Mississippi State hadn’t found much success in the last few minutes of the last two ballgames.
Head coach Rick Ray wanted to change that, so he went over a couple of two-minute drills in practice on Friday to stress the importance of finishing a game strong.
It seemed to work.
The Bulldogs finished the game on a 19-10 run and downed LSU in the process at Humphrey Coliseum Saturday afternoon.
MSU fouled LSU a couple of times leading to free throws, but the Bulldogs were able to hang on.
“We’ve got to continue to do late game situations, because we’ve been in a lot of close ballgames,” Ray said. “We don’t want a late game situation to come out and bite us because we haven’t covered it. We just wanted to put those guys in those situations in practice.”
The Bulldogs (10-11, 3-5) trailed 57-54 when the last media timeout was called at the 3:55 mark. They took a 58-57 lead after two Roquez Johnson free throws and a dunk by the senior. The Bulldogs never gave back the lead.
Johnson picked up two fouls early in the first half and only played six minutes. He picked up his third early in the second half and rode the bench for different stretches in the second half. He finished with nine points and 10 rebounds in only 21 minutes of action.
“He didn’t lose his aggression,” Ray said. “A lot of times guys get in foul trouble and they don’t play aggressive on the offensive end or the defensive end. I thought he continued to be aggressive, which is what we need him to be.”
The Bulldogs blew a double-digit lead to Ole Miss on the road on Wednesday night and cut the lead down to one against Georgia last Saturday, but couldn’t get over the hump for the victory.
Fred Thomas led the Bulldogs with 18 points off the bench. He was 5-of-8 from the field and 1-of-2 from behind the three-point line, but made all seven of his free throws.
Practice leading up to the game, was key for the Jackson native.
“I think I had a bad game because I had a bad practice, the last few, couple of weeks,” Thomas said. “If you’re having bad practices, it’s going to carry over to the game. (Friday) I had a great practice. I tried to carry it over to the game.”
Craig Sword scored 14 points, while I.J. Ready had 12 points. Gavin Ware tallied his 12th-career double-double. The former Starkville High School standout had 12 points and 10 rebounds.
LSU was led by Jordan Mickey. The sophomore scored 25 points and pulled down 20 rebounds. Keith Hornsby tallied 15 points, while only shooting 5-of-17 from the field. Josh Gray poured in 13 points before fouling out.