Sunday, March 16, 2003

SEC: Mississippi State 76, LSU 61

By Mary Foster
The Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS - Mississippi State, led by Timmy Bowers' 6-of-9 3-point shooting, ended LSU's seven-game winning streak with a 76-61 victory in the semifinal round of the Southeastern Conference tournament on Saturday.

It was the second straight year that Mississippi State (21-8), the West's No. 1 seed and defending tournament champion, beat LSU (21-10) in the tournament semifinal.

The victory was Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury's 100th and sends the Bulldogs into Sunday's final against No. 2 Kentucky. Kentucky advanced with a 78-58 victory over Auburn on Saturday.

Mississippi State, which shot 33.7 percent from the arc going into the game, made 52.6 percent (10-19) against LSU.

Bowers led the Bulldogs with 26 points. Mario Austin, who announced earlier in the week he will return for his senior season, scored 14, while Michal Ignerrski scored 15. Point guard Derrick Zimmerman nearly chipped in a triple double, with nine points, nine rebounds and 11 assists.

Jamie Lloreda, Collis Temple III and Antonio Hudson led LSU with 11 points each. Torris Bright scored 10. Lloreda also grabbed 11 rebounds. Ronald Dupree, who had scored in double figures for 29 straight games, was held to nine points.

The Bulldogs, ranked second in the SEC in points allowed at 60.6 per game, held LSU, which was playing its third game in as many days, to 43.6 percent from the field.

LSU, which had outshot its opponents in 11 of the last 12 games, struggled inside and outside. The Tigers had made 66 of 132 3-pointers during their seven-game winning streak, but made just 6 of 15 from that distance against Mississippi State.

The Bulldogs outscored LSU 38-22 in the paint, and scored 18 points off LSU's 18 turnovers.

The Tigers trailed from the opening minutes of the game. In the second half, LSU pulled to within three points (45-42) on a layup by Lloreda with 16:16 to go. It was the closest they were to get.

Mississippi State pulled ahead on a 10-0 run, fueled by three-pointers from Austin and Bower and never allowed the Tigers closer than six down the stretch.

The Bulldogs took a 14-point lead in the first half, shooting 59 percent from the field early on and going 5-for-5 from 3-point distance.

Ignerski's layup with 7:12 remaining gave Mississippi State a 30-16 lead. The Tigers staged a 16-4 run to cut the Bulldogs lead to 34-32 at halftime.

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