Mississippi State Basketball Uses Second Half Surge to Defeat LSU in SEC Tournament

Things looked bleak in the first half, but Mississippi State basketball came out firing in the second half to take down LSU in the SEC Tournament.

Mar 14, 2024; Nashville, TN, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs guard Josh Hubbard (13) attempts a shot
Mar 14, 2024; Nashville, TN, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs guard Josh Hubbard (13) attempts a shot / Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
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Mississippi State basketball defeated the LSU Tigers 70-60 in the second round of the 2024 SEC Men's Basketball Tournament in Nashville Thursday afternoon. The Bulldogs overcame a 7-point halftime deficit, outscoring LSU by 17 in the second half to pull away with the victory.

The win was MSU's 20th of the season, as they now sit at 20-12 overall, and it most likely cemented the Bulldogs back into the NCAA Tournament for the second-straight season.

A tale of two halves for Mississippi State basketball

Slow starts on the offensive end have been an unfortunate trend for Bulldog basketball in recent weeks, and that did not change against LSU. State shot just 29% from the field in the first half. They had only seven made field goals and were 1-10 from three. A 7-13 start from the charity stripe didn't help matters either.

Star guard Josh Hubbard couldn't find his shot early. State made efforts to feed big man Tolu Smith with no success. They went into the locker room trailing 29-22. But Mississippi State got into a groove after halftime.

In the second half, the Bulldogs found much better ball movement, and they began to connect on the open looks they missed early in the game. State shot 52% after the break. They were 5-11 from three and 11-14 from the line. Josh Hubbard got into more of a rhythm, posting his sixth-straight 20-point performance with 24. Dashawn Davis continued his hot streak with 12. Shakeel Moore provided nine off the bench.

Mississippi State basketball's defense looked like its old self

Mississippi State basketball has a reputation of elite defense, but in recent weeks, they've failed to live up that reputation. They got back into form against the Tigers. State held LSU to 35% shooting for the game. They forced 18 turnovers with 10 steals.

MSU showed an intensity on defense we haven't seen lately right out the gates in this game. And if not for that effort, they likely would've been down by much more than seven at halftime given their poor start on offense.

Defense is Mississippi State's trademark, and Thursday's effort must continue going forward into the postseason.

Mississippi State basketball likely punched its ticket to the NCAA Tournament against LSU

This was a must-win game for Mississippi State basketball. They entered today teetering near the NCAA Tournament cutline, and with a loss, they almost certainly would've been knocked out of the projected field.

But with the win, the Bulldogs are likely locked-in to return to the March Madness. I won't say it with certainty. There's still a lot that can happen, and a win over LSU doesn't exactly move the needle when it comes to State's resume. But, they should be in at this point.

Mississippi State can remove any final doubts about dancing if they can upset SEC champion Tennessee Friday.