BATON ROUGE, La. -- Antonio 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, a freshman whose previous single-game high was 22 points, hit 11 of 17 shots, including four 3-pointers. It was easily Blakeney's 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.
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 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 Tigers run, made it 67-47 with 11:28 to go.
MSU never got closer than 11 points after that and fell for the third time in four games.
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.
Sword made a pair of early 3s as MSU opened the game on an 8-0 run. The Bulldogs hit 8 of their first 13 shots, including 3 3s, while taking its largest lead at 22-8 lead. At that point, LSU had hit only three of its first 11 shots, but began to close the gap when Blakeney made a pair of 3s and Hornsby added another. Simmons' free throws got the Tigers as close as 25-24 before Weatherspoon's consecutive 3s helped MSU briefly pull away again.
LSU didn't take its first lead of the game until Craig Victor turned his steal from Weatherspoon into breakaway layup, putting the Tigers up 34-33 with less than four minutes left in the opening half. The Tigers wound up outscoring MSU 16-2 during the final 5:33 of the half, highlighted by Hornsby's transition 3, which was set up by Simmons' hard, no-look pass. Hornsby and Blakeney each had 15 points by halftime, when LSU led 43-35.
Mississippi State: Newman, who entered the game with 52 3-pointers this season, missed all four of his attempts from long range against LSU. ... Ware's point total moved him nine points past Eric Dampier as Mississippi State's 22nd all-time scorer.
LSU: The Tigers have won four straight in the series. ... LSU improved to 5-0 at home in SEC games. ... LSU improved to 8-1 when shooting better than 50 percent. ... Blakeney's previous single-game scoring high of 22 came twice before against South Alabama and McNeese State in November.
Mississippi State: Hosts Arkansas on Tuesday night.
LSU: Visits South Carolina on Wednesday night.