Josh Hubbard’s career-high 32 points puts dagger in LSU’s heart, Mississippi State pulls away from Tigers in second half

Trae Hannibal
Trae Hannibal scored a career-high 22 points to lead LSU, but it wasn't enough as MSU freshman Josh Hubbard was deadly from outside in the Bulldogs 20-point win over the Tigers on Saturday night. PHOTO BY Michael Bacigalupi

That freshman kid in the maroon and white from Mississippi – the one scorching the nets in the PMAC on Saturday night – was not Chris Jackson, later known as Mahmoud Abdul Rauf, revisited.

That was Josh Hubbard.

One can only hope he goes pro sooner rather than later.

Hubbard’s shot and the display he put on against LSU on Saturday night was reminiscent of Rauf’s when he was a Tiger.

But Hubbard, of course, does not play for LSU like Rauf did. Didn’t appear to have Rauf’s crossover dribble, either. But he had an eerily similar outside shot.

And that fact, combined with Mississippi State’s suffocating perimeter defense, physical inside play, and 16 offensive rebounds which the Bulldogs turned into 27 second-chance points, proved to be too much for LSU as the Bulldogs ended the Tigers’ two-game winning streak with a dominating, 87-67 beat down.

Hubbard made six 3-pointers and scored a career-high 32 points, and Mississippi State rolled to its fifth straight win.

“Hubbard was terrific,” LSU coach Matt McMahon said. “He goes for 32. We lost him from behind the arc, went zone and lost him there. He knocked it down again and again. I just got tip my cap to them, they were ready to go and just out executed us, out coached us and they deserved to win.

“Credit to Mississippi State, they were terrific tonight.  Really a complete performance.  Shot the ball exceptionally well from three and at the free-throw line as well.  I thought in the first half, you know a back-and-forth game.  We gave up some transition points that really hurt us there and then the second-chance points in the first half, and in the second half, again, we just didn’t have it.  They just took off and left us there.  Thought they really executed on the offensive end, and their physicality and pressure really bothered us defensively, as evidenced by our four assists to 15 turnovers.  So, a quick turnaround to get ready for Georgia, and that’s how we’ll approach these next 48 hours.”

Hubbard was 9-of-17 shooting overall, made six of his 12 3-point attempts and all eight of his free throws. Tolu Smith added 19 points and KeShawn Murphy scored 11 points and grabbed nine rebounds for Mississippi State (19-8, 8-6 SEC).

Trae Hannibal scored a career-high 22 points to lead LSU (14-13, 6-8), which had to play without its leading scorer Jalen Cook for the third straight game due to a hamstring injury.

Jordan Wright added 14 points for the Tigers, who also had to play the last few minutes of the first half and all the second half without its emerging scoring threat, sophomore Tyrell Ward.

Ward, who put together back-to-back career-high scoring performances in LSU’s two one-point upset wins this past week over South Carolina and Kentucky, scored seven points and hit the LSU’s lone three-point shot in the first half before taking a knee in the thigh and spending the entire second half riding a stationary bicycle.

McMahon said he was not sure the severity of Ward’s injury nor how long he would be out.

“I don’t know the timeline, but it looked like a muscle injury to  the upper leg there,” McMahon said. “He’s in treatment right now, and we’ll  see how long on that, how long the recovery will be. Hopefully it’s something day today, but I don’t know any more at this point.”

LSU struggled offensively without Ward and Cook against Mississippi State, especially from outside the arc where the Tigers made only 3 of 17 shots.

“Well, I think you saw the floor shrunk on us tonight, certainly,” McMahon said.

“I thought we got some good looks from behind the three-point line in the first half.  We didn’t knock those down; second half we just weren’t able to create those same looks.  I thought we over-dribbled some.  You have to understand, Mississippi State with the way they play, they really do a great job.  When you drive it, they swarm to the ball.  They’re first in our league or last in our league, depending on how you look at it, in the percentage of shots that are threes by their opponents.  Almost half of their opponent’s shots are threes because they do such a good job of swarming to the ball and taking away the driving lanes.  And so, as we were unable to get anything going from behind the arc, I thought the floor really shrunk on us, and we overdribbled and that led to some bad turnovers that cost us in transition,” he said.

