared to 12 from LSU’s bench. Second-chance points also played to the Bulldogs’ advantage as MSU scored 27 points after grabbing offensive boards whereas the Tigers recorded 10.

ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has Mississippi State sitting comfortably as a No. 9 seed in his latest NCAA Tournament bracket, but Saturday’s dominant win will certainly give Jans’ squad more positive buzz from bracketologists. The Bulldogs will return to Humphrey Coliseum on Tuesday for a 6 p.m. tipoff against No. 17 Kentucky.

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