SEC MBB TOURNAMENT GAME PREVIEW: No. 8 LSU vs No. 9 Mississippi State

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

LSU basketball wrapped up the regular season with a win over Missouri and now heads into a rematch with Mississippi State in the SEC Tournament.

LSU (17-14, 9-9 SEC) lost the first matchup with Mississippi State (19-12, 8-10 SEC) at home 87-67. LSU trailed by seven points at halftime in that game and couldn’t slow down the Bulldogs’ offense in the second half on the way to a 20-point loss.

“We know we’re playing a really, really good Mississippi State team on Thursday,” LSU head coach Matt McMahon said. “They present a lot of problems on the offensive end of the floor. Hubbard is playing as well as any guard in the country averaging 29 a game over the last five. Making almost six threes a game over the last five games.”

Trae Hannibal led LSU in points in the first matchup with 22, but he had seven turnovers and just two assists. LSU finished the game with 15 turnovers.

“Although [Hannibal] scored the ball well that game, I believe he was 9-of-18 from the floor, he had two assists and seven turnovers,” McMahon said. “As a team we had four assists in the game. It’s hard to win playing like that as a team. We have to do a much better job of moving the basketball, getting some higher quality shots and shooting a much better percentage from the floor.”

Mississippi State enters the tournament on a four-game losing streak after dropping games to Kentucky, Auburn, Texas A&M and South Carolina to close the season. The game at LSU was the last game the Bulldogs have won.

Josh Hubbard leads Mississippi State in points per game with 16.8. He has scored 23 or more points in each of his last five games. Tolu Smith III is second on the team with 16.3 points per game while shooting 58.6% from the field. Smith made First Team All-SEC and Hubbard made Second Team. They are the only two players averaging over 10 points per game for the Bulldogs.

The Mississippi State offense is eighth in the SEC with 75.3 points per game while LSU’s offense sits in seventh place with 76.9 points per game. The Bulldogs are better on the boards though with 38.0 rebounds per game compared to the Tigers’ 35.8. Cameron Matthews leads Mississippi State with 7.1 rebounds per game.

“When you look back at [the first matchup] the second chance points really hurt us,” McMahon said. “Both teams had about the same amount of offensive rebounds but they turned theirs into 27 points and we only converted our offensive rebounds into 10. I thought that was a big key to the game on our defensive end.”

Mississippi State has the fifth best defense in the conference giving up 69.6 points per game. LSU’s defense comes in at eighth place giving up 74.8 points per game. The Bulldogs give up the third-least number of offensive rebounds per game with 9.9 while LSU sits in 11th place giving up 11.6 per game.

Opposing teams shoot 41.9% from the field against the Bulldogs. They have the best three-point defense in the conference and hold opposing offenses to 29.4% shooting from three. LSU’s three-point defense is eighth in the SEC. LSU made just three three-pointers in the first matchup.

LSU’s game against Mississippi State will start at 12 p.m. on Thursday and can be streamed on the SEC Network. The winner will move on to face No. 1 seed Tennessee.

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Will Nickel

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