BATON ROUGE, La. — To paraphrase Ed Orgeron, home-field advantage only matters if you give your fans something to cheer about. Two games into its 2017 SEC home schedule, the LSU basketball team is learning this the hard way.
The LSU basketball team lost another winnable home game Saturday, falling 95-78 to Mississippi State. The loss drops the Tigers to 9-5 on the season and 1-2 in SEC play, with both losses coming at home and the sole win coming last week over last-place Missouri.
As has become a weekly tradition this season, LSU stumbled out to a slow start, falling behind 52-33 when the halftime bell rung. After starting forward Aaron Epps went to the bench within the first five minutes of the first half with two fouls, LSU had a hard time establishing a post presence. In the first half alone, Mississippi State outscored LSU 22-12 in the paint and outrebounded the Tigers 22-16.
“We’ve got guys in positions right now where they’re not used to making plays in those spots,” LSU basketball coach Johnny Jones said. “We’ve got to do a better job of putting guys in the right places, get guys who are better ball-handlers and decision-makers on the floor.”
Despite his teammates’ mediocre performance, junior forward Duop Reath led the way for the Tigers with a double-double, posting 19 points and 13 rebounds. Sophomore Antonio Blakeney, LSU’s leading scorer on the season, played below his averages but still finished second on the Tigers in scoring, putting up 17 points.
LSU basketball player of the game: Duop Reath
On a day where LSU got bullied in the paint, it’s hard to give Reath too much credit for his performance. But it’s also hard to penalize him when he played most of the first half beside a power forward who stands 6-foot-6.
Reath’s double-double Saturday was the third of his LSU career and his first in conference play. In LSU’s last three games before Saturday vs. Wake Forest, Vanderbilt and Missouri, Reath combined to post 10 rebounds, fewer than his total from Saturday alone.
The junior college transfer also blocked three shots Saturday.
Stat of the game: Points off turnovers
Mississippi State turned the ball over 14 times Saturday. Off those turnovers, LSU produced 10 points.
LSU turned the ball over 14 times Saturday. Off those turnovers, Mississippi State produced 25 points.
When a game is as sloppy as Saturday’s, the outcome often comes down to efficiency and opportunism. When Mississippi State gained an extra possession, the Bulldogs took advantage. When the LSU basketball team earned such an honor, it wasn’t able to do the same.
“It was more us,” Blakeney said. “We turned the ball over. But even when you turn the ball over, you’ve got to get back. We created offense for them with our bad offense.”
Turning point: Mississippi State’s run
Over a span of 3:53 in the middle of the first half, Mississippi State went on a 13-4 run, giving the Bulldogs a 10-point lead. In that stretch, LSU turned the ball over four times.
What’s next for LSU basketball?
The LSU basketball team will look to recover from Saturday’s loss when it visits Texas A&M in College Station Wednesday. The game will begin at 7:30 p.m. CT and be broadcast on the SEC Network.