Frigid gusts of wind assaulted the outside of the Humphrey Coliseum on Wednesday night, but on the hardwood, the three-point line was red hot as Louisiana State University rained a barrage of shots from deep to topple the Bulldogs 94-80.
The Bulldogs were ranked 10th in the SEC after Wednesday's performance, highlighted by two Bulldogs who scored at least 20 points each. Mississippi State University now holds a record of 5-7 in the conference and a 11-10 record overall.
The game started off well for MSU as they held a 15-9 lead after five minutes into the first half. The Tigers would go on a scoring run and would eventually tie the game up 24-24 with 9:43 remaining in the first half. By halftime, LSU had taken a two-point lead and each team had made five three-point shots.
The second half is when LSU did most of their damage, starting off the half with a three-pointer by sophomore guard Aundre Hyatt. The Tigers followed Hyatt's lead and dropped in four more three-pointers in the second half. Head Coach Ben Howland said his team played poorly defensively, especially in transition.
"In transition defense, we gave up so many baskets. That's 24 points, I think, in transition," Howland said. "That's like crazy. We had problems matching up and not communicating. I was really disappointed in our transition defense."
LSU Head Coach Will Wade said he thought his team played aggressively and had a great offensive flow throughout the game.
"Good win. I thought we played with an edge and moved the ball well. I thought that the time off helped us. This was closer to how we need to be playing. Overall, I was very pleased," Wade said. "We did a nice job on the backboards and came up with some big offensive rebounds."
Turnovers were a big issue for MSU. The Bulldogs committed 15 turnovers in the game to LSU's seven. Those turnovers came at a great cost for the Bulldogs, as many of those turnovers resulted from sloppy passes and simply not taking care of the ball. LSU capitalized on those turnovers and notched 24 points off fast break points alone.
It was a grueling loss, nonetheless, but it was not all bleak for Mississippi State University. Four players scored double digits, including freshman forward Derek Fountain, who had a breakout night. Fountain boasted a career high in points and rebounds as the Holly Springs native scored 20 points and grabbed seven rebounds.
The Bulldogs scoring leader for the night was redshirt-sophomore forward Tolu Smith, who notched a double-double. Smith dominated the paint for the Bulldogs and went 10-11 from the field, scoring 24 points and battling for 11 rebounds.
Smith said he is excited about his teammate's progression, getting more aggressive offensively and defensively.
"Both of them (Derek Fountain and Deivon Smith) took major strides defensively," Smith said. "I feel like now Deivon is more aggressive on defense, Derek as well. Offensively, they both have the talent, and now they are more aggressive and are willing scorers. Being such young guys, it's good to have them be aggressive on offense."
Turnovers, missed rebounds and uncontested three-pointers cost the Bulldogs the game. LSU shot 45% from the three and 61% from the field. Many times throughout the game MSU struggled to guard the perimeter and let LSU take easy, wide-open shots.
Coach Howland said his team has played great defense in recent games and is unsure how they fell apart defensively. He also pointed out there is no excuse for it and promises better defensive play in the future.
"The last five games our defense has been absolutely terrific," Howland said. "We've been great in transition defense. So really, it is inexplicable to me how this occurred tonight because we have been so good. There is no excuse for it, but I assure you it won't be a long-term problem."