LSU guard Antonio Blakeney was in a talkative mood Saturday afternoon.
Fortunately for the Tigers, Blakeney and fellow guard Keith Hornsby did more scoring than talking.
A lot more.
Blakeney and Hornsby sparked a first-half scoring barrage that helped their team come back from an early 14-point deficit, and LSU went on to an 88-77 blowout of Mississippi State in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
The victory helped LSU climb into first place in the Southeastern Conference after Texas A&M dropped an 81-78 decision to South Carolina in a game that ended shortly after the Tigers and Bulldogs tipped off.
LSU (15-8, 8-2) won its fourth consecutive league game after starting the second half of the conference schedule Saturday in a tie with Texas A&M for the top spot.
It didn’t look good early for LSU when Mississippi State (9-13, 2-8) got off to a sizzling start and surged to a 22-8 lead with 12:47 to play in the half.
That’s when Blakeney and Hornsby teamed up to crush State’s upset hopes.
Blakeney came off the bench to pour in 15 of his career-high 31 points, and Hornsby matched that with 15 of his 25 points in the opening 20 minutes as LSU went on a 35-13 run to grab a 43-35 halftime lead.
Blakeney, who was 11-of-17 from the field with four 3-pointers in eight attempts, put an exclamation point on LSU’s win with a dunk for his final two points with 2:44 to play.
That field goal was followed by a stare down of his good friend and fellow McDonald’s All-American — Mississippi State guard Malik Newman — whom Blakeney had been talking to most of the game.
It earned Blakeney a technical foul, although he claimed all he did was stare at Newman.
“Actually, I was talking a lot of junk early, but coach (Johnny) Jones got on me,” Blakeney said. “On the technical, I didn’t say anything. … I just said, ‘Aaay’ and I stared him down.
“Coach Jones told me to play the game like I’ve been in positions like that before,” he said when asked about the message he got from the head coach. “ ‘Let your game (speak) for itself.’ ”
Blakeney did — and so did Hornsby.
While Ben Simmons scored six early points, nothing else was going well for LSU.
The Tigers hit just three of their first 13 shots but didn’t seem fazed by the double-digit deficit before Blakeney and Hornsby lit the Bulldogs up.
“We came out sluggish. … I don’t know why necessarily,” said Hornsby, who was 9-of-17 from the field with five 3-pointers on 10 attempts. “We just had to figure out how we could be effective against their defense.”
After Blakeney hit his first 3-pointer, he and Hornsby burned Mississippi State for back-to-back shots from beyond the arc to really get their team going.
They wound up combining for 30 of LSU’s 35 points in the final 12:21 of the first half. Craig Victor had three points and Simmons, who finished with 16 points, had the other two.
“Really, it came from all our teammates, just making the right play,” Blakeney said after LSU was credited with 25 assists on 32 baskets. “It happened to be me and Keith for the open shot, and we just knocked them down.”
“(Mississippi State) got off to a great start, but I have to credit our team for staying the course, making plays and settling down as the game played out, finishing strong there in the first half,” Jones said. “We just needed to get stops. You can’t get down like that and start trading baskets with a team. Once they got the lead, they got comfortable and got in a rhythm, and we had to try to take that away.”
The second half was more of the same as Blakeney and his teammates remained aggressive and LSU pushed its lead to as many as 20 points with 11:28 to play.
The Tigers were 19-of-29 from the field in the second half for 65.5 percent after hitting just 40.6 percent (13-of-32) in the first half.
Gavin Ware had 14 points to lead State, and Newman, Quinndary Weatherspoon and Craig Sword all had 12.
But they were no match for LSU once the Tigers got on a roll.
“Coming out early in the second half, gaining momentum and continuing to play the game out, we had several positive things from our entire team,” Jones said. “I’m really proud of the way that Keith Hornsby and Antonio Blakeney stepped up, made big plays and big shots for us tonight.”
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter, @MicklesAdvocate.