Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Mississippi State upsets LSU to reach final of SEC basketball tournament at St. Pete Times Forum

Mississippi State players leap off the bench to celebrate their upset win that gives them a shot at an automatic NCAA berth.


Mississippi State players leap off the bench to celebrate their upset win that gives them a shot at an automatic NCAA berth.

TAMPA — Having lost twice to SEC West foe LSU during the regular season, Mississippi State had the distinct advantage of knowing exactly what wouldn't work against the Tigers in Saturday's semifinals of the SEC basketball tournament.

So it decided to try something that would.

By making good use of its bench to help rotate and rest its potentially weary starters, playing outstanding defense and relying on a dominating inside game led by SEC defensive player of the year Jarvis Varnado, No. 3 seed Mississippi State upset No. 1 seed LSU 67-57 at the St. Pete Times Forum.

The Bulldogs (22-12) play Tennessee today for the tournament championship and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. LSU, ranked 20th, was trying to win its first tournament title since 1980.

"By not having foul trouble, I just went at (LSU center) Chris Johnson and the rest of their bigs," said Varnado, who had a game-high 19 points, seven rebounds and seven blocks. "I played loose. I was able to block a few shots and rebound the ball."

LSU, the SEC regular-season champion, shot 31 percent from the field and was 4-of-16 from 3-point range. LSU's two leading scorers, Tasmin Mitchell and Marcus Thornton, were 7-of-18 and 5-of-19, respectively, from the field. And Thornton was 0-of-6 from beyond the arc.

"I don't want to take anything away from Mississippi State, but I've got to believe that six or seven of those shots missed were good shots," LSU coach Trent Johnson said.

After multiple ties and lead changes, LSU led 35-34 with 17:33 remaining. But Mississippi State went on a 13-4 run to take a 47-39 lead and never trailed again. The Bulldogs also used the free-throw line to their advantage: Mississippi State was 24-of-35 from the line, while LSU (26-7) reached the line just 13 times, hitting nine.

"Going into every game they are trying to be physical with me and Tas," Thornton said. "We know that going in. We're just trying to get ourselves prepared for it. Tip your hat off to Mississippi State. They did a good job."

LSU has now had four consecutive games in which it shot 40 percent or less from the field, but Johnson said he's not concerned about his team heading into next week's NCAA Tournament.

"We'll do what we did to win 26 games," Johnson said. "We'll keep working on the same things."

Antonya English can be reached at

Miss. St. 67

No. 20 LSU 57

Mississippi State upsets LSU to reach final of SEC basketball tournament at St. Pete Times Forum 03/14/09 [Last modified: Saturday, March 14, 2009 10:13pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Joe Maddon gets warm reception in return to the Trop

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The night was arranged to honor former Rays manager Joe Maddon in his first visit back to the Trop, and the standing ovation from the bipartisan crowd and scoreboard video tribute seemed proper acknowledgments of his hefty role in the Rays' success during his nine-year stint.

    Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon (70) talks with reporters during a press conference before the start of the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017.
  2. Rays vs. Cubs, 7:10 p.m. Wednesday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Cubs

    7:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM; 680-AM (Spanish)

    Tampa Bay Rays' Blake Snell poses for a picture during the team's photo day at baseball spring training in Port Charlotte, Fla., Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
  3. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Tuesday's Rays-Cubs game

    The Heater

    Chris Archer's night ended with his 11th loss, but he and the Rays should feel good about his six solid innings. After the forearm tightness scare in Chicago, he had two rough outings (15 hits, 11 runs, seven innings), so Tuesday was a reassuring rebound.

  4. At 6-8, Lightning prospect Oleg Sosunov comes with, and needs, a high ceiling

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — When Hall of Famer Phil Esposito first saw Lightning prospect Oleg Sosunov, he joked that the 6-foot-8 defenseman could reach the Amalie Arena ceiling.

    Lightning 6-foot-8 defenseman Oleg Sosunov competes in the preseason opener. Phil Esposito jokes that Sosunov can reach the ceiling at Amalie Arena.
  5. Jones: Rays' Kevin Cash doesn't mind following in Joe Maddon's steps

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — On this particular night, he's the other guy. He's like a talk-show guest scooted to the end of the couch. He is Kevin Cash. And the Rays manager is standing in the home dugout at Tropicana Field.

    ST. PETERSBURG, FL - SEPTEMBER 17: Manager Kevin Cash (L) of the Tampa Bay Rays reacts to action during the game against the Boston Red Sox at Tropicana Field on September 17, 2017 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Joseph Garnett Jr./Getty Images) 700012494