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Blakeney’s 31 points leads LSU past Miss. St.

BATON ROUGE, La.- Antonio Blakeney released both hands from the rim, shouted, “Hey!” as he dropped to the court and delivered an intense glare at the nearest Mississippi State player, Malik Newman.

The celebration drew a technical foul, but the LSU freshman insisted afterward that he meant nothing malicious. Rather, Blakeney said, he was simply releasing raw emotion to punctuate the best game of his young career.

“Just the passion for the game – having fun,” he explained with a smile.

Blakeney scored a career-high 31 points, and LSU moved into sole possession of first place in the Southeastern Conference with an 88-77 victory over struggling Mississippi State on Saturday night.

Blakeney, whose previous single-game high was 22 points, hit 11 of 17 shots, including four 3-pointers. It was easily his best outing against a team from a major conference and exactly what LSU (15-8, 8-2) expected when it recruited last season’s Florida high school player of the year.

Blakeney said he could tell by halftime that he was “in the zone,” adding, “I didn’t know I was going to have 30, but I knew I was going to keep being aggressive.”

Keith Hornsby scored 25 points for LSU, while Ben Simmons added 16 points and nine rebounds and seven assists.

Gavin Ware scored 14 for Mississippi State (9-13, 2-8), which led by as many as 14 points in the first half. But the Bulldogs trailed 43-35 at halftime and struggled to keep pace after that.

LSU led by as many as 20 in the second half when Blakeney’s jumper, which gave him seven points during a 14-3 run, made it 67-47 with 11:28 to go.

MSU never got closer than 11 points after that and lost for the third time in four games.

Quinndary Weatherspoon, Craig Sword and Malik Newman each scored 12 for Mississippi State, while Fred Thomas added 10 points.

But LSU shot 65.5 percent (19 of 29) in the second half, making it exceedingly difficult for the Bulldogs to catch up even as they shot 50 percent (16 of 32) during the final 20 minutes.

Mississippi State also was without junior guard I.J. Ready, who has been dealing with a nagging foot injury.

“That was a tough break,” Bulldogs coach Ben Howland said, noting specifically that Ready’s absence essentially forced him to stick with a zone defense that was ineffective against LSU’s perimeter shooters, rather than switching to man-to-man. “It really hurt us that we were short a guy.”

By Brett Martel, AP Sports Writer