Mississippi State took the lead for good with a little more than four minutes remaining in the first half on when Hubbard drove past LSU’s defense in transition for an easy layup to put the Bulldogs up, 31-29.

Mississippi State ended the half on an 11-4 surge for a 40-33 halftime lead.

Two 3s and a Cameron Matthews dunk during a 9-2 spurt in the second half stretched the Bulldogs’ lead to 60-44 with 12:10 to play.

LSU pulled to 60-49 with 10 minutes left but didn’t get any closer.

Hubbard scored 19 second-half points for the Bulldogs, who shot 37% in the first half but 59% in the second. Hubbard, who made only one 3 in six tries in the first half heated up the second half, sinking 5 of 6. He surpassed his previous career-high 29 points on a 3-pointer from deep with 2:29 remaining before taking a seat for the rest of the game.

“We had a quick turnaround here,” McMahon said.

“This was our sixth game in a row against the NCAA Tournament team and we just didn’t have the energy and the toughness that we needed tonight.”

LSU hosts Georgia on Tuesday night at the PMAC at 6 PM central in a rematch. LSU lost to Georgia, 68-66, on January 24.

WHAT THEY SAID

Jordan Wright on Mississippi State’s rebounding…

“Honestly, I think they just out-toughed us on the glass … They came out more physical than us, they played tougher than us, they played harder than us and I think that was the story of the game. The last couple games we were the tougher team. We got those 50/50 balls that came off the rim but tonight we didn’t do that.” 

Jordan Wright on getting down and coming back in conference play…

“Honestly, it’s tough to do. I mean you get down double digits every single game and you want to come back, you want to make a run, but we can’t keep digging ourselves a hole. I mean, yeah it sounds good when you win and get down 15, but it’s not the way we want to play. It’s not something we want to be known for. I think we controlled the game in the first half until the last probably three or four minutes and they went on a nice run. We went down seven into the half. We don’t want to be known as comeback kids; we don’t want to be known as that. We need to focus up and have that energy to start the game and sustain a lead and not be down at halftime every single game, not go down after the first media by 13, 14, 15 points. But like I said, it’s tough to do. We’ve been doing it every single game but tonight we just didn’t make that run like we usually do but that’s not something we want to continue to do moving forward.”

Trae Hannibal on difficulty guarding Josh Hubbard…

“I feel like I could have done a better job earlier in the game. You know, just not letting him get touches. Once you minimize his touches, that makes him frustrated. A guy like that, credit to him he’s a tough shooter, you know, a tough shot maker. You just have to force guys like that off the three (point) line and make them take tough twos, but he just came out and competed. He just hit tough shots and he came out very confident and that comes from the first half. They played hard. We’ll be ready come Georgia.”

Mississippi State Head Coach Chris Jans

On the trust he has for KeShawn Murphy…

“The trust I have for him is high. He is a willing defender. He has been really working on it. He has been receptive to what we are trying to do with him on the defensive side of the floor. It does not take much to figure out he is talented offensively. Obviously, he has great length, and he just gives us a different look when he is on the floor with his ability, at 6’10” to play either the four, even the five, he can stretch the D, and it gives us another scorer out there. He is underrated with his driving ability, his passing ability, he really sees the floor. He keeps getting better on the defensive end, and because of that, he is on the floor more. It has been really, really good, and he has been a shot in the arm for us the past five or six games.”

On his team staying the course in the second half…

“You know, we were really good on the glass in the first half on both sides, and that is a thing we talk about most games, and not just this particular game. And then, in the second half, we were fine on the offensive glass, we were good. I did not think we were great on the defensive glass, especially to start the second half, I think they (LSU) got four or five rebounds in the first five or six minutes, and that is something we have talked about a ton. I thought the difference was our guys really settled in defensively. I thought our ball pressure and our ability to guard the ball was good, and everyone got into it and we just kind of kept them at bay. They (LSU) are really good at getting to the rim. They lead the league in percentage of shots at the rim, and that is something we really focused on coming into this week, doing our work out front, doing our work on the ground, trying to avoid those situations if we could. I just felt like our guards were really doing a good job getting to the ball which allowed us to get out and run a little bit and open up a lead.”

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