STARKVILLE, Miss. — Battling through a foot injury, Jordan Mickey produced one of the best games of his LSU basketball career Saturday.
Unfortunately, the other half of the Tigers’ big two-man tandem down low, Jarell Martin, suffered through one of his worst games battling foul trouble and a pesky 2-3 zone defense by Mississippi State.
With the exception of Mickey, who had a career-high 20 rebounds to go with 25 points, the rest of LSU’s team didn’t have its shooting touch and struggled mightily in a 73-67 loss to Mississippi State in Humphrey Coliseum.
Some big misses late, when LSU had opportunities to expand on a slim three-point lead, were especially harmful and helped halt the Tigers’ three-game Southeastern Conference winning streak.
LSU (16-5, 5-3) shot just 29.4 percent from the floor in the first half and connected on 37.7 percent for the game, while Mississippi State (10-11, 3-5) was a bit better at 44.2 percent.
One of the Tigers’ biggest misses came when Tim Quarterman, who didn’t practice Friday because of illness, failed to hit a wide-open shot from close range with his team clinging to a one-point lead with 3:35 to play.
State’s Roquez Johnson pulled down the rebound to start a fast break and slammed the ball home nine seconds later — turning what should have been a three-point deficit into a 58-57 lead.
The enthused Bulldogs never trailed after that. They finished the game on a 19-10 tear after Martin, despite being sandwiched by two defenders down low, scored his only basket at the 4:18 mark to give the Tigers a 57-54 lead.
“Unfortunately, we had a lead but missed a couple layups underneath that were open to us that we needed to finish to possibly put us up by three,” LSU coach Johnny Jones said.
A turnover by Martin after a Quarterman rebound on a missed 3-point shot by Keith Hornsby on LSU’s next possession led to another quick basket by Craig Sword and a 60-57 Mississippi State advantage.
LSU shot better in the second half, hitting 45.7 percent, with Mickey going 7-of-10 from the field. But their 37.7 percent tied for their third-worst shooting night this season.
Mickey was 11-of-18 for the game, but the rest of the team was 15-of-51. The guards were 12-of-41, with Josh Gray going 6-of-14, while Hornsby was 5-of-17 and Quarterman 1-of-10. Hornsby scored 15 points and Gray finished with 13.
“It was a combination of things,” Jones said of his team’s poor shooting. “In the first half we had some looks, and unfortunately, they didn’t go down. In the second half, we came out and made some good plays and executed offensively and got ourselves the lead.
“I think we were making some plays and shot 45 percent there in the second half. But it could have been better … we missed some timely layups and easy scoring opportunities.”
It was certainly unexpected for Jones, whose team was tied for second in the conference going into the game shooting 45.9 percent for the season.
“It was like there was a lid on the basket,” Hornsby said. “The first half was terrible for me and terrible for a lot of guys. We had some better moments in the second half, but overall, our shooting was pretty rough today. We don’t have any excuses.
“Their zone, we didn’t really know what to do with that for a while. We tried to draw up some stuff, and we got some good opportunities; we just didn’t capitalize in the right moments.”
When State’s zone defense collapsed down low on Martin, who was 1-of-4 from the field and limited to a season-low four points — more than 12 below his average while playing just 27 minutes — Mickey benefitted.
He hit his shots from the outside and recorded his 12th double-double of the season by halftime.
Despite sitting out several minutes in the second half with the foot injury, Mickey turned in LSU’s first 20-rebound game since Jaime Lloreda had 21 against McNeese State in 2003.
It was also the first 20-20 game for LSU since Geert Hammink had 20 points and 20 rebounds against Campbell in 1992.
But it didn’t pay off for the Tigers, whose misery wasn’t limited to their shooting from the field. They were 11-of-21 from the free-throw line — even Mickey struggled, going 3-of-10 — while Mississippi State was 23-of-35.
“We just had a bad shooting day, a terrible shooting day, especially on my part,” said Quarterman, who had just four points. “We just have to knock down shots. No matter what the defense is, we have to knock down shots.”
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter @MicklesAdvocate.