STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP)—Mississippi State left the nets up after clinching its second straight SEC West title. The seventh-ranked Bulldogs have their sights set on bigger prizes.
Mississippi State wrapped up the division title by routing second-place LSU 84-58 on Wednesday night.
The Bulldogs (22-2, 11-2) can now concentrate on the overall Southeastern Conference title. They hold a one-game lead over Kentucky and both have three games to play.
Last season when the Bulldogs clinched the SEC West in their final regular season game, they cut down the nets on their home floor.
This time, the Bulldogs simply walked off after a few high-fives.
“We have a couple more games left and we have other goals to achieve,” said Lawrence Roberts, who led the Bulldogs with 14 points. “We’ve got bigger goals and we just want to stay focused and stay committed to those goals.
This was the Bulldogs’ best showing in a couple of weeks.
Timmy Bowers and Winsome Frazier each had 13 points and Shane Power added 12 as Mississippi State played unselfishly on offense and aggressively on defense.
“Everybody came out with a lot of energy,” Bowers said. “We rebounded the ball well. We limited (Brandon) Bass and (Jaime) Lloreda’s touches down low. We just pushed the ball up court and got a lot of easy transition hoops.”
The Bulldogs shot 56 percent, while holding the Tigers (17-7, 7-6) to 35 percent. Mississippi State had a 42-26 advantage on the boards.
“They weren’t missing any shots,” said Antonio Hudson, who had 12 points for LSU. “I felt we had a lot of intensity coming into the game. Once they started making shots we kind of got out of it and started pressing, trying to do things too fast.”
LSU got Lloreda back after he missed two games with injuries to his left Achilles’ tendon and heel.
The Tigers lost two straight by double figures without their best player, but his return didn’t make much difference against the Bulldogs.
Lloreda looked rusty, scoring 10 points on 4-for-11 shooting with 12 rebounds. Worse for the Tigers was the performance of Bass. The freshman, the team’s second leading scorer, was 2-for-7 from the field for seven points.
Darrel Mitchell scored 14 points for the Tigers, who had won five straight before their current three-game slide.
“We’re just not playing as well as we were two weeks ago,” LSU coach John Brady said. “We have to somehow find two wins to close out this thing OK.”
LSU’s biggest problem, though, might have been timing.
Mississippi State had its eight-game winning streak snapped by Alabama in Starkville on Saturday. On Wednesday night, the Bulldogs looked like they were out to atone for that lackluster performance at home.
“I’m proud of our basketball team not just because of the win, but because of the way we responded,” Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury said. “That was more us tonight.”
The Bulldogs hit six of their first seven shots—going inside for layups and outside for 3s—to go up 17-6.
They were just getting warmed up.
Mississippi State shared the ball with precision, beat the Tigers off the dribble and stuck 3-pointers when LSU backed off.
The Bulldogs shot 65.5 percent (19-for-29) in the half and held LSU without a field goal over the last 4:18 to go up 46-30.
And all that was with Roberts, the Bulldogs’ leading scorer and rebounder, getting just four points in 10 minutes because of foul trouble.
Mississippi State began the second half with a 10-2 run. Roberts started it with a dunk, followed by Branden Vincent’s tip-in. Bowers had a jumper and free throw, and in between, Power swished a 3. The result was a 56-34 lead with 15 minutes left before the subdued celebration could begin.
“We’re not finished yet,” Stansbury said.